After an abbreviated summer holiday the English Premier League is back. While there are a number of exciting storylines heading into the new EPL campaign, none is more intriguing than the significant additions at Chelsea FC. Sidelined from the European transfer market for two years, Chelsea were quick to splash cash during a time when other clubs are tightening their belts.
By Greg McKay
On top of a stable of young talent who gained important playing time while the transfer ban was in effect, Chelsea spent the past few months adding some of Europe’s hottest young attacking talent and experience for the backline.
It is difficult to recall a team that has started the season with as much raw potential as this Chelsea side. At their best last season, Lampard’s squad looked capable of challenging the likes of Liverpool and Manchester City but often succumbed to defensive frailties and goalkeeping errors.
Chelsea already possessed exciting potential with Pulisic, Mount, Abraham, Hudson-Odoi, Loftus-Cheek and Gilmour all displaying glimpses of being top EPL players. With clear backing from owner, Roman Abramovich, Lampard has built on the existing strengths in the team and put together a squad which if anything has too many exciting options.
On the attacking end of the pitch, Lampard will now need to figure out how to make room for the highly-rated trio of Kai Havertz, Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech. The addition of Ben Chilwell and Thiago Silva should help to solidify a backline that looked short on quality and experience for much of 2020.
With a talented existing core in central midfield Lampard didn’t purchase any new players but will hope that Loftus-Cheek and Gilmour begin to push the likes of Kante, Jorginho or Kovacic for a regular spot in the side.
Though the improvements in the team have created a buzz around Chelsea heading into the campaign, the initial test for the still relatively new manager Lampard will be figuring out tactically how to get the best out of a squad that is every bit as talented as any other team in England.
Fortunately for the manager, there is a degree of flexibility with players like Werner, Havertz, Pulisic and Mount able to play a variety of attacking positions.
Lampard will also face what would be described as a “good problem to have” in trying to keep a large number of talented, young and hungry footballers happy. In this respect, qualifying for the Champions League at the tail-end of last season may have been critical, giving Lampard meaningful games across several competitions to incentivize young players needing first team football.
Regardless, the Chelsea manager will have his hands full trying to satisfy a number of players all expecting big roles at Stamford Bridge.
Defensively, Lampard will hope for continued growth from the likes of Reece James and Tomori. While Chilwell proved with Leicester that he is a top EPL defender, the signing of Champions League finalist Thiago Silva is one Lampard will hope provides more consistency in central defense.
Though Silva has been successful everywhere he has played, it is worth noting the top honors have generally eluded the Brazilian to date and he is certainly approaching the end of an illustrious career.
With so many fresh faces building on an already dynamic squad, the excitement around Stamford Bridge is certainly warranted. Whether or not the Blues are able to put themselves in the title conversation will depend not just on how the new squad gels but Lampard’s ability to maximize the tactical picture and keep a bevy of star players satisfied through what will be a long, difficult campaign following on an already taxing calendar year of football.