With the Premier League season almost wrapped up, it is time to start looking ahead to next season.
Liverpool FC clinched their first league title in 30 years, but there’s no guarantee they repeat as champions in the 2019-2020 season. One of the clubs who should be looking to challenge Liverpool is Chelsea FC.
As things currently stand, the club are sitting third in the table with four games to go. In their five league matches since returning from COVID-19 forced stoppage, Chelsea have picked up four wins including a 2-1 victory over Manchester City.
The biggest key to Chelsea’s recent winning form has been Christian Pulisic. The team was down 1-0 to Aston Villa in Matchweek 29, until the American came off the bench and buried a header.
Since then, manager Frank Lampard has kept Pulisic in the starting lineup, and he has continued to deliver. In the five league games since the restart, the winger has scored three goals as well as drawing two penalties that led to Chelsea goals.
Forwards and Midfielders:
When looking at what Chelsea can potentially do next season, they are certainly loaded in the attack and midfield. With forwards Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech joining the squad, the team will have plenty of forward options.
Besides those two, the squad already includes strikers Tammy Abraham and Oliver Giroud. Both players have rotated as the starting striker giving Lampard two legitimate options to lead the line.
On the wings, their options for next season include Pulisic and England international Callum-Hudson Odoi. Spanish international Pedro is also in the squad, but he is set to join AS Roma in the summer window.
One key decision the club will have to make is regarding the future of Willian. The Brazilian has been one of the best performers in the team since the league returned by scoring four goals in that span.
His contract is set to expire when the season is over, and with Werner and Ziyech coming in already, it may be in the club’s best interest to let Willian go. The 31-year-old winger is looking for a three year deal, while Chelsea is only willing to offer him a two year deal.
In the midfield, the club has plenty of quality to choose from as well. Lampard has relied on the likes of Mason Mount, Mateo Kovacic, N’Golo Kante, and Jorginho. All four of those players have made at least 20 appearances in the league this season.
Ross Barkley has been a key player for Chelsea since the beginning of Project Restart. The England international has had two goals and one assist in his last five appearances including the winner against Leicester City in the FA Cup Quarter Final.
18-year-old Billy Gilmour has begun to get playing time under Lampard including his first Premier League start against Crystal Palace on July 7th.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek has also returned to the pitch after recovering from a significant achilles injury. The English midfielder is beginning to show his quality in big moments by assisting Abraham’s goal in their last match against Crystal Palace.
Going into next season, there is no denying that Chelsea have plenty of talent in the attack and midfield. Lampard will have the ability to rotate and give all of his attacking options rest when needed
Defenders and Goalkeeper:
The biggest question mark about what this current Chelsea side can do lies on performances in the back. Throughout the season, individual errors from multiple players in the defense have cost the team goals and important points in the table.
For the most part, Chelsea’s issues defensively have not come from their fullbacks. Club captain César Azpilicueta and youngster Reece James have played right back, while Marcos Alonso and Emerson have rotated as the left back.
The two right backs have contributed with two goals and eight assists, and the left backs have four goals and two assists. Those statistics show that even from the back, these players are dangerous going forward.
Most of the errors on the defense have come from their center backs and goalkeeper. Antonio Rüdiger, Kurt Zouma, Andreas Christensen, and Fikayo Tomori have all split time as Chelsea’s duo in the centre back.
Even with all four of those players having at least 15 appearances in the league, Lampard has struggled to find a consistent pairing. The issues have been highlighted in the last few games including a 3-2 loss at West Ham.
In the 89th minute, the game was tied 2-2, and Chelsea were looking to grab all three points in their pursuit of the top 4. This meant that the team was leaving themselves exposed in the back; giving West Ham an opportunity to counter if they got hold of the ball.
Chelsea crossed the ball into the box, but West Ham were able to win the ball and attempt their own attack. That night, Lampard chose Christensen and Rüdiger to be his two center backs.
On West Ham’s counter attack, Christensen was man marking forward Michail Antonio. The defender stayed with the forward as Antonio was shielding the ball; giving his teammates the opportunity to get forward.
Instead of staying in a good defensive structure, Christensen left too much space in between his partner Rüdiger, and Chelsea were instantly in trouble to give up a goal.
The ball was returned to Antonio, and he put winger Andriy Yarmolenko in on goal. The one defender who was in the vicinity was Rüdiger, but the lack of structure put all the power in the hands of West Ham.
Yarmolenko dribbled towards the Chelsea net, and slotted the ball home to give West Ham all three points and a disappointing loss for Lampard and his team.
The other position Chelsea have had issues with over the course of the season is goalkeeper. In the summer of 2018, the club decided to purchase Kepa Arrizabalgaga from Spanish side Athletic Bilbao for £71.6 million; making him the world’s most expensive player at his position.
The Spanish goalie has been under a lot of criticism this season, which even led to Lampard keeping him out of the team for a period of time.
In the middle of January, Arrizabalgaga was really struggling to have good performances consistently. Out of all the goalies who had played in the Premier League, the Chelsea shot stopper had the worst save percentage at 55%.
Even with the issues at the back, Chelsea are still one of the best teams in the league and have the potential to be a title contender next season, With all the options they have in the attack and midfield, adding a talented center back can put the team in a much better position to look forward to next season.
If the likes of Werner and Ziyech are able to come in produce, and Arrizabalgaga is able to maintain good performances on a more consistent basis, Chelsea will have a great opportunity to win the league next season.
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