To say this season is a transitional one for Chelsea is a slight understatement. Not only have the Blues had to change manager with Maurizio Sarri returning to Italy to take the Juventus job, they also lost star man Eden Hazard to Real Madrid and to make matters worse, new boss Frank Lampard, who has been a manager for only one previous season, had a transfer ban to contend with in the build-up to his first campaign in charge of the Blues.
After finishing third last term, the Londoners are competing in the Champions League too, so with a packed schedule Lampard has turned to talented youngsters like Tammy Abraham, Fikayo Tomori and Mason Mount, the latter duo whom he had on loan at Derby County last year. Can he help to progress these young stars while remaining competitive in the league and in Europe, all in his first season as a Premier League manager?
Tammy Abraham to be top Premier League scorer – 12/1 (Unibet)
N’Golo Kante to be PFA Player of the Season – 150/1 (bet365)
It was a strange old season for Chelsea in their one and only year under the stewardship of Maurizio Sarri. It is widely accepted that the Italian needs time to imprint his philosophy on the team but at times the Blues seemed predictable and the Stamford Bridge crowd turned on the manager and his side around the turn of the year, although some strong form in the latter stages of the campaign redeemed the former Napoli man.
In the end, Sarri led his side to a third-place finish, above rivals Tottenham Hotspur, and he did manage to pick up some silverware for the first time in his career as the Blues overcame London rivals Arsenal by a 4-1 scoreline in the Europa League final in Baku. In the end, it was a successful season for Chelsea on the pitch at least but it was all change for the new campaign.
Frank Lampard has legendary status at Stamford Bridge after making no fewer than 648 competitive appearances for the Blues during his playing career. Despite leaving to play for Manchester City and New York City afterwards, Lampard’s foray into management was a likely one and he was always touted as a potential future Chelsea boss, but very few people expected that opportunity to arrive as quickly as it has.
After just one season in management in charge of Championship outfit Derby County, the 41-year-old was appointed as Sarri’s replacement with higher-profile names perhaps put off by the transfer embargo in place at the club. The style of management at Derby was what you would expect from a manager who preferred an attacking, attractive way of playing and he has utilised Chelsea’s crop of talented youngsters with no new players coming through the door in the summer.
After breaking UEFA transfer regulations, Chelsea were unable to make any new signings in the summer, which perhaps explains why they had to resort to hiring Frank Lampard as their new manager slightly earlier than planned. Mateo Kovacic, who spent last season on loan at Chelsea, was allowed to make his deal a permanent one but that was as much as the Blues were capable of.
Instead, Lampard has had to utilise a crop of exciting youngsters that have come through at Chelsea in recent years. Callum Hudson-Odoi broke through last term, while Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori spent the season out on loan at Derby under Frank Lampard and Tammy Abraham enjoyed a productive campaign at Aston Villa.
There are also a handful of more experienced players who spent time away from the club on loan last term and have now returned, such as defender Kurt Zouma who enjoyed a fine campaign at Everton, and striker Michy Batshuayi, who endured mixed spells with both Valencia and Crystal Palace. Lampard has had to place a little more faith in these players than the previous manager did and they have become fully-fledged members of this Chelsea squad.
The Key Man
With Eden Hazard gone, Chelsea have been looking for a new talisman. The Belgian attacker was by far the Blues’ best player over the last few season but in N’Golo Kante, they also possess one of the best central midfielders in the league who has not only won the Premier League at two different clubs (Chelsea and Leicester City) but was also named in the PFA Team of the Year on both occasions.
Chelsea’s N’Golo Kante in action during a Champions League match (PA Images)
Last year, with Jorginho playing a more reserved role that Maurizio Sarri favoured him in, Kante was left playing in a host of different positions and it’s fair to say the Italian boss never really found the best way to make the most of the Frenchman’s natural energy and box-to-box style last term and Lampard is more likely to find a system that plays to one of his best player’s attributes. Can Kante become the star man in the absence of Hazard?
Which of the young stars can step up to the plate?
A host of these young players have already shown their ability over the last few years. Callum Hudson-Odoi, who is getting more game time following the sale of Eden Hazard and his own return from injury, has been courted by Bayern Munich, while Reuben Loftus-Cheek has already been involved in plenty of Gareth Southgate’s England squads and will be a welcome addition to the group when he also comes back from a long-term absence due to an Achilles problem. Furthermore, both Mason Mount and Tammy Abraham enjoyed productive seasons in the Championship.
It’s in attack where Chelsea’s main issues appear to be in this squad, so those openings must be mouthwatering for Hudson-Odoi and Abraham in particular. Gaps in the squad have been filled by younger players this term and they will be getting game-time in both the Champions League and the Premier League. It’s vital for their careers that these proteges grasp this opportunity with both hands.
Where will the goals come from?
The centre forward position proved to be a real issue for Maurizio Sarri last season. Alvaro Morata never really settled truly at Chelsea and as a result, it came as no surprise when he left to join Atletico Madrid, while Michy Batshuayi spent the final months of the season on loan at Crystal Palace. Replacement Gonzalo Higuain was largely ineffectual, but the pocket rocket that is Eden Hazard produced a prolific campaign to ease any goal worries for the Blues.
But now Hazard is gone and with him he took the majority of Chelsea’s goal threat, meaning the likes of Tammy Abraham, Olivier Giroud and that man Batshuayi have had to step up to the plate this season and provide some form in front of goal.
Where will Chelsea finish this season?
Although there is plenty to be excited about for Chelsea fans this season, we are backing the transition to be a difficult one and Chelsea to finish slightly lower than we have grown used to seeing them over the last few seasons and the main reason for that is the lack of Eden Hazard.
It would be unfair to label Chelsea a one-man team during Hazard’s time at the club, but last season in particular he was totemic in their attack and showed just how vital he was in that Europa League final demolition of Arsenal. Without him, plus under an inexperienced head coach, we think the Blues could be in for a difficult campaign.
A top-four finish is surely the aim for Chelsea at best this season but we think they may fall just short. Of course, neither Arsenal nor Manchester United are in the best shape they have ever been in right now, but there has been too much upheaval at Chelsea with the loss of Maurizio Sarri and Eden Hazard in our opinion. We fear the talented youngsters at the manager’s disposal may not have the quality just yet to fill the gap left by departing superstar Hazard.
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Chelsea FC Tips & Betting Specials 2019/2020
A fascinating new era has dawned at Stamford Bridge with legendary midfielder Frank Lampard returning as head coach but he has had to contend with a transfer ban in his first campaign.