How can Chelsea best utilise their plethora of attackers?
Chelsea opened up their Premier League campaign with a victory over Brighton & Hove Albion at the Amex Stadium, highlighting their potential in a challenge for the top-flight crown. Jorginho put the Blues ahead from the penalty spot, although Leandro Trossard levelled for the home side. However, Reece James and Kurt Zouma found the back of the net to deliver the three points for Frank Lampard’s men. It was the first time that Timo Werner and Kai Havertz had started for Chelsea in competitive action since their lucrative moves over the summer from the Bundesliga.
Lampard threw the two Germans straight into the action and Werner did not disappoint, winning the penalty that was converted by Jorginho. Havertz was solid in his bow without making a significant overall impression. However, both players will certainly improve as they adjust to life in the Premier League. Their presence alone has turned Chelsea into the top contenders behind Manchester City and Liverpool in the English Premier League odds to win the crown. Although the performances of the duo will play a large part of whether that comes to fruition.
It was curious Havertz and Werner got the nod to start ahead of Tammy Abraham on the bench. Chelsea worked in a 4-2-4 system that resulted in Ruben Loftus-Cheek partnering Werner in attack. Havertz operated on the right side of the four-man attack, with Mason Mount occupying the other slot in the final third. It allowed Jorginho and Kante to sit in front of the back four, which gave license to James and Marcos Alonso to push higher upfield.
The formation worked to a degree, although there is plenty of scope for improvement. Werner was a thorn in the side of the Seagulls all evening, firing five shots on goal and one on target. The 24-year-old made the Brighton defence work extremely hard to close him down in and around the edge of the box. Lampard will have been delighted to see him find his form in his first game, albeit without the goal he perhaps deserved. Havertz made one key pass in his role on the right, and there was an air that he was still finding his feet with his new team-mates so soon after his move to Stamford Bridge, as was the case with Christian Pulisic last season.
The American missed the game due to injury but will be available in the coming weeks. Lampard may have to alter his system once again so he utilises Pulisic along with Werner and Havertz along with Abraham and Mount. Hakim Ziyech, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Loftus-Cheek are also knocking on the door, giving the Chelsea boss a selection headache due to the embarrassment of riches he now possesses in the final third. Werner and Havertz have replaced the experience of Willian and Pedro – lacking the nous but providing more of a goal threat that was lacking after Abraham and Pulisic’s contributions. Olivier Giroud cannot be forgotten due to his role at the end of last term, although the Frenchman could be on the move before the end of the transfer window.
Lampard may have to tinker with a 4-2-3-1 system to utilise all of his attackers to their best. Havertz on the right, Pulisic through the middle and Werner on the left in support of Abraham would be a very interesting system. All four players are interchangeable, which will give opposing defences major problems picking them up across the pitch. Mount does provide deadly set-pieces which cannot be overlooked, while the pace and direct play of Hudson-Odoi is also a factor. Ziyech is an unknown in the Premier League, but was outstanding for Ajax and will offer width and guile down both flanks.
It’s a formation that would suit the Blues without compromising their defensive shape. Jorginho and Kante can continue in the two in front of the back four, while Mateo Kovacic and Loftus-Cheek can rotate in those spots. The pressure is on Lampard to get the most out of his talented team – and anything other than a challenge for the crown may be seen as an underachievement.