The 2019/20 Premier League season is almost underway and never mind the opening round of fixtures, talk has already turned to who will be champion come the end of the campaign. In Premier League betting at Betfair, Manchester City are favourites to retain their title for a third consecutive season; with Liverpool a close second.
One team that looks very much out of contention is Chelsea, who were slapped with a two-window transfer embargo by FIFA earlier this year. With a Super Cup final against Liverpool looming and a place in this season’s Champions League, how will Chelsea fare this season? Here, we take a look at their chances.
Club legend and all-time record goalscorer Frank Lampard became Chelsea’s 14th manager in the Abramovich era, taking over from Maurizio Sarri who moved to Serie A champions, Juventus. It was a fairy-tale return for Lampard, whose only previous managerial experience saw him take Championship club, Derby County to a play-off final (which they lost to Aston Villa). While Lamps knows the club inside out and has always had a great bond with the Blues faithful, he has a challenge on his hands to not only play an attractive and successful style of football, but also get the best out of his squad – which has obviously seen departures and limited arrivals – while keeping fans and the man above, on-side.
Lampard brings former midfielder and his assistant at Derby, Jody Morris to Stamford Bridge, where he continues his role as number 2. Morris previously played for the London club and held positions as an assistant coach and head coach to the under-18s squad.
Also joining Lampard is former defensive midfielder Claude Makélélé – from the old guard – who too, has managerial experience. He has joined Chelsea as a youth coach and technical advisor. Former goalkeeper, Petr Čech has also returned as a technical and performance adviser and having these former players in such coaching and backroom roles certainly show that the club is changing their approach to the way they operate.
Hazard Departs and Pulisic Arrives
Chelsea had one of the current greatest players in the world in Eden Hazard and his £150 million departure to Spanish giants, Real Madrid, will undoubtedly leave a gaping hole in the squad – transfer embargo or not. The fact that Chelsea aren’t able to find a replacement will mean they will suffer, but also means that others will need to step-up.
Prior to their transfer ban, Chelsea signed young midfielder Christian Pulisic from Borussia Dortmund (for a fee of £58 million). The 20-year-old won the DFB-Pokal in 2016-17 and has already represented his country, the USA, recently becoming the youngest captain in their history. While Pulisic has insisted he’s not a replacement for Hazard, he has been described as a modern-day number 10, despite being deployed as a winger. He previously scored 13 league goals in 90 appearances for Dortmund.
Not having a choice but to give their younger players the opportunity to make their breakthroughs in the Premier League could prove vital. During his time at Pride Park, Lampard gained a reputation of working with the younger players, reducing the squad’s average age from 30, to 26-years-old. With the signing of Pulisic and the likes of Callum Hudson-Odoi (18-years-old), Mason Mount (20-years-old) and Tammy Abraham (21-years-old) in the ranks, it will be a new-look Chelsea side but one that Lampard could make his own.
Manchester United (A)
Leicester City (H)
Norwich City (A)
Sheffield United (H)
Wolverhampton Wanderers (A)
It isn’t the easiest of starts for the Blues, with a trip to Old Trafford first up. The Red Devils haven’t been too busy in the transfer window thus far, but are favourites in their opening tie. Wolves had a successful campaign last year and will no doubt look to build on that – making the signing of Raúl Jiménez permanent and increasing the depth of their squad with additional signings. Chelsea also face two of the newly-promoted sides in their opening five games: a trip to Carrow Road is followed by hosting Sheffield United. The Blues should be aiming for at least four wins from their opening five games – with the toughest test surely that first game against United.
Unfortunately for Chelsea, we can’t see them challenging for a top-four finish and their best bet would be a fifth-place finish, which will secure their place in the Europa League. There’s no doubt that Lampard will get the best out of his players and we could see one or two surprises come through the ranks; however, it’s a massive step-up and Lamps has certainly got a challenge on his hands.