The New Pride of London: Are Chelsea FC Contenders or Pretenders?
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The new season has begun. The Premier League completed its restart of the 2019/20 season and now they turn the page to a new chapter. Fans will start to have questions for the season in regards to their favourite team and the leagues they follow.
Who do you think will be relegated? Who will make the top four? Will Spurs finally win a trophy? Can Sadio Mane win the Golden Boot?
Who do you think will win the Premier League title? This is the only question that matters to real contenders in the league, the ones that have a realistic chance to lift the trophy come May. Liverpool and Manchester City are the contenders and look to each other as their nemesis. Can Liverpool defend their title? Is it possible for Manchester City to reclaim the title without having signed Messi? What if Virgil Van Dijk gets injured? Can Sergio Aguero get back to twenty-plus goals-a-season form?
Over the summer, we have seen a new team step up and stake a claim for their chance to win the title. Chelsea FC have entered the chat for contenders to win the Premier League and now more questions will be put to the club as they get closer to the top. Will owner Roman Abramovich sign any more players? How will the new signings do in the Premier League? Can manager Frank Lampard get the most out of his squad of players?
Those are all important questions but the most interesting question I have is will Chelsea Football Club be serious contenders for the Premier League title?
The last couple of seasons being dominated by the red of Liverpool and the sky blue of Manchester City had the rest of the league question their own quality. Both teams have recorded a total of 375 points out of a possible combined score of 456 over the last two seasons. It will be tough for any team to get into the mix when these two are performing at such a high rate. Ever since COVID-19, Liverpool has dropped their quality in performances and Manchester City lost nine games in the previous season. There is blood in the water.
The two main reasons Chelsea are contenders this season are their success from last season and Roman Abramovich opening his wallet. The former is not as much as a contributing factor as the latter. However, Frank did what was asked of him and finished in the top four which gave Chelsea more money to collect in the war chest.
The new manager gave the youth a chance to compete in a full Premier League and Champions League campaign, and they are now the depth in the squad. Frank finally also gained a year’s experience as a manager of one of the “Big Six” in England, and having the third highest goal total in the Premier League shows his philosophies are getting results.
The other main reason has come from Roman Abramovich’s second massive investment into his club. Since selling Eden Hazard and serving a transfer ban, Chelsea was able to save money and put it into the bank to wait until it was best to use. Since the transfer ban was served and all goals were achieved, Abramovich was able to believe that spending two-hundred and four million pounds as of September 14th could make his team real contenders.
The main problem from last year was the shaky defense and two high-class defenders were brought in to solidify their defensive shape. Ben Chilwell was brought in from Leicester City for fifty-million pounds to be the left back not only for the London club but for the English national team as well.
Thiago Silva was brought in on a free transfer and could be more valuable in the short term with his massive experience and quality. Both are in the starting eleven when fit and will not only add new attacking options from the defensive half but more importantly their defensive skills could create the best back four along with Cesar Azpilicueta and Reece James.
Hakim Ziyech was already signed and has the ability to dominate on the right side of the pitch. He has a three option approach when positioned on the far right: drive towards the box and have a shot while charging in to add the whip on the ball’s trajectory, he can drive to the goal-line and cross it into the box, or he can curve it from the far right with either foot with such accuracy. The only rival to him is Kevin De Bruyne. Only two new signings played in the season opener and they are the two signings that have the most responsibility if Chelsea are going to win it all this year.
When the lineups were announced, your eyes were drawn to the German representatives in the West London side; Timo Werner as the lone striker, and Kai Havertz, the right flank threat. The threat from Timo’s pace and clinical finishing could be compared to the highly rated Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang, except Timo is more of a traditional centre forward.
Kai Havterz could have been anywhere in the attack from his first start and experts had him in the middle working behind Timo, though he’s playing on the right which could arguably be a more deadly position. He had seven goals and one assist in nine games during his wonderful breakout season in 2018/19 and followed it up with three goals and three assists in eight games last year.
Frank trusted in the new signings to be two thirds of the front three and they had to produce goals as Chelsea could be forgiven if they gave up a goal with many of the best defenders in the club out of the match for several reasons.
Although Brighton FC has never beaten Chelsea in the Premier League in their entire history, they are still a rising Premier League side with a relegation battle mixed with emotions. Frank made a big call early by starting Kepa in goal, but it is a decision that I personally like, as it’s a fresh slate for the most expensive keeper and the club would love to get any value for his price tag. Many thought Willy Caballero would get the start since he had the trust of the manager and the club were in negotiations with a new goalie.
Timo’s slicing horizontal runs up on the defensive line got my attention early as he actively searched to create attacking chances and it was his quick run from the mistake by Steven Alzate that caused Mat Ryan to foul him for a penalty. Kai’s best display in the first half was from his cool touches when he worked back and intercepted the ball to begin a team build-up that almost led to a goal if Ruben Loftus-Cheek could have found Timo.
Trossard answered back to start the scoring in the second half but Chelsea quickly took their lead back with Reece James getting into a deep attacking position hitting it home with a banger. It was luck that got the third goal as Zouma’s shot was deflected into the net. Havertz was taken off in the eightieth minute to give Callum Hudson-Odoi some time and Timo was also actively looking to play a role in closing out the game which was admirable to see.
Their second test of the season would be against the defending champions of the English crown, Liverpool FC.
Chelsea were looking at this game as a test to become champions, and beating the previous champions would boost their confidence in believing that they can take that next step. With the new arrivals still unable to be picked in the squad, Frank only made one change; Ruben Loftus-Cheek made way for Mateo Kovacic. Timo was still the main man up front, but it was Havertz that was moved into a central role, the role most believe to be his best.
Therefore, this match could not be noted as a full title tilt matchup with all of Chelsea’s and Liverpool’s new signings. Nevertheless, it was a Premier League game, and each had to fill a eleven man squad with the best they have.
Liverpool won 2-0.
Now, it's not to say that Liverpool dominated the game and Chelsea were nowhere near a match for the defending champions. Chelsea’s attack were producing chances that could have given them the lead, but it was two of their own players that stopped them from winning the match. The first is obvious as Andreas Christensen produced a touchdown-saving tackle on Sadio Mane to stop him from having a chance on his goalkeeper and got himself a red card.
The second player was Kepa. From the start of the match, the defenders were nervous to pass back to the club’s most expensive shot-stopper so they could limit the presence of an out-of-form keeper on the match. The reason Andreas thought that the only way to stop Mane from scoring was to take him to the ground shows what the players are thinking. Liverpool taking the lead was not on Kepa as Mane’s brilliance in front of the net resulted in a Liverpool goal. The second goal however, Kepa’s laziness was exposed and Mane stole the show because of it.
If Jorginho’s penalty was slotted home, perhaps Chelsea would have walked away with a draw and would have been thought of differently.
The good news is Kepa will now have direct competition at his position with newly signed Edouard Mendy who helped French club Rennes qualify for the Champions League for the first time in the club’s history. The bad news is the answer to what I believe to be the most interesting question for Chelsea FC this season. They will be better than last year, there is no doubt.
Top players slowly coming into the team will help the club develop a snowball effect and be a force in the Premier League this season. Fans can look to Kai Havertz’s first hattrick for Chelsea in a EFL Cup game against Barnsley and playing time for both Thiago Silva and Ben Chilwell as a step towards glory.
However, even though this team can finish in the top three this year, they will not be lifting a title at the end of the season. Frank has too many questions and the serious contenders have too many answers.