Chelsea’s huge squad
Chelsea, of course, proved one of Europe’s most active clubs on the transfer front this summer.
The Blues, in total, brought in seven first-team players over the course of the delayed summer window.
And though they also managed to ship out a number of players over recent weeks, including the likes of Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Ross Barkley and Malang Sarr, the Londoners’ squad remains rather bloated.
For example, despite loaning Sarr to FC Porto, Chelsea still have five senior centre-backs on their books. This is not even accounting for Cesar Azpilicueta, who usually starts in the right centre-back spot if Frank Lampard opts to deploy a back-five.
A failed deadline-day move to Juventus for Emerson also means that the Blues currently have three out-and-out left-backs to call upon, with Azpilicueta more than capable of filling in there, too.
Moving further forward, Lampard has all of Timo Werner, Tammy Abraham and Olivier Giroud to choose from at centre-forward.
And there is a similar story in attacking midfield and on the wings, with Christian Pulisic, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Hakim Ziyech, Kai Havertz, Mason Mount, and in some cases, Timo Werner, to fight it out for three spots.
Obviously, squad depth, to a certain extent, is a positive, especially when you are a top side trying to compete in several competitions at once.
But with too many options to choose from, it can also leave a manger with something of a selection headache, and unable to suss out his side’s ideal starting XI.
So, with so many new faces now at his disposal, Frank Lampard will no doubt be keen to nail down his best lineup as soon as possible. But what exactly is Chelsea’s best current eleven?
A French-themed backline
Starting between the sticks, though Edouard Mendy has had very little time to prove himself in England, it is hard to argue that he shouldn’t currently be the Blues’ no.1.
Kepa is a solid option, and was in fine form for Spain on Wednesday evening, keeping a clean sheet vs Portugal.
But the Spaniard just looks completely devoid of confidence when donning a Chelsea shirt, and with the battle for a Champions League berth looking set to be a fierce one in the Premier League this year, Lampard can’t really afford to persist with Kepa for the time being.
Much like in goal, Chelsea’s best choice at left-back is also pretty evident at present.
Both Marcos Alonso and Emerson have proven underwhelming for some time, with the former’s defensive issues of particular concern.
As such, following Ben Chilwell’s superb display for Chelsea vs Crystal Palace last weekend, it appears as though the England international will be the Londoners’ first-choice left-back for the foreseeable future.
The centre-back spot at Stamford Bridge is slightly tougher to call, however. Given his experience and quality, one would expect Thiago Silva to be a regular feature for Chelsea this season.
And though a case could certainly be made for Fikayo Tomori to partner the Brazilian, Silva and Kurt Zouma did look a solid pairing over the weekend. In addition, with Mendy and Silva new to English football, Chelsea’s backline spoke French vs Palace, meaning a Zouma-Silva partnership seemingly represents the best option for now.
The final spot in Chelsea’s backline should then, for the most part, be filled by Reece James.
Granted, Azpilicueta has a lot more experience, and is probably better defensively than James at present, but the young Englishman is continuously improving, and should now be handed a regular chance to impress by Lampard.
As we move up to midfield, the selection options become much trickier, and will likely be the toughest area for Lampard to pick from this season.
Firstly, with Chelsea favouring a 4-2-3-1 of late, N’Golo Kante should be named as one of the two holding midfielders, with the Frenchman still unquestionably one of the Premier League’s best.
Who partners the Frenchman, though, is somewhat up for debate.
Jorginho did so versus Crystal Palace, as Chelsea secured a comfortable 4-0 victory.
Given the fact that the Italian isn’t particularly sound defensively, though, he may end up struggling against superior opposition.
With Mateo Kovacic having been named Chelsea’s Player of the Season in 2019/20, a Kante-Kovacic pairing should therefore be the way forward.
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) October 7, 2020
Havertz as a 10
The aforementioned midfield paring should allow Chelsea’s more attack-minded players plenty of freedom going forward, with Kante and Kovacic primed to sweep up behind.
Across the attacking midfield spots, in turn, should be Christian Pulisic, Kai Havertz and potentially Hakim Ziyech.
Obviously, some Chelsea fans will likely feel somewhat aggrieved that Mason Mount has been left out here, with the English international having been superb over the last year or so.
However, when fit, Lampard can’t really afford to leave out Christian Pulisic, who was in stellar form during last season’s run-in.
And it is a similar story with Havertz. Chelsea are not going to leave their £71m signing on the bench, and we have already seen that he operates best as a no.10.
This leaves just the right-wing spot, which will probably be occupied by Ziyech, once the Moroccan is fit.
Callum Hudson-Odoi has done a solid job on the right when handed the opportunity, and will still likely get plenty of game time. But, given the fact that Ziyech is a natural in that spot, and represents another of Chelsea’s latest batch of signings, he looks set to be first-choice.
Finally, once Pulisic returns to full fitness, he will presumably operate from the left, meaning Timo Werner should be handed the no.9 role.
Is this Chelsea’s best starting XI?
This article was edited by Conor Laird.
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