So much has happened at Chelsea over the last few months it can be difficult to keep track. The sanctioning of Roman Abramovic meant the controversial Russian billionaire, who took control of the club in 2003, was forced to sell, and now the Todd Boehly era begins at Stamford Bridge.
Vowing to invest in the squad, Thomas Tuchel has had serious work to do to get his side into shape for the upcoming campaign, having lost Antonio Rüdiger and Andreas Christensen whilst being unable to renegotiate their contracts, and having transfer attempts spurned for Moussa Diaby and Jules Koundé, with the Frenchman joining Christensen at Barcelona.
On top of this, captain César Azpilicueta, one of the longest serving players still left at the club, has reportedly got cold feet over staying in west London, looking to move back to native Spain following a disastrous preseason that led to Tuchel questioning his side’s work ethic and mentality.
“I am far from relaxed,” he said after his side was thumped 4-0 by Arsenal. “We were simply not good enough. We were simply not competitive. I look at the last season and parts of the game where we struggled, parts of the season where we struggled, and then we got sanctioned and players left us and some players are trying to leave us, and this is where it is. So we had an urgent appeal for quality players, a huge amount of quality players. We got two quality players but we are not competitive like this. Unfortunately, you could see it today.”
It’s not all doom and gloom in west London though. Raheem Sterling has arrived from Manchester City, not only strengthening a rival but providing Tuchel with real options out wide. He signs alongside Kalidou Koulibaly from Napoli, who adds stability and depth to the squad, something that will be needed for a long campaign. You simply can’t judge results alone when it comes to preseason and although the Blues lost a lot of games over their trip to the United States, there were glimpses of promise and still enough to be excited about before the opening day visit to Everton.
This time last year the vibe was immaculate at the Bridge. Fresh after being crowned European champions and beating Sevilla in the UEFA Super Cup, a new look Chelsea, encouraged by the early goalscoring antics of Romelu Lukaku, looked a shoo-in for the title when it came to football betting. And while the wheels came off, and Tuchel’s side was riddled with injuries en route to a domestic double capitulation, their experience will hopefully lead to the German making fewer mistakes this time around.
With the return of wing-backs Reece James and Ben Chilwell, both directly involved in the majority of Chelsea’s goals in the first half of last season, Tuchel can revert back to the 3-5-2 system that was so efficient, with Sterling occupying space in more narrow areas, but also able to play as a more natural winger if they go back to a 4-3-3. The Premier League’s five substitutes rule means every member of the squad will be valuable, especially in the middle of the park where Mateo Kovačić, Jorginho, and N’Golo Kanté will be expected to put in the hard yards.
Despite an underwhelming first few weeks to life under Boehly, Chelsea is a side with simply too much quality to not succeed this season, and with one of the most tactically astute coaches in Europe, expect more big things from the Blues in the coming weeks and months.