Starting on Sunday with a showdown against Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea will be put through a three-month-long test. Games against the Premier League’s biggest clubs loom large and clashes against German superpower, Bayern Munich, will make matters worse. Despite a strong start to the season, Chelsea’s form against the top clubs has been incredibly poor, making this three-month stretch incredibly worrisome. Can Frank Lampard get the Blues through to April?
So here’s Chelsea’s fixture schedule through the end of March but I’m not going to break down every match.
- Tottenham Hotspur vs Chelsea December 22nd
- Chelsea vs Southampton December 26th
- Arsenal vs Chelsea December 29th
- Brighton & Hove Albion vs Chelsea January 1st
- Chelsea vs Nottingham Forest Jan 5th
- Chelsea vs Burnley Jan 11th
- Newcastle vs Chelsea Jan 18th
- Chelsea vs Arsenal Jan 21st
- Leicester City vs Chelsea Feb 1st
- Chelsea vs Manchester United Feb 8th
- Chelsea vs Tottenham Hotspur Feb 22nd
- Chelsea vs Bayern Munich Feb 25th
- AFC Bournemouth vs Chelsea Feb 29th
- Chelsea vs Everton Mar 7th
- Aston Villa vs Chelsea Mar 14th
- Bayern Munich vs Chelsea Mar 18th
- Chelsea vs Manchester City Mar 21st
Activity in the January transfer window is a necessity although it’s unlikely that a Jadon Sancho or Ben Chilwell level player could be purchased before the summer window. Even so, here’s what I think Lampard should do within the club to ensure that the rest of the season isn’t defined by frustrating losses.
It’s time for Lampard to make some changes. For starters, the central midfield trio should be Jorginho, Mateo Kovacic, and N’Golo Kante going forward. Although there isn’t a true #10 in that trio, the box to box ability of both Kovacic and Kante should suffice in regards to the attack. Plus with Jorginho playing at such a high level this season and his improvement in a defensive sense, it allows Kante and Kovacic to probe forward much more freely. And don’t forget, Kovacic is starting to score goals.
This midfield is what saw Chelsea beat Lille and advance to the Champions League knockout stage. It boasts two of the most in-form midfielders on the planet as well as the best box to box midfielder in football in Kante. Plus with Mason Mount struggling to find consistency, it might be time for him to be sent to the bench.
Outside of Manchester City and maybe Spurs, Chelsea will have the better midfield in almost all of their matchups including their Champions League clash against Bayern. With a shaky defence, Lampard will need to lean heavily on the centre of the pitch and a defensive based midfield is the right choice going forward.
So let’s talk defense. For me, Emerson hasn’t been good enough. It’s time for Reece James to be a regular in the starting XI. James should take over RB with Cesar Azpilicueta to take over LB for Emerson.
Despite James getting beat by Aaron Cresswell of West Ham f or their goalupon his last appearance for the Blues, James’s defensive capabilities, as well as his attacking prowess, have him above Emerson in the pecking order in my opinion.
Emerson has been poor lately. Despite being a much better option than Marcos Alonso, Chelsea need more from the left-back and they have not been able to get it. I know Azpi has faced a great deal of scrutiny but he’s been playing quite well lately and his experience at left-back should be utilised by Lampard. As for James, the time is now for him to become a consistent starter.
Onto the wingers. I think starting Willian going forward would send a bad message. He was poor against Bournemouth, and Callum Hudson-Odoi looked good in his showing off the bench. With Pulisic in exceptional form, he will remain in the starting XI but it’s CHO time on the right flank.
Imagine a Chelsea team with CHO and James on the right flank. All Chelsea fans know that is the future but perhaps the future is now. Whether these changes will be made remains to be seen and a number of them would be questionable. There would be even more youth in the starting XI but that isn’t a bad thing. Trust in Chelsea’s youth players has gotten them pretty far this season. Trusting in it a bit more isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially when the club needs a spark and with months of tough fixtures on the horizon.