With transition comes setbacks and growing pains. This is what we’re witnessing and pointing out weaknesses is crucial. Chelsea started off the season slow but quickly picked up steam to go undefeated in 8 matches in all competitions. Shortly after the Manchester City game, Chelsea has only won 4 games. These losses have accentuated the problems that need to be addressed now and in the future going forward. Let’s take a look at each area of the squad that could use improvement.
Kepa Arrizabalaga’s expensive price tag has kept him under the spotlight and he will continue to be compared with the likes of Allison and Ederson prospering at their respective clubs. Previous reports have stated Lampard was keen to get Shay Given from Derby, a goalkeeping coach he worked with last season, to improve Kepa’s form. Kepa made extraordinary saves last season that saved Chelsea several points. He’s been questioned by fans and pundits but it might be too early to assess replacing him. Kepa might’ve had one of the strongest games this past week versus Brighton where he denied several Brighton players including Neal Maupay shot that could’ve given Brighton the victory. Kepa is very strong in terms of distributing but as been subpar in terms of shot-stopping on several goals that could’ve been saved. If Kepa continues to show signs of inconsistency by the end of the season then the question of finding a replacement might have a more definitive answer.
Chelsea have kept only 4 clean sheets so far while the previous year they kept 28 in all competitions. Only having 2 home wins in the league demonstrating their home woes, Chelsea continue to struggle to perform at Stamford Bridge but have been better away. They have accumulated 22 points away from home. The team struggled a lot on set pieces allowing mistake after mistake. The team only have a 16.5 clearance per match rate and have a 1.4 goals conceded per match while Liverpool and Leicester have 0.7 and 0.9 respectively. Rudiger has recently come back from injury with several setbacks after his surgery in the offseason. His commanding voice is helpful but has been caught out of position multiple times even from previous seasons. Last season he had the partnership with David Luiz and they did a solid job giving Chelsea clean sheets throughout the year but both Centre Backs were overaggressive and thus led to several mistakes that cost Chelsea goals.
The current centre-backs are Fikayo Tomori, Kurt Zouma, Andreas Christensen, Antonio Rüdiger and the youngster Marc Guehi. All have strong aspects in their game, Zouma being more dominant in the year with a 74% duels rate, Tomori being the strongest on the ground having a 77.8% ground duel win rate. Names that have been linked to Chelsea are Nathan Aké from Bournemouth and Ben White from Leeds United. Frank Lampard might want a left-footed Centre-back to help play out from the back especially in a back 3 and Aké might be a defender Chelsea might look to sign in January. The current team clearly lacks a leader that can help motivate the team especially when they’ve been 1-0 down. They’ve only won once all season when 1-0 down and that was against Arsenal at The Emirates after scoring 2 goals in less than 10 minutes.
The Left-back continues to be in doubt with Emerson and Marcos Alonso both struggling to cement the position as their own leaving Frank to play Azpilicueta as Left-back. Emerson started off the year bright and strong with a superb performance at the UEFA Super Cup constantly tracking back after an offensive phase. He suffered an injury against Liverpool and was left out for a month and a half. Ever since his return, he’s been up and down with his performances averaging a 6.2 match rating since his return. Lampard switched to a back 3 once again against Tottenham and implemented Marcos Alonso back in the lineup but picked up an injury and has been out of action ever since. Emerson replaced Alonso against Southampton and Arsenal but was quickly subbed of by half time after being at fault for the opening goal. Both will probably continue to fight out for the position but Marcos Alonso has been linked to a move away to Inter and to Spain so his future remains in doubt. Emerson’s future is also in the air with a move back to Italy is rumored. Some fullbacks that have been linked to Chelsea have been Youcef Atal, Ben Chilwell, and Alex Telles. Chilwell is the one that has seen concrete reports with a move to London but January seems out of reach and overpriced especially with Leicester’s current form. Chilwell provides pace and offensive ability having 3 assists and 1 goal so far this season.
The middle of the field is currently flooded with depth. However, question marks remain on whether there is enough offensive quality within it. Mateo Kovačić and Jorginho did a sublime job managing a double pivot earlier in the season with Mason Mason Mount slightly ahead in a #10 position aligning in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Lampard has used 4-3-3 with Jorginho in the middle of the field in a “regista role” similarly to what Sarri used last year with two midfielders on each side. Chelsea horrendously lost to Manchester United 4-0 exposing Chelsea gaps in midfield especially when losing the ball. This improved over time decreasing the gaps but Chelsea have still looked vulnerable on the break. N’golo Kante was out several months with an ankle injury. The Frenchman has been rotated recently but hasn’t looked at his best times. The current midfield consists of Mateo Kovačić, N’golo Kanté, Jorginho, Mason Mount, Ross Barkley, Ruben Loftus-Cheek (currently recovering from ruptured Achilles) and the Scottish youngster Billy Gilmour. While the list is vast and deep, the midfield is constantly changing but Mason Mount currently leads in goals with 5 scored this season in all competitions.
With all midfielders being strong in their aspects. Jorginho is strong dictating the play while Kovačić possesses excellent press resistant skills which helps the team break opposition press and start-up attacks. Kovačić leads the team in dribbles succeeded with an outstanding 84% dribble success rate. Mount vibrant energy allows the front line to press and hound the backline. His first goal of the season was exactly that as he forced Wilfred Ndidi to make an error and dispossessed him easily to score the opening goal against Leicester City. Loftus-Cheek’s presence is clearly missed as his ability in midfield was significant last year creating attacks with his strong vertical runs. Kovacic has been magnificent but no doubt Loftus Cheek’s absence leaves Chelsea asking whether they would want an attacking midfielder that could help relieve the pressure from the forwards.
Several names that are currently linked are Isco from Real Madrid, Sergej Milinković-Savić from Lazio, and Sander Berge the Norwegian from Belgian K.R.C Benk. Bruno Guimarães from Atletico Paranaense who can play as a defensive midfielder has been under the Chelsea microscope as well. A young promising midfielder that could solidify the middle of the park. Christian Eriksen has also been rumored to be available for about £20m and his strong playmaking abilities might be something Chelsea need to consider. However, no links have surfaced. He’s been rumored to a move to Antonio Conte’s Inter Milan.
This area could be touched on primarily with several quality players being linked to the Blues. Players such as Jadon Sancho, Wilfried Zaha, Timo Werner, Moussa Dembele and recently Gabriel Barbosa aka “Gabigol”. Not being clinical has plagued this team all season long. They’re currently second behind Manchester City in most passes and are also second in big chances missed with 37 with Manchester City missing 46 big chances. Lampard has reiterated all season especially against mid-table teams that they have not been the most potent in the final third and thus have led to losses and draws. Tammy Abraham leads the team in goals with 14 in all competitions and Christian Pulisic being second with 5 goals. The gap is huge between 1st and 2nd so Chelsea will need to contemplate revamping their offense.
Chelsea strikers, Michy Batshuayi and Olivier Giroud have only participated in 17 games combined. With Michy having 130 minutes played and Giroud 192 minutes. Pulisic has been put up-front with Frank stating his characteristics of getting into dangerous areas are important for the team. Pulisic had a fantastic spell of scoring 5 goals in 5 games. Since then he’s cooled off often being replaced with Mason Mount in the wide areas. Mount has been deployed all over the pitch from CM, LCM, LW and in a CAM position right behind the striker. Pedro has been involved very minimally and has no goals recorded this season. His last goal was in pre-season against RB Salzburg in late July. His future is also in doubt with rumors of him going to another Premier Club. Aston Villa is rumored to be interested in signing the 32-year-old. His recent comments have stated that if Barcelona came knocking on Chelsea’s door he would leave everything to return to Spain. Willian is on the last 6 months of his contract and no rumors of renewing have resurfaced. The Brazilian winger keeps emphasizing his desire to stay with the club but with his age in mind, Chelsea might look for younger options.
With Giroud and Batshuayi both having doubts over their playing time they could seek greener pastures to secure their spot in the 2020 Euros and move in this January transfer window. Jody Morris reiterated in the Nottingham Forest press conference that Giroud will only leave if a replacement comes in. The team needs a suitable backup for Tammy as the youngster has shown signs of fatigue and average performances. He’s been a breakthrough for Chelsea getting called for the English national team along with fellow teammates Fikayo Tomori and Mason Mount. Callum Hudson-Odoi came back from his gruesome injury in late October vs Grimbsy town and displayed good performances but as looked sub-par the last month with very few minutes under his belt. He looked bright against Arsenal and Brighton and more expectations have come on the young Englishmen due to the new contract so easing the pressure off the youngster might be ideal. Jadon Sancho, one of his closest friends, grew up a Chelsea fan in South London and a deal to Chelsea might be in the works.
Zaha is another target that was under speculation but hasn’t had the brightest spell this season for Crystal Palace with only 3 goals and 2 assists. Reece James had a good outing against the Ivorian when they battled each other last month but with limited options available he could be looked to this month and his premier league experience could come in handy. He has the ability to play upfront and on the wings. Another target is Gabigol, who had a strong run of 23 goals in 25 games and has returned from his year-long loan spell at Flamengo to his home club Inter.
An interesting window and much speculation will surround Chelsea but the higher-ups should look at the recent setbacks as issues that need to be assessed. They should not overspend and panic buy if things don’t go their way. This has been the issue for Chelsea in the past with signings, Zappacosta, Drinkwater, and Morata all being late signings that didn’t flourish at the club. With technical and performance advisor in Petr Čech, we could see different tactics in the way Chelsea handle new signings. Spending smart is important and this window will reveal whether Chelsea have learned from their mistakes in the past.
Overall Positions to look at : Centre-back, Attacking-midfielder, Striker
–Sources: fotmob, premier league app, fctables.com, footystats.org, tableleagues.com, Nouman(nomifooty), whoscored.com