It’s crazy to me that Chelsea remain winless in the Premier League, especially considering its been over a month since I arrived in London. A loss against Newcastle was followed by a 2-2 draw to a 10-man Arsenal side, and a 2-2 draw against Leicester City. You can sprinkle a 2-1 fourth-round FA Cup win against Hull City in there if you’d like, but regardless, it is safe to say there’s a lot riding on this game for the Blues. United have already beaten Chelsea twice this season, but Lampard’s squad shouldn’t be taken for granted.
Chelsea could be in a world of hurt (no pun intended) ahead of their clash with United. There’s a chance that both Christian Pulisic and Tammy Abraham will be unavailable due to injury, meaning that Chelsea’s attack could lack bite.
Pulisic being unavailable means that Willian and Callum Hudson-Odoi could be facing a full 90 minutes. Pedro off the bench is also looking like a definite, but perhaps Lampard could roll the dice and push Mount out wide. Now, I believe that both Willian and CHO should start, but if Mount starts in the #10 role, perhaps Barkley can come on for either of the wingers and then switch with Mount to take over attacking midfield. Pretty straightforward in my opinion, and with Pedro having a poor season, this might be Chelsea’s best bet.
If Abraham is set to miss this match, who should start in his place? I’d pick Olivier Giroud if there weren’t so many transfer rumors circulating around him. For the sake of the players, I think it would send the wrong message if Giroud were to start. Therefore, I’d go with Michy Batshuayi.
With the Batsman, you never know what you’re going to get. He’s either scoring Champions League group-stage winners against Ajax, or racing offsides every attack. For me, Michy is a premier talent who unfortunately lacks consistency; in fact, I worry when he has to play a full 90 minutes. Perhaps he will score a hat trick and bury Manchester United, or perhaps he will be unable to effectively impact the game and a stagnant Chelsea attack will ensue. Only time will tell.
As I said in my last piece, the Reece James and Callum Hudson-Odoi partnership was a sight to see and we will see it again as both players are set to start. It will be interesting who Lampard goes with at center-back; will we finally see Kurt Zouma or Fikayo Tomori feature again? For me, I’d select Antonio Rudiger and Fikayo Tomori, but Andreas Christensen and Rudiger have started alongside each other for the past four Premier League fixtures.
While Frank stews on his center-back selection, his left-back selection will most certainly be Cesar Azpilicueta. The veteran Chelsea man has shown tremendous heart this year, and arguably might be playing his last season as a week-in and week-out Chelsea starter. With Emerson Palmieri and Marcos Alonso failing to meet expectations, Frank shouldn’t consider either as starters, in my opinion.
I feel like I’m beating a dead horse by saying I want the midfield trio to be Jorginho, N’golo Kante and Mateo Kovacic, but I’m actually going to deviate from that this time (dang it). For me, Mason Mount needs to start against Manchester United. The young English phenom bagged two assists off seat pieces, and I’m interested to see the combination of Kovacic, Jorginho, Kante, AND Mount.
Yes, I think Chelsea should play a false nine with Mount in that role. A diamond midfield with Kante and Kovacic on the widths, Jorginho at the base, and Mount as the tip of the spear would be an exciting one. Plus it would allow Chelsea to have complete control of the midfield while allowing Willian and CHO to find pockets of space.
So why did I say I think Michy would start at striker? Because, simply, if Lampard chooses a striker that will probably be who it is. That being said, he can’t expect to throw Michy into Tammy’s role and expect him (or Giroud) to be as dominant or have the same effect. Abraham’s hold-up and sheer goal-scoring ability have been key to Chelsea’s success. Yes, Giroud and Michy are strikers, but they will never have the same impact as Abraham who has led Chelsea’s attack thus far this season.
With Abraham questionable, Lampard needs to get creative. Perhaps placing reliance on his strong midfield could be the answer.
What the hell is going on with Kepa Arizzabalaga? And what happens to ‘Chelsea fans’ that berate him on Twitter when he rediscovers his form? Who knows, but I think it would be idiocy not to start him against United. Kepa was benched for Willy Caballero in Chelsea’s last PL fixture against Leicester. Even so, he’ll surely play with a chip on his shoulder considering the last time he met United in the Premier League it resulted in a 4-0 loss. Will the most expensive keeper of all time start for the Blues? I think so, but then again, what the hell do I know?
That’s A Wrap
So this Chelsea side could have an entirely different look come Monday: Four in the midfield, a center-back that hasn’t featured for the Blues in the Premier League in God knows how long, and a young goalkeeper who could be reinstated after a falling out with Lampard (and apparently an abundance of fans).
Even so, Chelsea will be chomping at the bit to shatter United’s hopes and dreams of a top-four finish. And who knows, perhaps we will even see a Billy Gilmour cameo after his promotion to the first team.
All in all, Lampard will have to dig deep (per usual) and try and formulate a plan to take on a struggling United. Shouldn’t be too hard right? As always, Up the Blues.