Chelsea’s summer transfer window activity has just a tinge of déjà vu about it, players coming in the door almost daily, legitimate interest in the worlds best players and a hungry, young manager aiming for the number one position. Roman Abramovich has dug into his deep pockets this year to improve his side substantially and he has arguably made Chelsea the most intriguing side in the Premier League this year. It is like looking in a mirror back to 2003, Joe Cole, Carlton Cole, Geremi, Wayne Bridge, Scott Parker, Adrian Mutu, Hernan Crespo, Claude Makelele and Damien Duff were all signed in one summer window. Chelsea and Abramovich had arrived.
Frank Lampard has welcomed Ben Chilwell, Thiago Silva, Hakim Ziyech, Malang Sarr, Xavier Mbuyamba and German stars, Timo Werner and Kai Havertz. In 2003, Claudio Ranieri was manager and he was tasked with bringing together a squad of new players to compete on the world biggest stage, his last season saw Chelsea qualify for the Champions League, paving the way for Jose Mourinho. In 2020, Lampard has got his young side into Europe, maybe against the odds, but, that was last season and now this new season is all that matters.
Mourinho had all the players to do what he pleased with. Lampard is in a similar situation, but where Mourinho stuck to a rigid 4-3-3 system, don’t expect Lampard to do the same. He has all the modern day coaching and experience to move between formations and play styles in the same game. Chelsea may set up predominantly with a 4-3-3 on paper, but that is just the start of Lampard’s options with this versatile Chelsea squad.
Due to the positional versatility of Chelsea’s attacking play, the starting XI on paper will be just that, it will be almost impossible to predict the movements and play styles that this side could use. This will be apparent especially in the early stages of the season as all sides try to figure out Chelsea’s dangerous attackers.
In the last two years Chelsea have added 6 attack minded players and other than Tammy Abraham, they can all play a minimum of 2 positions, on paper. This being said, and going from Lampard’s team selection post lockdown, it is most likely that we see a 4-3-3 most often from Chelsea.
Here we have Timo Werner starting up front, but the German often operated in a space between the striker and left winger last season which makes him hard to mark also interchangeable with the rest of the front 5.
With Werner’s lateral movement, that creates space for either winger or a midfielder to take up a more advanced role in the attacking position. Kai Havertz has been used as a false 9 several times for Bayer Leverkusen and due to his tall frame, he can be used effectively there from the start of a game or in a mid-game plan.
This may look stupid for a starting XI team sheet, but don’t be surprised to see Havertz and Werner operate together a lot closer and further forward on the pitch than a teamsheet would initially show.
We have also seen the possibility that Christian Pulisic could play a more central role. As he drifts inside with and without the ball into a 10 position, this could, in game, be seen as a direct switch of positions with Werner taking the space out wide and Pulisic through the middle.
With all of the hustle and bustle this window being about Kai Havertz and Timo Werner, it is inexcusably easy to put Hakim Ziyech’s transfer on the back burner, but that’s just what the wizard would want.
It is Ziyech’s nature to float in and out of games before producing a moment of magic that would stun people even if they were expecting it. But, why is it so easy for him to go under the radar?
His position, on the right wing, is an innocuous one. He rarely plays as an out and out winger, he drifts and glides into space that isn’t there, finding the blindspots for defenders and pouncing elegantly when the moment comes.
Therefore, don’t be surprised to see Ziyech drop into a right attacking midfield position in-between a Havertz and James on Chelsea’s right hand side. This is where he was so dangerous when cutting onto his stronger left foot and delivering crosses to the back post; notably, one of the positions in which Timo Werner poaches so many goals from coming in off of the left hand side.
Finally, Havertz himself can also make do as a right winger when the time comes in-game, therefore allowing Ziyech to play deeper and find space where and when he needs too. Due to the German’s ability to produce quality with both feet, Ziyech’s wand of a left foot and the danger that Reece James showed he can produce on his right foot, Chelsea’s right hand side looks to have incredible balance to it and can be a serious weapon for attack.
Although the shape on paper may look wildly inaccurate and make little sense, it is clear that Chelsea have a world class attack that is capable of destruction, but the most important thing is the amount of avenues that the destruction can be caused via. Lampard’s drive to bring in players and develop youth players to play with versatility and fluidity is going to give his side that extra uncertainty factor that other teams either don’t have or can’t cope with. If Lampard doesn’t know what his team is going to do, how will other teams and managers?
Written by Tom Coley @tomcoley49
Edited by Jai Mcintosh @jjmcintosh5