Are the biggest winners of the Tokyo Olympics the ones that stayed at home?

The Tokyo Olympics games have been somewhat successful for most of Chelsea’s 11 representatives. Four of the eleven players who travelled to Japan to represent their countries will be returning to Kingsmeadow with medals.

A gold for Canada’s Jessie Fleming, who scored the penalty which took the game to extra time and then a spot kick in the shoot-out and three silvers for Sweden’s Magda Eriksson, Jonna Andersson and Zecira Musovic. Sam Kerr’s Australia fell to defeat in the third place play off against the USA, but the striker did score six goals in six games and became the Matlida’s record scorer, notching her 48th goal in that 4-3 loss. 

For Team GB there was less to cheer about, Carly Telford and Niamh Charles didn’t feature and Fran Kirby’s tournament was blighted by injury although Millie Bright and Sophie Ingle did get significant playing time, with Ingle captaining the side for a group game.

But while we’ve been celebrating the successes of our players at the tournament, it’s those players back at Cobham who’ll be the biggest benefactors of their team mates prolonged absence at pre-season.

The key player Fran Kirby
Fran Kirby. Credit | Getty Images

The 2021/22 season kicks off on the weekend of the 3rd of September, when Chelsea travel to Arsenal, and it’s highly unlikely that those who travelled to Japan for the Olympucs will have had any more than a week in training. 

So who will be the biggest winners? 

Ann-Katrin Berger

This might seem a strange addition, especially with the German recently signing a new deal, but Zecira Musovic did not join Chelsea to sit on the bench.  Despite not featuring for Sweden in the Olympics, the 25-year-old has missed a great opportunity to impress Emma Hayes and begin a serious challenge to Berger’s number 1 spot between the sticks. 

Berger was regarded by many as one of the best in Europe after a string of fantastic performances last season, but having just Emily Orman for back up cements her place in the team even further. 

Erin Cuthbert

Wee Erin is facing a bit of a transition this season, but having Sophie Ingle away for the start of the season might just help her settle into a new role for Chelsea. Originally a holding midfielder in her early career, Cuthbert joined Chelsea playing mainly in an attacking role. 

Towards the end of our run to the Champions League final last year, the Scot was employed in a midfield three, tasked with tracking wide players and to help with protecting our full backs.  The 22-year-old proved in those moments that she was a more solid option in the midfield then the experienced Ji So-Yun, who’d been moved down the pitch to accommodate Pernille Harder in the number 10 role. 

With all three of Chelsea’s centre backs away at the Olympics, it’s likely that Melanie Leupolz will have to cover as a central defender meaning Erin is likely to play in that midfield pivot. 

Key performances here will see her become a main stay of this team this season. 

Guro Reiten

It’s been difficult to argue in favour of leaving our assist queen out of Chelsea’s starting eleven, but Emma Hayes’ switch to a 4-4-2 diamond formation meant that their wasn’t perhaps a natural place for the Norwegian to fit into. 

With Fran Kirby and Sam Kerr both away, it seems logical for Chelsea to switch back to their regular 4-2-3-1 formation with Reiten back on that left hand side. We know all about her qualities and what she can bring to this side and a few reminders of that early in the season will mean that Emma will have a big selection headache for those attacking spots. 

Lauren James

Some might think it was easy for Lauren James to decide to join Chelsea, but it takes a lot of self confidence and belief for a 19-year-old to look at a squad featuring the aforementioned Kirby, Kerr, Harder, Reiten and Bethany England and believe that you can get into that team.

The simple fact of Kerr and Kirby being away at the Olympics means that James is highly likely to feature heavily at the start of the season and if she can replicate the form she showed against us last season it’ll be difficult to remove her from the starting line up. 

Once a Blue, Always a Blue: Lauren James returns to the club she represented in her youth. Credit | Sky Sports
Once a Blue, Always a Blue: Lauren James returns to the club she represented in her youth. Credit | Sky Sports

Bethany England

It’s been a difficult 18 months or so for Bethany England. After finishing the 2019-20 season as the top scorer, she found herself out of the team as Chelsea opted to play with just one attacker in Sam Kerr. Then when Chelsea switched to two up top, it was Kirby and Kerr’s phenomenal link up that meant it was virtually impossible for England to get a look in.

Coupled with a bad concussion injury, of which England still has no recollection, the season was kind of a write off, which is weird to say considering her stats for the year were still pretty good. But with Sam Kerr having played so many minutes for Australia during the Olympic Games, it has to be Beth leading the line for Chelsea when the season starts in a few weeks time. And if she can get on a hot streak of scoring goals, it’ll force Kerr to watch on from the bench (for the time being anyway).

The Olympics have been a successful one for most of Chelsea’s representatives, but it could well be that those who stayed at home are the biggest winners this summer.

Written by Dean Mears (@DeanMears)

Edited by Tom Coley (@tomcoley49)

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