This won’t be a usual season for Chelsea, renowned for their penchant for sacking managers despite rather successful campaigns.
Roman Abramovich is trigger-happy at the top, but in a season where expectations are lower than at any other time during his reign, he may have to resist the temptation to hand out a hefty severance package.
Frank Lampard is back at the Bridge and already hamstrung by the club’s inability to sign players due to their transfer embargo.
Eden Hazard is gone, yet somehow Lampard has to patch together a squad capable of challenging for the top four.
Young stars and fringe talents will all be given a chance to prove their worth, but how will the Blues’ season transpire?
RadioTimes.com has rounded up everything you need to know about Chelsea ahead of the 2019/20 season.
Where did Chelsea finish last season?
3rd. On paper, this was an excellent season for Chelsea. On the terraces, there was borderline mutiny.
Maurizio Sarri implemented his ‘Sarri-ball’ style but the Blues’ faithful didn’t warm to it, branding the football negative and slow.
They got off to a terrific start, but a difficult winter saw Chelsea defeated 2-0, 4-0 and 6-0 by Arsenal, Bournemouth and Manchester City respectively in the space of three weeks.
Sarri narrowly missed out on the Carabao Cup following a penalty shoot-out defeat to City, but went on to guide his team to the Europa League trophy.
Neutrals feel Sarri was harshly treated, but it’s doubtful there were any tears shed by the Chelsea fans upon his departure.
Who is Chelsea’s key player?
N’Golo Kante. Now that Hazard has departed, is it fair to say N’Golo Kante is the last remaining world class player in the Chelsea squad?
He may not boast the same technical prowess as many others who fall into the ‘world class’ grey area, but there’s no denying his effectiveness when deployed in his favoured deeper position.
Kante was arguably the biggest sufferer of Sarri-ball having been forced to play higher up the field to accommodate Jorginho.
It’s not that Kante was awful in the pushed-up role, he grew into it, but he was nowhere near as important to the Blues as he was in the dynamic holding role.
It will be interesting to see where Lampard chooses to deploy Kante, but a switch to his natural position could reinvigorate the Chelsea midfield.
Who is Chelsea’s biggest summer signing?
Mateo Kovacic (£45m). There’s barely ever been a signing more out of necessity than actual desire to bring the player onboard than Kovacic to Chelsea.
The Real Madrid outcast spent last season on loan at Stamford Bridge and was essentially the only player in the world Chelsea were allowed to sign. It was Kovacic or nothing.
They chose to part with £45m for the central midfielder who failed to set the world alight last year but will hope to benefit from Lampard’s inevitable re-jig.
Kovacic is neither a defensive rock or attacking weapon, he keeps the ball and passes it neatly, but rarely makes a great impact with it.
The Croatian is ‘fine’. He’s not a liability, nor is he a great asset. Kovacic is technically talented but it’s down to the Chelsea coaches to repurpose him in 2019/20.
Who is the Chelsea manager? Meet Frank Lampard
Let’s not beat around the bush here, the only reason Lampard is sitting in the dug-out is sentimentality.
He performed capably in his first year of management at Derby County but he failed to do anything several other Football League managers have done with the Rams or similar top-end Championship outfits.
Lampard is in position to galvanise his squad, give youngsters a shot and ride out the transfer embargo suffering as little damage as possible.
His temperament and demeanor are excellent, well-suited for a long, successful career at the top of football management, but he has a lot to prove in the game.
Lampard’s first task will surely involve burning the remnants of Sarri-ball before bringing in his own style.
At Derby, he favoured a 4-3-3 system with wingers able to drive inside, while also encouraging a short passing game and aggressive pressing without the ball. Time will tell if he can bring the style back to Chelsea.
Chelsea fixtures – The Start
11th August: Manchester United (A)
18th August: Leicester (H)
24th August: Norwich (A)
Chelsea fixtures – The Run-In
2nd May: Norwich (H)
9th May: Liverpool (A)
17th May: Wolves (H)
The fans say…
LOUIS BENEVENTI, 100PERCENTCHELSEA
What is the mood like among fans going into 2019/20?
I can’t speak for everyone, but I’m very excited. It’s a completely new approach from the club and it couldn’t have come at a better time.
With a transfer ban, we’ve been forced to work with what we have, and it means that we can see some youngsters come into the side and it’s something fans have been pining after for years. Not only that but with the arrival of Frank Lampard, it feels like there are the foundations to really push on and create a legacy, even if that remains to be seen.
There’s no doubt Eden Hazard will be missed, but this is an opportunity to see how the team develops as a unit, rather than rely on Hazard’s individual talent and pure brilliance. It’s an exciting time as a Chelsea fan, as I’m not sure what will happen, but there’s no doubt it will be a roller-coaster year.
Who will be your key player this season?
If you’d asked me for the past five years, it would have been an easy answer! But, with Hazard gone, this is the opportunity for someone to step up. After seeing him step up last year as a future prospect, I really hope Callum Hudson-Odoi makes the step up this season once he returns from injury. Hudson-Odoi has the talent to light the league up.
I have no doubt he’ll dazzle in Chelsea blue, and after tying himself down to a long-term deal with the club, it’s an exciting future.
Obviously, the arrival of Christian Pulisic is also exciting, but I feel the pressure being mounted on him as the guy who’s come in after Hazard is harsh, and for me, after such an average season in the Bundesliga with 4 goals and 4 assists in 20 appearances (11 coming from the bench after losing his place to Sancho), I’m personally waiting to see how he does before passing an opinion on him.
Frank Lampard is back at the Bridge. How patient will fans be with him if results start going against him? Will he be treated any differently to the likes of Antonio Conte/Maurizio Sarri if he fails to impress?
Fans need to be patient this year. Let’s be real, it’s a completely different approach from the club and it’s a restructure with the youth prospects that have come into the first team. But I’m a natural cynic, and after seeing how Sarri and Conte were treated, it does make me nervous for Lampard’s tenure.
I feel both Sarri and Conte had clashes with the club’s structure and it ultimately led to Conte’s dismissal and Sarri’s move to Juventus. It was unfair for both of them, as both achieved their targets, and in Conte’s case, over-achieved in his first season, but there was no doubt there was unrest.
I feel because of who he is and the situation we find ourselves in as a club, Lampard will have a fair crack of the whip. It’s a completely new journey and a situation Chelsea haven’t been in during the Abramovich era. Lampard is Mr. Chelsea, and even if his appointment has come very early in his managerial career, he is definitely the right man for a project at Chelsea. I just hope the hierarchy feel the same and let him build the foundations of a team that I hope can go far in the future.
Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount and other young players will be given the chance to impress this season – what are your thoughts on youngsters being given an opportunity due to the transfer embargo?
It’s been a long time coming. It’s something fans have been crying out for for years, and now we have it, it’s going to be exciting. It’s definitely an opportunity for experimentation, and there’s no doubt some youngsters won’t make the grade at Chelsea, but we wouldn’t have known without trying. Guys like Mount and Abraham have done it at youth level and lit up the Championship, so now it will be good to see if they can do it in the Premier League.
Some argue about Abraham and his time at Swansea, but he had no service. He’s got the tools at Chelsea and has looked sharp in pre-season, just as Mount has as well, who will be fighting Ross Barkley for that Number 10 spot. I just want to see what the youth prospects can do and then in the summer of 2020, the club can re-assess the players’ situations and where they can strengthen with top quality from the market if we need to at all.
Where will you finish in the Premier League?
For me, the sixth to eighth bracket. I feel the rest of the top six have significantly strengthened, and the best of the rest have made some good signings as well.
Just as long as we get out of our Champions League group, and get European football next term, it will have been a success for me. There have been far too many times the cracks have been covered up for short-term gain and this is the perfect time to re-structure and go again.
All I expect is to see the team experimented with and see some exciting football. No-one knows what to expect, and that’s what is going to make this season as a Chelsea fan great.
Where will Chelsea finish? RadioTimes.com says…
This is an experimental year for the Blues to say the least.
Christian Pulisic is ready to roll, but he is simply not a direct replacement for Hazard.
Mason Mount, Tammy Abraham and Callum Hudson-Odoi would not usually find themselves in the thick of first team Chelsea action, but will relish the opportunities they receive.
It would take a massive effort for Lampard to steer the Blues into the Champions League places, but this could prove to be a cleansing, refreshing season for Chelsea
Their league position may be underwhelming, but invaluable experience will have been given to the next-gen, a rarity at Chelsea, and fans could have plenty to get excited about for seasons to come.