Chelsea will be determined to solidify their Champions League place with nine games remaining in their highly successful ‘transition’ campaign.
The Blues headed into 2019/20 with a transfer embargo, off the back of losing Eden Hazard to Real Madrid and with Frank Lampard yet to manage in the Premier League.
It has been a rollercoaster journey for all concerned but a largely positive experience for the west London team whose expectations are lower than in recent years, with a long-term project rebuild underway as opposed to making short-term decisions for short-term success.
The emergence of Tammy Abraham and Mason Mount as key players in the Chelsea machine has gone down a storm with fans who have been crying out for the academy system to be used for more than merely farming out youngsters for profit, but can the young guns make a big statement in their remaining Premier League fixtures?
We bring you the lowdown including an exclusive interview with former Blues ace Scott Minto ahead of the comeback.
Check out your complete guide to Chelsea’s 2019/20 season ahead of the Premier League restart.
Chelsea in 2019/20
Manager: Frank Lampard
Top scorer: Tammy Abraham (13 goals)
Most assists: Willian (5 assists)
Check out our full list of Chelsea fixtures 2019/20.
Chelsea Football Club, the neutrals’ favourite. Let’s face it, since Roman Abramovich’s money began to saturate the club, they’ve not been winning many popularity battles, but this new-gen Chelsea team has caught the eye of the nation.
A wide range of British talents have been tried and tested in 2019/20 with Abraham and Mount joined by the likes of Fikayo Tomori and Callum Hudson-Odoi in the ‘ones to watch’ category with regards to the future of the England national team.
Similar to Mikel Arteta’s appointment at Arsenal, it feels like a free hit season for Lampard given the circumstances, but to be sitting in fourth is a terrific achievement.
The club will also be boosted by the arrival of Hakim Ziyech who was set to arrive at the end of the regular season from Ajax before the calendar was shifted back. The bright spark winger could provide a shard of fresh potency in attack and while he can’t be expected to hit the ground running, he may offer a game-changing presence from the bench as the Blues aim for fourth.
Scott Minto says…
Q: What do you make of Chelsea’s season so far?
SM: I think if you look at the start of the season, when he first came in, Frank Lampard had only been the manager for one year, and it was his first year in the Premier League. When you looked at all the clubs and the finances they had, I looked at it, thinking, ‘Do you know what? Fifth or sixth is probably the best he’ll get.’ I think I predicted: ‘Fifth. But anything above that, like top four, would be absolutely unbelievable. And obviously, if he can get a run in a cup, then great.’
Q: Which players have impressed you most?
SM: First and foremost, Tammy Abraham is the first mention. I was a left back, and while there’s pressure stepping in any position on the pitch, when you’re the striker – or perhaps the goalkeeper – they’re the two positions where if things don’t go right, you have to be mentally strong. And to be fair to Tammy, he’s just come in, and been absolutely fantastic. I think it helps that technically speaking, he’s always been a Chelsea player. It’s not as if he’s come in completely cold to Stamford Bridge or to Chelsea at the training ground. But still, when you’re playing on a match day, it’s you. Suddenly you turn up at Stamford Bridge and 40,000 are watching. The pressure’s on. You’re up against top Premier League defenders, and therefore some of the best in the world. You have to perform. I saw him at lot at Aston Villa last season. I thought he was excellent in the Championship. I think being at a club like Villa gave him a real, big-club experience.
But going from the Championship to not just Premier League, but the top end of the Premier League – you’re talking Chelsea; he’s got to produce Champion’s League quality form. And I think, over most of the season, he’s done just that.
I’d also like to give a mention to Mason Mount. I think he’s done really well. Again, that’s another position where you have to be really brave. You’re a number 10. Or if you’re playing out a little bit wide, you have to make sure you get involved. The other kid I’d like to mention is Fikayo Tomori, who I saw a lot of at Derby. And actually, of all the players that Derby had last season, he was Derby’s player of the season.
I went to the Chelsea v Liverpool game, and I thought he was absolutely outstanding. He marked Mo Salah out of the game. Every time there was a race, he was there for him with pace and Salah didn’t get past him once. He’s one for the future, definitely.
Q: Which players have a point to prove before the end of the season?
SM: I think it’s kind of well-known that Frank is either looking at, or there have been issues in, the goalkeeping position and at left back. I do think that Frank’s probably made his decision already in terms of players, and where he needs to improve. I wouldn’t say it’s too little too late but I do think that they’re the sort of positions that you’ve got to come in and do really well. If it’s not to impress Frank, and to stay at Chelsea and play next season, it’d be to show other clubs that you’re bang in form, and you’d be a great signing.
Q: What effect will lockdown have on the team?
SM: Do you know what, mate? We’ve got absolutely no idea. Anyone who says they have is lying because it’s literally that you’re starting from scratch. You know, you’re even starting from longer than you’d get in an off-season. Form goes out the window. Whatever form players or teams had before the lockdown, it’s been so much time now that it’s a complete guess. And then you can throw in the home advantage, or lack of. A lot of clubs are saying ‘we want to be playing at neutral venues’ or ‘we demand home advantage’. If you actually look at what’s happening Germany, I think it’s 46 matches, and there have been 10 home wins. It’s crazy, isn’t it? Generally speaking, in terms of the form of players that were playing well beforehand or teams that were on a great run – you’re literally starting from a standing start.
Q: How do you rate Frank Lampard this season?
SM: I mean, he had a bit of a tough start at home at Stamford Bridge. I can’t remember when the first win was, but I know it took a bit of time. When you’re Frank Lampard, an absolute legend at Chelsea and you’re still a rookie manager, when the results aren’t quite going for you, especially at home, that can create a real pressure.
And when I say ‘Frank’, I’d like to include Jody Morris as well because I think the two of them work really well together. I played with Frank at West Ham, and I played with Jody at Chelsea, so I know them. It’s one thing to be a good player, but it’s another thing to be a good manager. And a good player doesn’t make a good manager necessarily
He realised it was going to take time, he realised he had a chance of a [transfer] ban, he realised that not just Chelsea’s best player but the Premier League’s best player had gone. You know, it was a real uphill battle. But he saw – and Jody saw, having already worked in the Chelsea Academy – the talent that was there; the talent that was already on Chelsea’s books, either in the Academy and just coming through the Academy, or out on loan. Speaking to Jody, he had real, real faith that these kids just need a chance.
I think it almost did him a favour, the transfer ban. At Chelsea, there’s been a bit of a culture of: ‘I can’t afford to look into the future. I’m just going to look at the first-team players for now.’ You’ve got someone who, I believe, can be the next Chelsea manager for five to 10 years.
Q: Where will Chelsea finish in the Premier League this season?
SM: At the beginning of the season, I did think that Liverpool would win the title. I predicted that. I didn’t think they’d win by 20-odd points, but…
I also predicted Chelsea just outside the top four. I would change that now. I think that Chelsea can get that fourth position. United are Chelsea’s main threat but if Chelsea can get off to a good start then that momentum will take them through. But I do think United are coming up and they probably would be the team who wouldn’t have wanted the lockdown more than almost anybody, apart from maybe Liverpool, because they were in such great form, and now they almost have to start again. I’m going to predict Chelsea will finish fourth, which at the start of season, I would have said would have been a magnificent feat for Frank and Jody.
Looking for all the remaining Premier League matches and how to watch them? Check out our Premier League fixtures guide.