The Blues are going through another season of changes but it means new chances for a host of new players
Another year and yet again there has been another revolution at Stamford Bridge as legendary soccer professional Frank Lampard has been given a unique chance to become the club’s new manager.
Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich usually opts for experience when seeking a new manager on almost a yearly basis.
But Lampard has been a special case, as the Blues look for a regime able to cope with FIFA’s imposed transfer ban on the club.
Lampard has been fast-tracked from Derby County to Chelsea as he looks to reduce his new side’s average age, thus turning the ban from a negative into a positive.
Christian Pulisic was signed for £58 million from Borussia Dortmund and then loaned to German side for the last six months of last season. The American will be a key figure at Chelsea this season with Eden Hazard being the only headline departure, leaving in an £88m deal for Real Madrid.
The Blues need to learn to be patient with Lampard as they look to contend with a 20-point gap and high bar set by Manchester City and Liverpool last season.
However, many will be hoping for an immediate impact as west London has been a place that has become accustomed to success.
After becoming the most expensive goalkeeper in football history, Kepa Arrizabalaga immediately lived up to the hype.
Still just 24 years old, Kepa has been outstanding with his feet and has quickly helped fans get over the loss of Thibaut Courtois. He has been the undisputed No. 1 and Willy Caballero has been his deputy.
Caballero must rank as one of the strongest backups in the division and he handled a potentially problematic incident in the Carabao Cup final last season with class.
Chelsea’s third goalkeeper Jamie Cumming signed a new four-year deal ahead of the new season. The 19-year-old replaces Rob Green, who retired in the summer.
Kurt Zouma has been back in the fold and he has looked to re-establish himself at Stamford Bridge after two seasons away on loan at Stoke City and Everton.
Lampard likes to utilise direct balls over the top and demands central defenders who can pass, so David Luiz has been likely to begin as his partner.
Alternate options in the heart of the defence come from both Antonio Rudiger, who has been stepping up his rehabilitation from a knee injury sustained last season, and Andreas Christensen.
Cesar Azpilicueta looks certain to start at right-back but the backup option has been not yet clear as Davide Zappacosta and Reece James could both operate in that role.
Finally, the battle to be Chelsea’s left-back continues with competition between Emerson Palmieri and Marcos Alonso as intense as ever.
Chelsea have used both a 4-2-3-1 and a 4-4-2 diamond in pre-season as Lampard looks set to chop and change his options. This represents a big change at Stamford Bridge as Maurizio Sarri was tactically rigid, only using a 4-3-3 system in his year at the club.
The two defensive midfielders are set to be a combination of N’Golo Kante, Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic. Unfortunately, Kante has missed much of pre-season, but it highlights how remarkable his Europa League performance was as he played with an injection for a knee injury. Kante got 18 minutes in Saturday’s pre-season finale against Borussia Monchengladbach.
Kovacic was signed on a permanent deal from Real Madrid due to a loophole in the transfer ban rules. He was already on loan, so he was able to make the £40.3m move regardless of the ruling.
Further forward, there has been a very heated battle going on to be Chelsea’s number 10 between Ross Barkley and Mason Mount. Barkley has four goals and three assists in pre-season compared to Mount’s three goals.
However, Mount has played more minutes than Barkley. The choice in the number 10 role has been perhaps Lampard’s toughest call ahead of kick off on Sunday.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek has just renewed his Blues deal and will provide serious competition to the aforementioned duo. However, his return from an Achilles tendon rupture has been not imminent.
The Blues have a lot of options in wide areas as Christian Pulisic and Pedro look set to begin the season as the first-choice options. Willian has been a late arrival back from winning the Copa America with Brazil over the summer and barely featured in pre-season.
Callum Hudson-Odoi has been set to renew his contract but he has been not expected back from his Achilles tendon rupture until mid-September at the earliest.
The No. 9 position has been set to be a three-way battle between Olivier Giroud and returning loanees Tammy Abraham and Michy Batshuayi. The actual No. 9 shirt number has been given to Abraham, and he has featured heavily in pre-season so far.
Giroud, Batshuayi and Abraham all have two goals apiece in pre-season. Abraham has played 301 minutes, more than the other two, and has been likely to start against Man Utd.
Last year was a season of unrest but Chelsea legend Lampard could steady what has been a divided club under the last few managers.
He brings legends with him in his coaching staff including Petr Cech, Jody Morris and Eddie Newton. It would take a brave soccer professional to take on Lampard, even though at 41 years old he has been relatively young for a manager of a top-six club.
Article continues below
There are doubts over whether the inexperienced Lampard can compete among the likes of Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp at the top of football management. He only managed for a season at Derby and it has been a brave experiment for all in west London.
But there has been optimism that Lampard can hit the ground running in the first season of a three-year contract, as he likes to play with young teams in a high-energy pressing game.
The sight of seeing Lampard lift silverware as a manager would certainly be a romantic one for Chelsea fans after his massive success at the club as a soccer professional.
How Chelsea could line up