This is an article about potential transfers but it’s worth reiterating just how impressive a job Lampard has done. The club sold Eden Hazard, easily their best player, he had to cope without his new best player, N’Golo Kante, for large chunks of the season, and there was a transfer ban in place. Lampard deserves a lot of credit and it’s going to be fascinating to see what happens when some of the players he wants are brought in.
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Speaking of which, Chelsea have already been busy. Both Hakim ZIyech and Timo Werner are in London and training with their new team, having been signed from Ajax and RB Leipzig respectively.
However that doesn’t mean that Chelsea are done in the window. The club are clearly operating in an aggressive fashion, hoping to use Roman Abramovich’s riches to close the gap on their rivals who may not be able to spend in the same manner. Without further ado let’s look at who they’re being linked to.
Luckily for us Chelsea’s transfer strategy can be broken up into four clear areas. Goalkeeper, centre-back, left-back and Kai Havertz. Let’s start with the latter, the Havertz deal has been rumbling for some time. First he was linked to Real Madrid, then it was Liverpool, then it was Bayern Munich, now it seems as if Chelsea are very much in the driving seat. You can argue all you like about whether he’s worth the hype, or that £70 million price-tag, but Chelsea and Lampard are clearly keen. Plus they’ll be more than aware that next summer there will be other clubs who are equally willing to meet Bayer Leverkusen’s asking price, so speed is of the essence here. There are some links to Ismael Bennacer of AC Milan but that feels more as a back-up if Havertz falls through.
Kai Havertz of Bayer 04 Leverkusen looks on during the DFB Cup quarterfinal match between Bayer 04 Leverkusen and 1. FC Union Berlin at BayArena on March 4, 2020 in Leverkusen, Germany
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Between the sticks it’s probably the worst-kept secret in football that Chelsea want to move on from Kepa Arrizabalaga. Despite a couple of decent stretches of form the Spaniard looks devoid of all confidence, both from himself and from his back line. Chelsea are going to have to take a massive hit on Kepa but ultimately if he’s costing them games it’s a call they’re going to have to make. Any of Jan Oblak, Marc-Andre ter Stegen or Andre Onana would be an upgrade although the latter, given his fee, feels the most realistic.
It's a similar situation in the defence. Cesar Azpilicueta, Reece James and Fikayo Tomori have all been bright spots but even they have had their inconsistencies. Still those inconsistencies haven’t been as bad as Antonio Rudiger, Kurt Zouma and Andreas Christensen whilst Marcos Alonso and Emerson Palmieri appear to have totally lost Lampard’s confidence. As with the goalkeepers any of the left-backs Chelsea are linked with would be an upgrade. It might come down to the right price and other perks. For example David Alaba can cover at centre-back whilst Ben Chilwell has the benefit of counting as a home-grown player. However with Lampard bringing through so many academy players that is less important than before.
Forgive us if you’ve heard this before but the centre-back options are all going to be an improvement. Nathan Ake, Alaba and Declan Rice can all play multiple positions, in fact playing centre-back would be out of position for Rice given his prominence as a holding midfielder. Chelsea have four very decent centre-backs on their books right now, they’re going to be hoping that one of them (probably Tomori) can take a big step forward and establish themselves as a dominant defender.
Players linked with a departure:
The last five names or so are all players who are out on loan and certainly do not have a future at Stamford Bridge. Michy Batshuayi and Emerson are also names who are going to have to look elsewhere for their futures. Willian is out of contract and the club haven’t managed to agree a new deal whilst Pedro has already left to join Roma.
Chelsea's Willian is challenged by Norwich's Todd Cantwell
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Despite the seemingly endless wealth of Mr Abramovich Chelsea are going to have to sell in order to raise funds. Chelsea fans may think Billy Gilmour is the second-coming of Xavi but some of the games after the restart showed that Jorginho still has an important role to play. If the midfielder is to leave it’ll have to be for a good offer or player-swap. Ross Barkley’s wages would be nice to shift whilst we have discussed Kepa earlier.
Kante is an interesting one. The links to Inter Milan, Real Madrid and PSG are not going to go away and selling the Frenchman is an easy way to raise a lot of money. But no midfielder in the world can do what Kante does, Chelsea have to be very careful before they sign off on his departure.
This is going to be a fascinating off-season for Lampard and Chelsea. They should be aiming to come into next season as a title contender. That is a huge ask given how good Liverpool and Manchester City are and how far ahead of the Blues they both currently are. But ultimately is that not the aim? That Chelsea will be challenging for Premier League titles again. Will they do it next season? I highly doubt it, but that’s the aim.
There should be no question of them being in the top four, and specifically in second or third. There can’t be the stumbles or doubts that there have been this season. All the young players are a year older and wiser and add in Werner, Ziyech and one or two others and you have a very strong squad. There is a great opportunity for them to put a lot of distance between themselves and the rest of the chasing pack, they can’t miss on that.