Chelsea returned to action on Sunday with a 2-1 victory over Aston Villa and it was clear that despite the shaky start, Frank Lampard’s side still retained a portion of the momentum they were gathering when the season was paused in March.
While the current squad have arguably exceeded expectations this season with some eye catching performances, consistency – particularly in the offensive third – has been a problem and the arrival of big name attacking players this summer will, hopefully, rectify that and make Chelsea genuine title contenders next season.
But with Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech already through the door and Ben Chilwell and Kai Havertz heavily rumoured to be heading that way as well, Chelsea would do well to move with caution if they dip their hand into the purse again this summer.
The next steps into the transfer market are key in defining the direction Chelsea are to go in under Frank Lampard. Due to the club’s transfer embargo, he has had no other option but to introduce some talented young players into the first team this year; which would have likely not happened had Chelsea been able to spend last summer.
The likes of Tammy Abraham, Fikayo Tomori, Reece James, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Mason Mount have all enjoyed sustained periods of action in the first team this Premier League season, with several earning England call-ups in the process. It’s not just the English youngsters by the way. American Christian Pulisic already looks the real deal and was pivotal in turning the tide in Chelsea’s opening match against Villa; while young Scot Billy Gilmour looks one for the future after some impressive displays before lockdown.
But if Chelsea were to bring in say Kai Havertz, immediately a number of youngsters – who have impressed this season – will be shunted down the pecking order. Therefore this would inadvertently have an affect on the likes of Mount and Ruben Loftus-Cheek who like to play in the pocket of space between the midfield and front three; where Havertz has made his name in the Bundesliga over the last two years.
So is it fair to say that his arrival could put to waste a lot of the good work that has gone into getting the aforementioned youngsters up to speed this season? You could argue that it would.
After all, it’s happened before.
Just ask academy graduates Bertrand Traore, Patrick van Aanholt, Ryan Bertrand, Josh McEachran and Jeremie Boga; who all deservedly broke into the first team and were then cast aside after a solitary season.
You could also debate whether midfield is actually an area of concern for the club, with the goalkeeper and defensive positions arguably looking much more in need of some upgrading.
Speaking of defence, Chelsea would surely welcome the arrival of left back Chilwell but there’s a potential risk that it would slightly curtail the development of Reece James and Fikayo Tomori. There’s a strong possibility that captain Cesar Azpilicueta may either be the preference on the right or be deployed at centre half, if Chilwell joins, possibly blocking James and Tomori’s route into the XI.
However if the Leicester man’s move doesn’t materialise this summer, Azpilicueta can do what he does currently and rotate between his usual position and left back, if required, allowing the emerging James to have ample time in the starting XI.
These are of course just projected permutations, and it may be a little premature to assume that a signing spree would dampen the progress made this season with the academy graduates, but you can’t help worry for some of them. Some have barely put a foot wrong this season and they could now find themselves on the fringes once more.
Chelsea’s hierarchy, despite being forced to break the mould this year, are still ruthlessly ambitious and will do everything they can to return to the top of European football. Football is a dog-eat-dog world and you can fall as quickly as you rise. Chelsea’s young guns have alway faced an uphill battle to hold onto the Blue shirt, it was naive of us to think that that would disappear after just a season.