Cobham is ready and the Covid-19 tests have been done. It’s time for Chelsea’s first pre-season under Thomas Tuchel to begin in earnest.
Players will be back at the Blues’ training base en masse this week to begin preparing for the 2021/22 campaign, one in which Tuchel is determined to compete against Manchester City and any other challenger for the Premier League title.
Pre-season is the coach’s domain. It’s where tactical concepts can be imbued within a squad and informed decisions taken on the futures of several players.
It will be no different this time around, although that many of the first-team squad will return late having represented their countries this summer is an added complication.
Tuchel and his coaching staff will be working tirelessly over the next month to ensure Chelsea are as ready as can be for what is likely to be a gruelling campaign – the Blues are involved in six different competitions and could end up playing more than 60 games.
And there are several big questions that are likely to be answered during the pre-season campaign. Here we discuss the most important four.
What will the system be?
It was on the plane journey from Paris to London that Tuchel and his coaching team settled on the 3-4-2-1 shape that would kickstart Chelsea’s campaign and resulted in the club winning the Champions League for a second time.
The system enabled several players to flourish – such as Andreas Christensen, Antonio Rudiger and Jorginho – and gave the Blues a defensive solidity and assuredness that had been absent throughout the Frank Lampard era.
Yet mere weeks into his reign at Stamford Bridge, football.london understands Tuchel spoke to certain players about implementing a new shape ahead of the 2021/22 campaign, one that would be based around a four-man defence rather than a back three.
Whether that is still the case remains to be seen. Tuchel has had plenty of time over the summer to evaluate and analyse. Chelsea’s rather public interest in Achraf Hakimi, a specialist wing-back, also suggests a move away from the 3-4-2-1 isn’t set in stone.
There is also the added complication of several first-team stars returning late for pre-season after representing their countries at this summer’s European Championship and the Copa America.
So if Tuchel is to introduce a new shape, he’ll have to do it without key players in situ from day one of Chelsea’s preparations of the new campaign.
Who is ready to step up?
As highlighted above, this will be no ordinary pre-season for Tuchel.
It will not be until the start of August that he will have the entirety of his senior squad to work with. So over the next three weeks (at least), several players will have the opportunity to impress the German coach.
For the likes of returning loanees Ross Barkley, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Tiemoue Bakayoko, it may prove the final chance to establish themselves at Chelsea.
For others, including Dujon Sterling, Marc Guehi, Conor Gallagher, Tino Anjorin, and Armando Broja, it’s a free hit to secure a spot in first-team set-up.
Tuchel will cast his eye over the players named above – and many more – before decisions are taken over their futures. The club are willing to trust the 47-year-old’s judgement when it comes to outgoings, something not every Chelsea head coach has been afforded.
What’s next for Tammy Abraham?
The 23-year-old returned to Cobham alongside Callum Hudson-Odoi and Tino Anjorin on Friday to undertake Covid tests and a light training session. Abraham was greeted warmly by Tuchel but his future at Stamford Bridge remains uncertain.
Since being incorporated into the first team by Lampard in the summer of 2019, Abraham has scored 30 goals for Chelsea. Not a bad return, especially for a striker wearing the Blues’ number nine shirt.
Yet after Tuchel’s appointment at the end of January, Abraham made only seven appearances, didn’t play 90 minutes in any of those, and was omitted from the 23-man matchday squad for the Champions League final.
Abraham can use pre-season as a final chance to win over Tuchel. If he can’t do so, then a departure is likely for the academy graduate.
When will signings arrive?
Rewind the clock 12 months and Chelsea had wrapped up deals for Hakim Ziyech and Timo Werner by this point of the summer. Talks over moves for Ben Chilwell and Kai Havertz were also well underway.
This transfer window has been much more of a slow-burner. The prime targets Chelsea would like to sign are known – namely Erling Haaland and Declan Rice – but there has not been significant progress made in the attempts to secure either’s signing.
Tuchel spoke last season about his confidence in the squad already at his disposal, that new signings wouldn’t be made for the sake of it.
“Transfer periods can be mood breakers,” the Chelsea head coach said in May. “A big part of my personality is on coaching and guiding my team and pushing it to the limit, no matter if we win or lose. I have zero ambition to ruin this atmosphere for myself or anybody else.
“Do we have some ideas how to improve the squad? Yes, but will we fight about it? No. We will discuss it and first of all we will finish this season. I embrace the simplicity [of my situation]. I hope I can continue to live like this because it is pure fun.”
Chelsea will attempt to bolster Tuchel’s squad over the next eight weeks; a new right-sided player is also on the club’s agenda. But it may be a case of staying patient in the market, something that will frustrate many a Blues supporter.
Source by Football London