There was a buzz around Cobham on Monday as Chelsea’s pre-season got into full swing. There were 28 players involved in the light session at the club’s training ground, which was overseen by Thomas Tuchel.
A host of senior stars were back from their holidays, including Edouard Mendy, Marcos Alonso, Christian Pulisic, Hakim Ziyech, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Tammy Abraham.
The remainder of the makeshift first-team squad consisted of players who spent last season out on loan and a couple of forgotten men, namely Dujon Sterling and Charly Musonda, both of whom have fought back from injury and illness over the past 18 months.
Tuchel is keen to assess those who’ve returned this summer and football.london understands the club are willing to let the German make judgements on players before decisions are taken on their long-term futures.
That means everyone has an opportunity to impress and a chance of being included in the first-team squad for the forthcoming campaign.
Certain players will, naturally, have a better chance than others.
And we have picked out five players who spent last season out on loan that could break into the senior set-up and save the club millions in the transfer market.
It’s easy to forget that the centre-back has already played twice for the Chelsea first team – he was handed starts by Frank Lampard against Grimsby Town and Manchester United in the Carabao Cup during the 2019/20 campaign.
An 18-month loan move to Swansea City followed for the 21-year-old and, after a somewhat rocky start, he blossomed into one of the finest defenders in the Championship.
Used on the left of Steve Cooper’s back three, Guehi’s vast array of talents, including his assuredness, willingness to play out from the back, and smart reading of the game, helped the Swans reach the play-off final last term. Sadly for those from South Wales, that match ended in victory for Brentford.
Guehi was always expected back at Chelsea this summer to be evaluated. In Lampard and Jody Morris, he had proven supporters. He will have to win over Tuchel.
The Blues had planned to move for a new centre-back this summer before the respective renaissances of Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen, both of whom only have one year remaining on their contracts.
Yet if a space in the backline does open up, Guehi is more than capable of stepping up and cementing his spot in the Chelsea fold.
It was last summer that the 22-year-old stepped away from the familiar – another Championship loan – for something a little different.
Chalobah joined French side Lorient on a season-long loan and was impressive in his 29 appearances in midfield as the club avoided relegation from Ligue 1.
“I think this has been my best step because it’s helped me grow as a player – physically and mentally as well,” he explained to the Ligue 1 Show in April.
“Obviously moving away from family, friends, things that you’re not used to, it’s difficult, but I think when you go there and just focus on football it’s much easier.
“Obviously, coming from the Championship, it’s a lot just a fight, and there are a lot of strong teams. But here you have got a mixture of everything: one v ones, talented players, goalscorers as well.”
Chalobah, whose contract runs until 2023, is ready for the next step up. He will hope to impress Tuchel, who needs another midfielder in his squad after Billy Gilmour joined Norwich City on loan, in pre-season and could prove an effective alternative to Declan Rice.
Yet whether Chalobah would be willing to play a squad role during the 2021/22 campaign remains to be seen.
There is growing interest in his services, with newly-promoted Brentford considering an approach from the Premier League. football.london understands two European clubs who will be competing in next season’s Europa League are also interested in the former England Under-21 international.
Another potential midfield option Tuchel could turn to is Gallagher. Having impressed in the Championship at Charlton Athletic and then Swansea City, the 21-year-old joined West Bromwich Albion last term. It was his first Premier League loan.
The Baggies ended the campaign in the relegation zone but Gallagher’s desire and industry out of possession and smart use of the ball stood out under both Slaven Bilic and Sam Allardyce.
He has returned to Cobham eager to impress Tuchel, who will undoubtedly appreciate the midfielder’s energy and pressing ability across the pitch.
Gallagher could certainly fill the spot left by Gilmour, although there is interest from a number of Premier League sides over a loan deal.
As any Chelsea supporter will know, the last two years have not been easy for the 25-year-old. A serious Achilles injury suffered in a charity game and football’s suspension due to the Covid-19 pandemic resulted in Loftus-Cheek losing more than a year of his career.
He needed regular football on his return and so joined Fulham last October for the remainder of the 2020/21 campaign.
Loftus-Cheek didn’t hit the heights expected of him at Craven Cottage but the important thing from a Chelsea perspective was the England international got 32 games under his belt to regain trust in his body.
The academy graduate would certainly bring something different to the Chelsea midfield and Tuchel has previously compared Loftus-Cheek to former Blues star Michael Ballack.
“I was quite a fan of him when he was even younger,” Chelsea’s head coach said in April. “It reminded us a bit of his style of play and movements with Michael Ballack.
“There were some links about him all the time with maybe a move to the German league so we were well aware of his talent.
“He is on loan now and doing well. It would be unfair to judge him from TV. I like to work with players and give my opinion then – maybe also pretty quick but also from a direct impression.”
It took time for Broja to find his feet after signing a scholarship at Chelsea. Yet during the 2019/20 campaign, everything clicked for the young forward.
Broja was prolific in pre-season, netting 14 goals for the development squad and under-18s. He would then score 14 goals for the youth team and three for the under-23s. Just before the United Kingdom was plunged into its first lockdown last year, he was handed his first-team debut by Lampard against Everton.
Last August, Broja, still only 18 years old, agreed to join Dutch side Vitesse Arnhem, following in the footsteps of countless young Chelsea players who had gone before.
He ended the campaign with ten goals in 30 Eredivisie games. For context, Zlatan Ibrahimovic struck nine goals during his debut season in Dutch football. Luis Suarez managed ten
Chelsea are understood to be preparing a new contract for Broja and he is part of the group that took to the pitches at Cobham yesterday. With Olivier Giroud set to join AC Milan in the next 48 hours and Tammy Abraham’s future uncertain, there could very well be a role for the 19-year-old to play in Tuchel’s squad this term.
Source by Football London