Thomas Tuchel’s first pre-season as Chelsea head coach has not been straightforward, although the German knew full well that was going to be the case in advance.
The vast number of first-team stars representing their countries at this summer’s European Championship and Copa America was always going to leave Tuchel requiring ringers to fill out his senior group.
Fortunately, Chelsea possess an army of talented players just waiting for an opportunity to impress.
When pre-season got underway at Cobham a little more than a week ago, Tuchel had a 28-man group to work with. Its make-up was intriguing.
There were household names, such as Edouard Mendy, Christian Pulisic, Hakim Ziyech, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Tammy Abraham, a raft of returning loanees and a couple of academy graduates, namely Dujon Sterling and Charly Musonda, back after long lay-offs due to injury and illness.
Tuchel has had the previous nine days to run his eye over the squad and football.london understands the Chelsea hierarchy are willing to let the 47-year-old make assessments and come to conclusions before any outgoing is finalised.
That is somewhat a departure from the norm, but it does at least give every member of the squad a chance to impress. It will, for the most part, be fair.
The makeshift first-team squad travelled to Ireland yesterday for a week-long training camp just outside of Dublin. And within it were three stars whose futures remain very much uncertain.
Kepa remains the world’s most expensive goalkeeper and still has four years left to run on the contract he signed when Chelsea opted to pay Athletic Club £71million for his services in the summer of 2018.
The problem is that he is firmly the club’s second-choice stopper, with Mendy proving himself one of Europe’s finest goalkeepers since arriving from Rennes last September.
Kepa’s value has nosedived over the past two seasons; the reality is Chelsea will never get back what they paid for the Spaniard. But a decision has to be taken on what’s next for the 26-year-old.
The Spain international could be kept around as deputy to Mendy once again, a scenario that could play out with the latter set to play at the African Cup of Nations in January. Or he could depart on loan if a club are willing to match his significant salary.
Lazio were linked with a move for Kepa earlier in the transfer window, a move that would’ve seen him reunite with Maurizio Sarri.
The England international is running out of time to prove himself at the very top level. Since his arrival at Chelsea from Everton in January 2018, every season was predicted to be the one in which Barkley finally lived up to his vast potential. It hasn’t happened.
He spent the 2020/21 campaign on loan at Aston Villa and started well – he starred on his debut, the 7-2 victory over Liverpool at Villa Park.
But an injury derailed his progress and by the end of the campaign, he was a regular on the substitutes’ bench under Dean Smith.
Barkley will turn 28 years old in December, everything needs to come together for him fast. The midfielder is back at Chelsea for pre-season and has impressed in training. Yet that has been the case in years past.
What Barkley needs to prove to Tuchel is he can deliver consistently. If not, well there is reported interest in the midfielder from former Everton boss David Moyes, who is now in charge at West Ham United.
When Tuchel arrived at Chelsea at the end of January, Abraham was the club’s top scorer in all competitions, as was the case the previous season.
Yet the German coach made the rather swift decision that the 23-year-old wasn’t the fit right to lead his attack. That combined with an ankle injury sustained in a victory over Newcastle United meant Abraham played just 17 minutes during the final three months of the campaign.
To his credit, the academy graduate never moped or caused problems behind the scenes. He trained hard and even did extra work after sessions. Sadly for the striker, it didn’t make a difference and he was even omitted from the 23-man match-day squad for the Champions League final.
Abraham is back at Chelsea for pre-season and was filmed sharing an embrace with Tuchel at Cobham on day one. He also got on the scoresheet in the 6-1 victory over Peterborough United at Cobham on Saturday.
Yet speculation continues over a move away from Stamford Bridge. Aston Villa have been mooted as a potential destination, West Ham too. Arsenal are also said to be interested in the England international.
And if the Blues are able to bring in another number nine, it’s likely Abraham’s two decades as a Chelsea player come to an end this summer.
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Source by Football London