Thomas Tuchel will begin to put the final touches on his Chelsea squad over the next week ahead of the Premier League season getting underway this weekend.
It all gets underway on Friday night when new boys Brentford host Arsenal in west London and just down the road the following day, Chelsea begin an expected Premier League title tilt with a home game against Crystal Palace on August 14.
Chelsea have an incredibly tough start to the campaign. A title can’t be won in the opening weeks but there is a big argument to say that it can be lost – Chelsea face Arsenal, Liverpool, Spurs and Man City in four of their opening six matches of the season.
Tuchel had 42 players at Cobham this time last week for training ahead of the Mind Series friendly with Spurs, a game they drew 2-2 to conclude an unbeaten pre-season where the head coach gave plenty of minutes to plenty of players, owing to the staggered return dates of his squad following the summer tournaments.
The transfer window for the Blues has exploded into life with a club-record move for Romelu Lukaku set to be closed imminently, perhaps as soon as Tuesday, to address the gaping problem that was in Tuchel’s squad in the second half of last season – goalscoring.
So, with five days until the curtain raiser for Tuchel and the Blues, what are the areas that Tuchel needs to address ahead of the season opener?
Who plays alongside Lukaku?
The Belgian striker is expected to complete his move to the club early this week. Having been in pre-season training with Inter already, he’s not going to be arriving cold to Cobham for his first session.
Whether that means he starts against Palace remains to be seen but there’s no reason why he couldn’t.
The 28-year-old will start as the focal point of the Blues attack so who plays alongside him is a big call for Tuchel. Mason Mount and Kai Havertz are the obvious candidates in Tuchel’s front three system., but Hakim Ziyech has had a strong pre-season and there’s also Timo Werner, Christian Pulisic and Tammy Abraham.
Tuchel always had plenty of attacking options and now he has added an extra body to that in the shape of Lukaku. He’s got a big call to make in who lines up alongside the prolific Belgian.
How to construct the defence
All indications are that the German will be sticking with the five at the back formation he deployed in the second half of 2020/21 as in this pre-season, he’s continued to use it.
Defence is one area of the pitch where Tuchel has suffered from a bit in pre-season with players returning late. Antonio Rudiger and Kurt Zouma have had two pre-season run outs, while Thiago Silva, Andreas Christensen and Cesar Azpilicueta have only got an intra-squad game under their belts.
With Trevoh Chalobah set to leave on loan, Jake Clarke-Salter and Matt Miazga also unlikely to be in the first team squad and Malang Sarr seemingly not involved, who takes up the third centre back spot is up for grabs.
How many minutes to give N’Golo Kante?
The mercurial Frenchman was outstanding for 45 minutes against Spurs in pre-season as he picked up from where he left off from his sensational end to last season, culminating in a man of the match performance in the Champions League final.
Kante has had a couple of hamstring issues in the past six months and Tuchel has gone on the record as saying he has to protect his midfielder and, arguably, his best player.
Kante would run all day if he could so won’t be wanting to be on any sort of minutes restriction but Tuchel will say he knows better and not allowing the Frenchman into what he calls “the red zone” when it comes to injury issues.
When to start the late returners
Thiago Silva, Jorginho, Mason Mount, Reece James, Christensen and Azpilicueta have had no competitive action this pre-season. They played in the intra-squad game at Cobham and will likely feature in the Super Cup versus Villarreal but you would imagine on limited minutes.
Will that be enough for them to start against Palace for the Premier League opener? That’s for Tuchel to decide but judging by this pre-season, he’s been very careful on the number of minutes played by his first team players.
Giving them only 45 minutes against the Eagles before taking them off doesn’t seem the wisest idea for a Premier League game and ahead of a brutal run of games, with the Palace one not exactly a cakewalk either.
So do they start against Palace or are they held back until the Arsenal clash? It’s another important call the head coach has to make.
Source by Football London