Saturday, February 24

Premier League 2022-23 preview No 6: Chelsea | Football


Guardian writers’ predicted position 4th (NB: this is not necessarily Jacob Steinberg’s prediction but the average of our writers’ tips)

Last season’s position 3rd

Odds to win the league (via Oddschecker) 16-1

Prospects

It has been a whirlwind summer at Stamford Bridge. Roman Abramovich is gone, as are the Russian’s closest allies, and Chelsea’s new owners have not had much time to get up to speed with the intricacies of English football since completing their £4.25bn takeover of the club.

Yet the situation is far from disastrous. Chelsea have not gone away. The recruitment overseen by Todd Boehly, the club’s new co-owner and interim sporting director, has been encouraging and there has been no sign of Chelsea curbing their spending. Raheem Sterling, who should make Thomas Tuchel’s attack far more incisive, is a solid buy and Kalidou Koulibably is an important signing in defence following the departures of Antonio Rüdiger and Andreas Christensen.

Ready for the Premier League 2022-23: Chelsea – video

In that context the picture does not look too bad. Tuchel still has a talented squad and the return of Ben Chilwell from long-term injury is a major boost. A left side of Sterling and Chilwell? It does look pretty tasty.

However it is doubtful whether the squad is strong enough to close the gap on Liverpool and City. Tuchel has issues in central midfield – N’Golo Kanté cannot stay fit and Jorginho lacks mobility – and Chelsea could be short of reliable goalscorers. Kai Havertz, expected to continue as the false nine, needs to become reliable. There cannot be too much of a goalscoring burden on Mason Mount and Sterling. If there is then Champions League qualification and runs in the cups may have to suffice.

The manager

Boehly and his fellow board members are determined to back Tuchel. They know they are unlikely to be able to find a better manager than the intelligent, charming, tactically astute German. Indeed, in a notable change from how Chelsea were run under the previous regime, the aim is to empower Tuchel and hand him the kind of influence Jürgen Klopp has at Liverpool. That was certainly evident in the way Boehly backed Tuchel when it came to sending Romelu Lukaku back to Internazionale, not to mention when the American passed up the chance to sign Cristiano Ronaldo, cementing the notion that the former Paris Saint-Germain manager is in charge. If there is a concern, though, it is in how Tuchel sets up his attack. Chelsea lacked incisiveness last season and drew too many games. They need more creativity and ruthlessness.

Kai Havertz rues a missed chance in Chelsea’s 1-1 draw at Manchester United in April. Photograph: Martin Rickett/PA

Transfer coup

Raheem Sterling won four Premier League titles, five League Cups and one FA Cup during his seven years at Manchester City. He scored 131 goals for Pep Guardiola’s side, is one of England’s most important players and is approaching the prime years of his career. What’s not to like? Nothing at all as far as Tuchel is concerned. Chelsea’s head coach was determined to bring in Sterling after getting rid of Lukaku. Tuchel needed a proven goalscorer and he is convinced that the 27-year-old winger, who has joined in a deal worth up to £50m, will make his attack far more reliable.

World Cup impact

Mount, Sterling and Reece James are key players for England and they could come up against a few teammates at the World Cup. England’s second group game is against the USA, whose key attacker is Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic, and they could face France (N’Golo Kanté) and Senegal (Édouard Mendy and Kalidou Koulibaly) in the knockout stages. Elsewhere Havertz and Timo Werner will be involved for Germany – but spare a thought for Jorginho following Italy’s failure to make it.

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Alternative attractions during World Cup

Good news for Jorginho: Handmade Chelsea, The Contemporary Craft and Design Fair, takes place on the opening weekend of Qatar 2022. Organisers say the event celebrates the very best of British craftsmanship. A bit like England’s midfield.

Leading the shirt sales

It is hard to find a more popular player than Mason Mount. The 23-year-old midfielder came through the academy, behaves like the model professional and has been a consistent performer since breaking into the side three years ago. Ignore the nonsensical debates about Mount’s worth on social media. Some people think he’s nothing more than a teacher’s pet and say he brings little to the side, but they’re wrong. Managers love Mount, who looks every inch the future Chelsea captain, and so do the fans who follow the team up and down the country.

Social climber

The oldest player in the squad appears to have no problem reaching the youth of today. Nobody can come close to Thiago Silva’s 19.5m followers on Instagram. The 37-year-old Brazilian defender doesn’t need anyone to show him how to make an impact on social media. Check in for training snaps, post-match motivational messages written in Portuguese and English, and wholesome family content – and while you’re at it you should probably follow Silva’s wife, Belle. She’s become a cult hero for Chelsea fans because of her passionate support of the team.

If Chelsea were a Netflix doc …

A poor start to the season has Tuchel losing patience with the new regime and quitting on the spot. But when Bruce Arena turns down the job, Chelsea decide only one man can save them. Enter captain, leader, legend and tech extraordinaire John Terry, who spends his entire time in charge trying to sell NFTs to his new players.


www.theguardian.com

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