As we are on the eve of the third week of the 2019-20 Premier League season, Frank Lampard is yet to have the full selection of players at his disposal.
Of course, youngsters like Callum Hudson-Odoi or Reece James, or even names such as Antonio Rudiger or Ruben Loftus-Cheek, are massively expected to provide a major boost to the team, when they come back from their respective injuries.
With this in mind, I decided to create my best Chelsea XI, including these players I mentioned above, explaining each of my selections.
GK – KEPA ARRIZABALAGA
No discussion here. Kepa has been one of our most influential players since his arrival last summer and for sure, his performances have been impressive to say at the least. A brilliant shot-stopper and a great sweeper at the same time, the Spanish goalkeeper represents such a valuable element for the present and for the future.
RB – REECE JAMES
I think this would be the choice of over 85-90% of the Chelsea fans for this role. Reece, who spent the last season on loan in Championship at Wigan Athletic, over-impressed with his cameos there, showing pace, power, aggression and above all, a superb contribution in the middle and final third of the pitch, taking opponents on and also fueling his team-mates with fantastic crosses. Considering that Cesar Azpilicueta’s shape has not been the best both offensively and defensively, the return of the set-piece specialist youngster from his injury is needed sooner rather than later.
CB – ANDREAS CHRISTENSEN
The Danish centre-back could never be outside my lineup. Despite being slightly under the radar last season, playing mostly in the Europa League games, he is proving to be one of the most consistent defenders in our team. In addition, he was my Man Of The Match against Leicester City, for his quickness to react, tackling and of course, his calmness and composure on the ball. Admirable.
CB – ANTONIO RÜDIGER
Well, I reckon not only me, but also other Chelsea fans may have doubts in choosing between him and Kurt Zouma to play as a starter, but personally I would stick to Rudiger. Both have their strengths and weaknesses, but the German international seems hungry for a great return and we massively need a decent ball-playing and experienced defender like him. I don’t exclude the option of rotation at all, though.
LB – EMERSON
The left-back position has been a major issue in the eyes of the fans since Ashley Cole left the club in 2014. Anyway, the solution for it could surely be the name of Emerson Palmieri. The Brazilian left-back, who plays for the Italy national team, has played consistently well since last season under Maurizio Sarri and has shown other positive performances under Frank Lampard, too, using his pace, energy and link-up ability, but also impressing in defending 1v1 situations and being strong in the air. A typical Brazilian fullback? I think so.
RCM – N’GOLO KANTÉ
N’Golo’s huge importance and to the team comes second to none. He has proved to be a wonderful player every year and has perfectly adapted to every role he has had to play in. Aggressive on and off the ball, the Frenchman represents a great ball-winner, a superb tackler, but at the same time a very underrated press-resistant and passer as well. Engine.
DEEP-LYING PLAYMAKER/REGISTA (CM) – JORGINHO
I would lie if I said that he isn’t one of my favourite players at the club. Someone I have adored since his Napoli days, Jorginho absolutely deserves to play week in week out. Feels great to see more and more people appreciating his ability overall, including here his ice-coolness, passion, fighting spirit, pitch scanning, leadership, protection to the defence, through balls and everything else that makes him a special player. Intellectual.
LCM – RUBEN LOFTUS-CHEEK (?)
Well, this is the most prone-to-rotation position of all, in my opinion. The competition is pretty strong and considering Mateo Kovacic and Mason Mount’s convincingly-good appearances, it’s very difficult to give a definite answer regarding this spot. My choice is Ruben at the moment, basing only on his quality games last season as a more advanced CM, but as I said above, I expect a lot of rotation in this aspect, judging also by the level of the opponent. A selection headache for Frank.
RW – CHRISTIAN PULISIC
Like Odoi, even the American-Croatian winger is expected to play more in his natural position when the full organic is there. Personally, I like his maturity and mentality a lot, which are reflected in runs behind the defensive line, dribbling, space creation, speed, composure and a massive talent overall. Against Liverpool, but also in pre-season, he showed great acceleration on the ball and that assist to Giroud says a lot regarding his potential. Has to be a starter.
CF – OLIVIER GIROUD (?)
Arguably the most delicate position. I would just go with Olivier Giroud, considering his link-up, one-twos, experience in big stages and in Premier League, particularly, but this doesn’t mean that I feel fully secure about this choice. In fact, I would love Tammy Abraham to succeed and I think that he can do it here, because there have been positives regarding him, but need to see some more efficiency from him in the final third. About Michy Batshuayi, I don’t feel he is in Frank’s main plans but wouldn’t rule the possibility out. Just, just going with Giroud here. That said, we need to immediately strengthen our striking options as soon as the transfer ban ends.
LW – CALLUM HUDSON-ODOI
Who else but him? The 18-year-old teenager has for some time been one of the best and most exciting prospects of the club and European football in general. His speed, technique, dribbling, but of course his work rate and end product have influenced his development a ton. It’s worth noting that last season, Callum didn’t mostly play in his natural position, but on the right side of the trident, while now he has a big chance to take, shining on the left and becoming a star player for the club in both domestic and European level.
FORMATION – 4-3-3
I couldn’t finish this article without giving my reasons why I chose 4-3-3 as my favourite lineup and not 4-2-3-1 or even diamond 4-4-2. First of all, it gives us way more fluidity in attack and build-up, the players get more involved, the attackers aren’t limited (they have more freedom) and our high press is more effective.
Secondly, it allows us more defensive protection, as we are able to have two midfielders in front of the defensive four (for example, Jorginho and Kante), while in a 4-2-3-1, one midfielder of the pivot has to move forward and the one who stays deeper may be found in numerical inferiority, which the opponents can exploit.
In this way, we can fix the problem of distances between the lines/pockets of space created much better. Certainly, as Lampard says, adaptability is key, so I am aware that in particular situations we can use other formations as well, but it’s always important to have a base one and 4-3-3, in my opinion, ticks all the boxes.