With Chelsea retaining close to the same squad as last season, due to a transfer ban, picking next seasons starting eleven seems like it should be easy. However, it will be anything but easy for new manager Frank Lampard, as we inch ever closer to the blockbuster opening game against Manchester United at Old Trafford.
Given how hard it will be for Lampard to pick a starting eleven I thought I’d give it a try ahead of what is sure to be a challenging season for Chelsea in next campaign.
In goal, there remains no doubt that Kepa Arizzabalaga should retain the starting role. The Spaniard was the only constant in a back five that leaked 56 goals in all competitions. Arizzabalaga enjoyed a brilliant debut season last campaign keeping 14 clean sheets in 36 Premier League games.
In the defence, Chelsea need to retain a more youthful and disciplined outlook. At right-back, Cesar Azpilicueta struggled as he was dribbled past a mammoth 0.85 times in all competitions. It’s clear to see Azpilicueta hasn’t got the pace and energy he had in his younger years. Reece James should be afforded the starting role, after a successful spell on loan at Wigan Athletic and with Davide Zappacosta’s future looking unclear.
At left-back, Marcos Alonso was poor as he failed to track back on numerous occasions leaving the Chelsea defence exposed. His poor form was apparent as he was dropped towards the end of last season’s Europa League campaign with Maurizio Sarri opting for Emerson Palmeri in the final.
At centre-back, Chelsea seemed stacked with both experience and youth. David Luiz, Antonio Rudiger, Andreas Christensen and Fikayo Tomori look to be the options for next season after Everton opened discussions with the club over Kurt Zouma. I would start Tomori and Rudiger, as Tomori showed great consistency as he started every single Derby County game bar one last season. Also because Luiz showed last season just how unreliable he was in big games as Chelsea managed to win none of their games away to a top clubs.
Given Lampard’s tendency to play a 4-3-3 formation, midfield proves to be trickier to choose. Jorginho proved to be Chelsea’s pass master last season, and given Lampard’s passing style of play, the Italian seems one of the obvious choices.
As a defensive midfielder, there remains only one choice, N’Golo Kante. The France international has enjoyed a stunning rise to the top of world football, and back-to-back Premier League titles show he is the best choice as one of the three midfielders.
The third midfield choice is by far the hardest. Ross Barkley and Mateo Kovacic both struggled with consistency last season, so picking between the two is difficult. However, with Bakayoko coming off the back of a successful loan spell at AC Milan, and possessing much better dribbling on the ball from midfield, he would be my third choice in midfield.
With the departure of Eden Hazard, choosing two wingers to provide the firepower that the Belgian has taken with him is very difficult. Given his past experiences with both Barcelona and Chelsea and his goal scoring season last campaign, Pedro would get the starting role on the right wing.
After outlaying close to £60m on Christian Pulisic in January, it would seem stupid to bench the American international, so he would get the left wing role.
Up front is also a conundrum with both Michy Batshuayi and Olivier Giroud showing they can’t be trusted to score regularly in their league campaign last season. So, I would take a punt on Tammy Abraham, who at only 21-years-old scored 26 times for Aston Villa as they won promotion to the Premier League.