Can new-look Chelsea impress in the 2020-21 UEFA Champions League?
After a fourth-place finish and FA Cup final heartbreak, Chelsea have been busy in the transfer market, gearing up for next season. The most improved squad going by just incomings, Frank Lampard will be hoping for some tangible success in the 2020-21 season.
Despite securing the services of playmaker Hakim Ziyech and forward Timo Werner before the end of the last league season, the west Londoners have kept their foot on the pedal in the transfer window that began following the conclusion of the 2019-20 Premier League campaign.
The addition of German wonderkid Kai Havertz has further sharpened their attack, making them a force to be reckoned with while going forward. In fact, it can be argued that the quartet of Werner, Havertz, Ziyech and Christian Pulisic is one of the best in the league as far as front foot, attacking football is concerned.
However, scoring goals wasn’t exactly an issue for much of last season. The problems for the Blues lay at the other end, in defence. Their defensive acquisitions of Ben Chilwell and Thiago Silva will certainly shore things up at the back but is by no means a guarantee for success.
That said, one can at the very least expect better displays from Chelsea’s defence than we saw last season when they conceded 54 goals in the league – more than any other side in the top half of the Premier League.
The league, though, may be slightly beyond their reach as Chelsea’s new signings adjust to the blood and thunder nature of football in the Premier League. Having said that, it’s worth mentioning that Chelsea, at the moment, look like the team most likely to challenge Liverpool and Manchester City for the English crown.
Only time will tell whether or not they can manage to maintain performance levels over the course of the new season with their new signings and a relatively inexperienced manager in club hero Frank Lampard at the helm.
The league aside, what the Blues can aim for is success in the cup competitions, and while domestic cup wins will be a good start, Lampard and his boys will know that they have enough quality in their squad to go all the way in Europe.
History has shown us that the league winners don’t always necessarily win the Champions League. Chelsea themselves weren’t the champions of England when they won their only Champions League title in 2012 and Lampard would do well to remind his current squad about that.
With a plethora of exciting talent to choose from, Chelsea are expected to qualify from their group, and if their attacking players can find form in Europe, them going the distance in the Champions League doesn’t sound that farfetched.
If anything, Lampard will want to remind his players that his current squad, in terms of individual quality, is far better than the 2012 Champions League winning squad, which he was a part of. If they can drill their defence to be organised when on the back foot, finding a weakness in the Blues becomes a difficult task.
Getting organised at the back is easier said than done, though, and perhaps this is where Lampard’s test lies. Unlike the previous season, when the Blues served a transfer ban, the Chelsea legend will be judged differently in the upcoming campaign, having brought in several players to strengthen his squad.
His most important task for the new season will be sorting out his defence before anything else. If Chelsea have a solid platform to build on, there’s no telling what they can achieve. And while sustaining performance levels and ensuring quality drop-offs do not happen in the league may prove to be difficult with several players still acclimatising to life in England, there’s no reason why Chelsea cannot blow away the competition in Europe with their several attacking options.
Lampard will know that the knockout nature of the Champions League may help his front-heavy side and it will be interesting to see if he can instil a similar team spirit in the current Chelsea squad like the class of 2012 shared.
Feature image courtesy: AFP / Daniel Leal-Olivas