Chelsea’s most highly anticipated season in years begins Monday when the Blues go to Brighton to kick off their Premier League campaign. Frank Lampard’s team will look a whole lot different compared to last year’s squad with some familiar faces gone and some world-class talent brought in to build off of a top-four campaign.
Out are the likes of Willian and Pedro on the wings. To replace them, the team brought in three of the world’s top attacking talents in Kai Havertz, Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech. Add to that a revamped backline with Ben Chilwell and Thiago Silva, and the Blues on paper look like more than just a top-four team.
Before action begins, let’s take a look at the ideal Chelsea XI with players currently on the roster:
Kepa: This is assuming there is no upgrade. The Blues have been heavily linked with Rennes goalkeeper Edouard Mendy, and he would likely start if he signs. If not, it would likely be Kepa’s job to lose … but that’s something he’s already done before.
Ben Chilwell: Brought in from Leicester City, he’s a lock to be the team’s starting left back for the foreseeable future. He’s young (23 years old), hungry, quick and prioritizes defense but also has versatility to get forward and even fill in at left mid.
Thiago Silva: One of the best defenders in the world over the last decade. His signing is a low-risk move considering he joined on a free transfer from PSG, and he still has more than enough in the tank to make a big difference. If he stays healthy, he’s a sure starter.
Kurt Zouma: Picking Zouma over Antonio Rudiger because of his pace and strength, which should match up quite well with Silva. He has all of the potential in the world and sometimes shows it — but will this be the season where he does that consistently?
Cesar Azpilicueta: Synonymous with Chelsea at this point. He’s their vocal leader at right back and isn’t being replaced until he can’t run anymore.
N’Golo Kante: When healthy, there isn’t a better defensive midfielder. He will always be in the side if he is 100 percent fit, and he can be the difference between winning a title and not.
Mateo Kovacic: Was named club player of the year after a fantastic season and is surely penned in at central defensive midfielder, overtaking Jorginho with his consistency, strong tackling and ability to cut off passing lanes. He’s progressing big time and at the age of 26, he can get even better.
Kai Havertz: The most talented player on the squad and a potential future Ballon d’Or winner. He’s the best signing of any club this summer and can help this team reach European glory. Havertz is that good. It’s not expected to take him long to get adjusted, and his brilliance in attack combined with the talent around him is going to something else.
Christian Pulisic: The American is fit and ready to play, way ahead of schedule. He’s the sure starter at left wing after a fantastic first season for the club where he scored 11 goals and looked like one of the best players in the league when it returned after the coronavirus hiatus. It’s his position to lose this point, and with him now wearing the coveted No. 10, even more will be expected.
Hakim Ziyech: So many are talking about Werner and Havertz, but Ziyech could be as impactful of a signing early on as any of them. The former Ajax star is an incredible talent with superb technical ability and a shot from outside that probably keeps goalkeepers up at night. Expect him to time and time against cut in on that left foot and produces magical goals to the far post, as he has done time and time again in the Champions League.
Timo Werner: Lampard’s new No. 9 and fresh off a 34-goal campaign with RB Leipzig. He doesn’t have great size at 5-foot-11, but he has top-level speed and the ability to finish consistently with both feet. He should reach 20 goals in his first season without much trouble as long as he stays healthy. Expect him to get off to a hot start after scoring in the team’s last preseason game.