Two clubs from London, the capital city of England. Two ex-players, Lampard and Arteta, who both now coach the clubs they suceded the most at during their careers. Two projects that started last year and now look to make an impact in the upcoming season. This is how we can introduce Chelsea and Arsenal. They have both brought back the excitement to their fans, but also some expectations that might not be too realistic.
Román Abramóvich have provided Marina Granovskaia, the manager for the ‘Blues’, with a pretty decent budget to sign as a result of Hazard´s sell and the zero spending on the last transfer market due to a suspension. This way, the Russian Board of Directors have taken care of adding Hakim Ziyech, Timo Werner, Ben Chilwell, Malang Sarr, Thiago Silva and Kai Havertz to their roaster. At this moment, they are still expected to sign a goalkeeper (Edouard Mendy is the candidate), and if Jorginho leaves, a midfielder (probably Declan Rice). We have to remind that the Brazilian, who also holds the Italian passport, does not seem to be one of Lampard´s favorites.
There is no doubt that the attacking line is already complete with Ziyech, Werner and Havertz: hunger scorers and with experience at the Champions League. However, defense is still and area to work on. While Malang Sarr will leave on a loan in order to get more minutes somewhere else, Thiago Silva is almost 36 and is not a definitive solution to the issues Chelsea struggled with last season: we must take into account the short time he will have to get used to a new country, league and team. He also has to be tested against Premier League clubs.
The other central defenders by now are Kurt Zouma, Fikayo Tomori, Antonio Rüdiger and Andreas Christensen. Tomori is barely 22, he started getting minutes at the beginning of last season but ended up on the bench. Rüdiger has not reached his best level and is not expected to improve. Zouma and Christensen who are still young, have not shown a high level either to be starters of a top 4 team.
It will be interesting to see if Lampard is able to improve their performances, apart from getting better on defense as a team. This will be his second year at Chelsea and there is still progress to be made in several aspects of the game. It is also probably that Granovskaia will look to add more defenders.
How will his line-ups look like? The debate is intense and multiple possibilities: the central defender that will play along Silva will rely on practices. Right back is another doubtful position, as both Azpilicueta and Reece James are good options: experience and regularity from the Spanish against excellent crosses and speed on James. The middle and forward areas look more clear. This way, this could be a possible line-up:
It is nothing new that Kepa´s low performance has held him off from being a starter. Lampard does not trust him, which is why Mendy will be the main option. On the other hand, Pulisic´s high level have provided him with a permanent spot. It would be strange to not see him on his natural position. We have to take into account that there will be changes and other players like Werner or Havertz can also fit in other places. However, knowing that Ziyech can get by on the right side, it is workable that the Germans take over the attack and in order to make runs and explode their game vision.
What is Chelsea´s real goal this season? There are people who believe that the ‘Blues’ should battle for the title or, at least, fight until the end with Liverpool and Manchester City from the third spot. The reality is that they conceded 54 goals last season, the same ones conceded by the 15th on the table (Brighton). Without a reliable defense, 38 matches can turn into a tough race. We can´t either forget that is only Lampard´s second year: he must forme a compacted team, develop his playing style and expect everyone to give his best. Qualifying for the Champions League must be a requirement, but fans should not put more pressure on them to go beyond. Time will say what the limit is for the ‘Blues’.
At London Conley, where the Arsenal Training Center is located, there is a man that stands out from the other for the last few months: Mikel Arteta. The Spanish coach has brought the excitement back to the ‘gunners’ with a way more competitive team than the last few years. His recent victory at the Community Shield proves it. However, there is still a long ride to take. The squad must increase their level and the coach must increase their game.
New faces for the upcoming season are William Saliba, Pablo Marí, Cédric Soares, Dani Ceballos, Willian and Gabriel Magalhães. The European media are speculating about a signing of a midfield (Thomas Partey) and the sell of Héctor Bellerín, but for now we will stick by what they currently have on their roaster.
It was well known that Arsenal´s defense really needed new players able to add more quality to that area. Saliba and Gabriel, centre backs that are 19 and 22 respectively, are expected to be important this season. They both come from the Ligue 1, where they have proved to have great conditions and even form part of the bests in the world.
The starting line-up that Arteta can make for the first matches does not seem to be too hard to guess. The logical thing is to see Kieran Tierney as a full back, since he is good at both defending and attacking, and Héctor Bellerín. Ceballos and Xhaka are permanent in the midfield: the Spanish is the key on this system, as he provides with game vision, passing through lines and quickness with the ball on his feet. Same way, Aubameyang and Lacazette are the leaders forward.
The only doubts are on the right wing and the goal: Pepé does not inspire confidence at all and William is a contrasted player in the Premier League that offers a high level immediately. On the other hand, the outstanding performances by Emiliano Martínez put Arteta with the dilemma of choosing between the Argentinian and Bern Leno, the starter keeper until he got injured.
Arsenal fans, as I mentioned before, are pretty optimistic and expect big achievements with Arteta as their coach. It is true that the project is attractive in the long run. However, right now their biggest aspiration must be returning to the Champions League. Getting a spot among the top 4 teams would be a success, but that seems to be complicated: Liverpool, City, Chelsea and Manchester United are still far away. Moreover, external competitors such as Tottenham, Leicester, Wolves or Everton will battle to get into Europe and are not easy obstacles to overcome. Maybe it is not ideal to demand the group beyond their possibilities: the playing style must still be strengthened, and most importantly, they have to be regular. A spot in the top 6 would be an acceptable result.