With the start of a new season almost upon us, it is time to set the scene by looking at the new additions, the schedule and much more besides with club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton…
So much anticipation, and so little time to savour it. Chelsea’s 86th season in the top flight and the 105th league campaign overall begins a mere 37 days after the previous one ended in Munich, and around five weeks later than usual.
Fifteen of the 24 previous winners of the English league title will compete for the Premier League crown this season. Chelsea finished 33 points behind the champions – the biggest gap of the Roman Abramovich era (by two) – yet everyone, of course, resets to zero for the new season.
Chelsea’s recent Premier League record
A challenging schedule
Following the last action of 2019/20 against Bayern on 8 August, most players were permitted 12 days off before returning to training on 21 August. After eight days’ training there was a friendly at Brighton, then 13 players were called up for their national team for a further 10 days.
As a result of the pandemic, this is the Blues’ first September start to a league for 106 years, and later in the calendar year than any other. Since 1914/15, every campaign has kicked off in August.
Although the Premier League has lost the usual four August match slots, it will still reach its climax on Sunday 23 May, with two extra midweek matches squeezed into January and May. To make the schedule work, the FA Cup final will also be brought forward to the penultimate weekend of the Premier League season. The planned winter break has been dropped.
With the Carabao Cup brought forward and European games to fit in, Chelsea’s international players could effectively be playing twice a week from now until mid-December.
How to watch Chelsea matches this season
There is still no firm news on when crowds will be allowed back at Premier League grounds, but fortunately all the Blues’ first three matches were picked for live coverage. Clubs subsequently voted to allow all matches in September to be covered, as with those after the restart last season.
First televised matches
Brighton away 8.15pm Mon 14 Sep (Sky Sports)
Liverpool home 4.30pm Sun 20 Sep (Sky Sports)
West Brom away 5.30pm Sat 26 Sep (Sky Sports)
To see where those and other games can be viewed where you live, check the Premier League website’s television guide, updated through the season.
For the Blues’ Champions League campaign, local broadcasters can be found on UEFA’s website.
Chelsea TV’s game day programming is back on the 5th Stand app, Facebook Live and our official YouTube channel with three live shows: pre-match (starting 75 minutes before kick-off), half-time and post match. They will include the first team news, exclusive interviews and Chelsea-oriented analysis from regulars Joe Flemons and Jason Cundy, plus guests including Pat Nevin, Claire Rafferty, Zac Djellab and Savage Dan. During games the 5th Stand will carry audio commentary.
Defending champions Chelsea Women can be followed through the FA Player app, which streams every Women’s Super League match live. Details are available here.
Also, each week several games are broadcast exclusively on BT Sport.
The new Chelsea squad
One of the club’s most remarkable summer transfer windows bears witness to the magnetism of head coach Frank Lampard, with some of the Europe’s finest players saying his presence helped inspire them to join the Blues.
As a player, Lampard worked each summer to improve different parts of his game to make himself an even more complete player. He now applies the same principle to his coaching, as well as in the performance and make-up of his squad.
He saw the need to break down low-block defences and organise against counter-attacks and set-plays, and he has recruited three intelligent and versatile creative players in Hakim Ziyech (pronounced Zeeyesh), Timo Werner and Kai Havertz, as well as the experienced centre-back Thiago Silva from Paris Saint-Germain and Leicester’s all-action left-back Ben Chilwell.
Last season only six of the Blues’ 69 league goals scored came from any sort of dead-ball setting. Nine of set-play specialist Ziyech’s 16 assists for Ajax in all competitions were from crosses or corners, and four of his eight goals were from outside the box.
Reminiscent of a young Zidane or Gullit, the tall, clever, and commanding Havertz, 21, excels in any number of positions from midfield forward. The clever and busy Werner, 24, was runner-up in Germany’s golden boot behind Robert Lewandowski and scored with his first touch in royal blue at Brighton in our pre-season game. Between them, Havertz and Werner had a hand in one in every 18 Bundesliga goals last season.
Lampard knows that while scoring wins games, conceding loses titles. The number 54 in the ‘goals against’ column was one more than in the turbulent 2015/16 season, when we finished 10th.
Eight top-flight opposition goals came from counter-attacks – the most in the Premier League – and the Blues suffered the third-most goals from corner kicks (10), despite conceding the second fewest overall in the league (131).
The arrival of the energetic Chilwell, danger-spotter Thiago Silva, as well as N’Golo Kante’s return to fitness should help in those situations.
With Ziyech on set-plays the Blues will hope to improve on the goalscoring record of Chelsea’s centre-backs, who had two goals to show for 39 attempted headers.
Of course, on top of the new arrivals, we have all the fine young players who proved inspirational over the course of last season throughout the team.
A host of debuts?
On Monday Chelsea could register one of our higher totals for league debutants in the opening game of the season.
Most league debutants on opening day of the season
1905/06 - 11 - Copeland, Foulke, Key, Kirwan, Mackie, McEwan, McRoberts, Miller, Moran, JT Robertson, Windridge
1946/47 - 9 - Bain, Galloway, Goulden, Harris, Lawton, Lewis, Robertson, Williams, Winter
2003/04 - 6 - Bridge, J Cole, Duff, Geremi, Johnson, Veron,
2004/05 - 6 - Carvalho, Cech, Drogba, Ferreira, Kezman, Smertin
1919/20 - 4 - Browning, Dale, Dickie, Wilding
1983/84 - 4 - Dixon, McLaughlin, Niedzwiecki, Spackman
2001/02 - 4 - Gallas, Lampard, Petit, Zenden
2007/08 - 4 - Ben-Haim, Malouda, Pizarro, Sidwell
Even more diversity
Chelsea’s long association with Brazilian stars continues despite Willian’s departure with the arrival of Rio-born defender Thiago Silva. The Blues are the most popular British football club in the South American country, perhaps because 12 players from there have worn the famous royal blue beginning with Emerson Thome in 1999, more than any other Premier League side.
The summer influx of jewels from die Mannscahft resumed a similarly rich tradition of fine German players that began with title-winner Robert Huth in 2003. Hakim Ziyech’s arrival adds a Morocco stamp to Chelsea’s passport for the first time. The Moroccan will not be absent in January/February as the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations was put back to 2022.
Look out for part two of our Pre-Season Briefing where we will detail stats, upcoming milestones, regulation changes and more