The countdown to an exciting new campaign is truly on, and with that Chelsea legend Pat Nevin resumes his regular column, optimistic a thrilling new era is commencing…
Don’t you just love the start of a new season? The sun is still shining, the first games will be played in perfect, mild early autumn weather. There are exciting new players to be checked out and the previous season, that had plenty of positives anyway, looks like it will be improved upon. It certainly gets the blood pumping. With the new kit to wear, many fans will be desperate to get down to the Bridge and…suddenly the uplifting music in the background stops with a screech of brakes, I almost forgot, we still can’t get to see the lads play in the flesh yet. Bummer! Considering all that has happened at the club in terms of the management team, those new signings and last season’s top-four finish, I can honestly say this is still the most excited I have been for a Chelsea season in many years. Like the last campaign we all know there is a chasm between Manchester City, Liverpool and the rest, but right now it is all about narrowing that gap.
In the media much has been made of the ‘£200 million’ spent by the Blues this summer, but in reality that is a figure that should be considered over not just one transfer window but all the way from January 2019. Since Christian Pulisic was acquired back then, there have been very limited opportunities to add to the squad and remember, Chelsea got quite a lot of money for Eden Hazard and Alvaro Morata among others.
The amateur accountants out there should also consider that because of their age, many of the players we have recently acquired will have a sell-on value in four or five years that might be greater than what we have just paid for them. If you do not re-sell, let’s say, Kai Havertz and he stays for seven years, that would work out at around £10million per year transfer fee on the wunderkind. Suddenly that sounds like a very good bit of business indeed.
As the new dawn is about to break, we find ourselves with a super-strong but also a super-young and vibrant group that will hopefully be around Stamford Bridge for a long, long time, improving year after year. That is a large part of the long-term future sorted and it is bathed in sunshine, but it is the present and the very near future we are interested in right now. It is hard not to be excited by Timo Werner for a kick off. He scores in his first outing for the Blues against Brighton and then follows it up with a superb striker’s goal for Germany against Spain. He could well start the season on fire. Both he and Kai Havertz could take a little while to settle in, though I doubt it, but when they do the possibility of goals from both is extraordinary. Considering the fact that last season I felt we should build the next few years of the club around Christian Pulisic and his potential, we now have three of that standard and that is before you even begin to consider Hakim Ziyech and the quality kids that have come through up front, such as Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ruben Loftus-Cheek.
It is amazing to think we have let Pedro, (the player who has won more trophies than just about anyone in the game) and Willian (a consistent starter for Brazil) go and to be honest, is anyone at all worried about the gap being left behind by their absence? They were wonderful players for us and it is not disrespectful in any way, but it does speak volumes for the recruitment policy this summer.
The possibilities are endless up front, so goodness knows how Frank Lampard fits all these players into the team, and of course he can’t. He will however have huge options on the bench to change things this season if plan A in any given match is not working. Frank has not been slow in making changes when he has had to, and more importantly, he has an incredible strike rate when it comes to his substitutions having a positive effect. I suspect that innate ability to see what is needed as the game progresses will look even better this time round because of the extra dynamic quality at his disposal. It makes it all the more galling that we cannot get into see the games live but we do have to keep things in perspective. During the initial major lockdown period when no football was being played, we would have been delighted just to have the games available to watch on TV. At least we have that now. It is still a long way from being perfect, but who knows what Covid-19 will bring over the winter and right now I am just trying to accept we are lucky to some degree that the football is being played at all. That is the reality. The other thing to consider as we experience spikes and local outbreaks that might become national again, football has been a fantastic thing to take our minds off everything that is happening. It certainly helps for a little while anyway, while we are unable to socialise the way we used to. For our collective sanity, the game has been a fabulous diversion and this season it will be just the same, at least until the virus is considered under control.
We are on the brink of the season now and I think that even the opening games have fell pretty well for us. I wouldn’t want to play Liverpool first, so Brighton is a very good opener with a chance of three points. By the time the Reds come down from Merseyside, our newbies should have a bit more understanding of each other’s games. With West Brom, Palace and Southampton the next league games after that, there is a great opportunity to get off to a flyer. Yes, I know, you take every game as it comes, but right now I am looking forward to every single one. Last season was ahead of the curve from Frank Lampard, but this season it is his team, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the start one of the most exciting periods in the club’s history.