It’s been a summer of familiar upheaval for Chelsea. Maurizio Sarri became the seventh person to manage the club this decade after a protracted saga over his departure from Napoli, replacing Antonio Conte – who was still in charge when preseason began.
Coming off a fifth-place finish in the Premier League, Sarri and the Blues have a lot of work to do to re-establish themselves as title challengers, and on the evidence so far, they may struggle to do so.
Here’s a closer look at Chelsea’s preseason.
L 2-0 Man City
L 1-1 Arsenal (6-5 on penalties)
W 1-1 Inter Milan (5-4 on penalties)
W 1-0 Perth Glory
Chelsea’s preseason got off to an encouraging start, as they won Sarri’s first game in charge and then acquitted themselves in the two draws against Inter Milan and Arsenal, winning against the former on penalties.
However, the loss to City was a dampener, even if it came without some of their star players. There was a clear gap between Chelsea and City last season, and based on Sunday’s showing that gap hasn’t narrowed. With one final preseason fixture left, against Lyon on Tuesday, Sarri has a lot to work on.
Rob Green (free)
Kenedy (loan to Newcastle)
Chelsea can’t be happy with their transfer business so far. They’ve done their usual squad cull with several youngsters going out on loan, but a side that lacked a top-notch striker last season has done nothing to remedy that, unless they’re relying on Sarri to bring out the best in Alvaro Morata.
While they’ve addressed their midfield concerns by signing Jorginho, the rest of the squad needs reinforcing. At the moment, Antonio Rudiger, and, to a lesser extent, Andreas Christensen, are the only reliable centre-backs, there’s no back-up left-back in case Marcos Alonso gets injured or loses form, and little attacking support for Eden Hazard, barring expecting Willian and Pedro to improve.
The Chelsea youngster was the breakout star of their preseason. He looked lethal against Inter Milan and Arsenal, giving reputed defenders fits, and even against City he was the Blues’ best performer.
Chelsea have a history of letting young talent go to waste, but hopefully Sarri keeps giving the 17-year-old a chance to shine. He, along with defender Ethan Ampadu, showed that there is depth amongst Chelsea’s youth ranks, if only a manager had the faith to given them a long rope.
Midfield strengthened with Jorginho
Jorginho had an indifferent outing against City, but he played well enough in the games before that to justify Chelsea’s, and Sarri’s, faith in him. He’s a composed, classy midfielder, as he showed against Arsenal and Inter. The Italian comes with the added benefit of having played under Sarri, so he’ll be able to carry out the manager’s game plan perfectly.
Once N’Golo Kante returns from his post-World Cup holiday, expect the two to strike up an effective partnership that will be an instant upgrade from last year.
Chelsea’s managerial situation at the start of the summer was farcical. Although everyone knew Antonio Conte was going to be sacked, he was still in place when training began in July, and took the first few sessions.
It’s not entirely the club’s fault, as Napoli played hardball over Sarri, but the Blues hierarchy should have resolved this much quicker. Sarri has had less time with his squad than he would have liked, and, crucially, less time planning transfers.
Bringing Jorginho with him from Napoli has eased some concerns, but a club that still needs a striker and goalkeeper, considering Thibaut Courtois‘ likely departure, could have done without this sort of managerial confusion.
Courtois, Hazard transfer stand-offs
This close to the start of the season, Chelsea still don’t know who their No1 goalkeeper will be. Thibaut Courtois’ contract stand-off has been going on for months, and at some time they should have begun actively exploring replacements. Now, it’s likely that he’s going to leave in the coming days, and Chelsea have only three days to find someone.
The same holds true for Hazard. At least the links to Real Madrid have died down, with the La Liga side seemingly having decided they are fine landing just one Belgian in Courtois. And one of Hazard’s biggest concerns, that he would like to play under a more attacking manager, has been addressed by the arrival of Sarri. Still, he’s mentioned before that he dreams of playing for Madrid, he hasn’t signed a new contract, and Chelsea remain vulnerable to losing him with no time to find an adequate replacement.
It was a summer of transition for Chelsea – when is it not – but there’s still work to do to catch the likes of Liverpool, Tottenham, and Manchester United, let alone Manchester City. Sarri can turn the side into an attacking powerhouse, but so far he’s done little to address the deficiencies in the squad.
There is the hope that he can simply coax better performances from the likes of Morata, Willian, Pedro, and Tiemoue Bakayoko, which would instantly improve Chelsea, but, for now, the summer has not been as encouraging as Blues fans would have hoped.
Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri is set to undergo talks with Thibaut Courtois over his Stamford Bridge future.
The Belgian No1 has been heavily linked with a move to Real Madrid, with the player’s agent Christophe Henrotay pleading to let his client sign for Los Blancos.
However, Sarri said after Sunday’s Community Shield that he wants to speak to the player before deciding if he should remain in his plans.
Meanwhile, Real have yet to table a bid for the 26-year-old’s services.
Watch Sarri’s reaction below:
Two Sergio Aguero goals earned City a 2-0 Community Shield win over Chelsea at Wembley on Sunday.
Pep Guardiola’s men enjoyed a record breaking title triumph last season, reaching 100 points to win by a margin of 19 points from second placed Manchester United.
Their title defence begins at Arsenal on Sunday, with the likes of Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling due to return and David Silva also to come in.
“I was curious the way we would start the game and how it would go,” Germany midfielder Gundogan told mancity.com.
“We knew what to expect and we knew it was going to be really tough.
“We did a great job. It was a very good start to the season for us. All in all it was a great performance and a well deserved win.
“I wouldn’t say that it was necessary to give us confidence, but the first weeks when the season starts, the important games start, you never really know what to expect. You don’t really know 100 per cent on which level you are.
“It was a great test for us, a last test before the Premier League season. At the end we feel ready right now and we can’t wait for the season to start.”
Aguero extended his club record with his 200th and 201st City goals.
Gundogan added: “We feel very lucky to have Sergio in our team, a striker like him.
“On top of that even Gabriel (Jesus) with his ability and his quality.
“We have two great strikers and feel very, very happy.”