The 2019/20 campaign can go down as transitional season for Chelsea, but 2020/21 is when we’ll truly see what they’re about.
Having been unable to sign any new players last summer, the Blues had some catching up to do in the market. And boy have they closed the gap.
Chelsea have already added Hakim Ziyech, Timo Werner, Ben Chilwell, Thiago Silva and Kai Havertz to their first team and are still being linked with more business. But while the transfer window won’t close for another month, Chelsea’s attention will now turn to the start of their 2020/21 season, which for them kicks off against Brighton & Hove Albion.
Will Chelsea improve? Or will all those new signings struggle to gel? Here are five predictions.
1. Champions League secure but still behind the top two
The race for the top four over the past two seasons has been a strange one. In both the 2018/19 and 2019/20 campaigns, there were periods where no side looked like they wanted to secure Champions League football. Outside Liverpool and Manchester City, all the contenders either dropped points at critical stages or failed to capitalise on their opponents’ mistakes. In both seasons Chelsea secured Champions League qualification, but they didn’t make it easy for themselves.
They should have no such problem in 2020/21. The business Chelsea have done brings back memories of the paradigm-shifting transfer window of 2004/05. It led to the Blues’ first Premier League title, although such expectations may be too lofty this season.
Unlike in 2004, Chelsea finished the most recent campaign some way behind Premier League winners Liverpool. Second-placed Manchester City were well clear of the Blues, too. The 15-point gap between Man City and Chelsea is four more than the distance between the Blues and Arsenal’s Invincibles in 2003/04. This is why they are 11/1 to win the 2020/21 Premier League title with William Hill*. But finishing in the top four should be a lot easier than it has been in the past.
With the signings they have made, combined with a lack of business from their top-four rivals, a comfortable qualification to the Champions League should be the minimum expected of Chelsea, who have failed to do so in only three of the last 18 seasons.
William Hill’s 2020/21 Premier League top four favourites:
- Man City – 1/33
- Liverpool – 1/12
- Chelsea – 2/5
- Man Utd – 4/9
- Arsenal – 3/1
*You have to be 18+ to gamble. All odds and offers within this article are accurate at the time of writing (11:00, 07/09/2020). BeGambleAware.
2. There will be goals
It went a little overlooked last season due to other issues on the pitch, but Chelsea were the third-highest scorers in the 2019/20 Premier League. Only Liverpool (85) and Manchester City (102) scored more goals than the Blues’ 69. Tammy Abraham helped himself to 15 and two more players finished the season on nine. One of these two players, Willian, has moved on, the amount of goals Chelsea have brought in with their new signings will make them even more dangerous in front of goal.
Werner, who scored inside four minutes in a pre-season friendly against Brighton and found the net for Germany recently, managed 28 league goals for RB Leipzig in the Bundesliga last season. Havertz, also in the Bundesliga, scored 12 and Ziyech grabbed six in 21 Eredivisie matches. Then there are the likes of Christian Pulisic, who will be looking to improve on his nine goals of the 2019/20 campaign, and Olivier Giroud there to chip in where he can.
Chelsea aren’t fancied to outscore either Man City or Liverpool, with odds of 12/1 to be the highest-scoring Premier League team in 2020/21, but they could certainly push them close if their stars find form.
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3. Werner to push the Premier League elite
Returning to Werner, the German forward is expected to lead the line from the off for Chelsea this season, given his quality and the fee the Blues played for him. Whether it’s as a sole striker, or alongside someone like Abraham, Havertz, or Giroud, the German will be Chelsea’s main man and looking to get himself in the race for the Golden Boot.
Werner’s tally from the 2019/20 Bundesliga campaign is more than any Premier League player, five more than Golden Boot winner, Jamie Vardy. Werner also recorded his 28 goals in fewer minutes due to Bundesliga teams having four fewer fixtures than their Premier League counterparts.
Werner will need time to adjust to English football and Chelsea’s system, but Robert Lewandowski’s closest Torjägerkanone rival of last season shouldn’t be discounted.
Chelsea were excellent at creating goalscoring chances last season and often let down by poor finishing. In Werner, they certainly have a strong finisher capable of picking up possession in dangerous areas. The German scored 18 of his 39 ‘Big Chances’, by Opta’s definition, in the Bundesliga last season and hit the target with 64% of his shots.
Werner also scored with 28% of his total shots excluding blocks, a better conversion rate than any Chelsea player excluding Jorginho (though three of the Italian’s four goals came from the penalty spot).
William Hill’s 2020/21 Premier League top scorer favourites:
- Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – 5/1
- Harry Kane – 5/1
- Mohamed Salah – 11/2
- Sergio Aguero – 15/2
- Timo Werner – 10/1
4. Improvements in defence
Enough about the attack, Chelsea have also made some much-needed changes to the defence that can only have a positive impact. Despite their high-scoring campaign, Chelsea had the worst defence in the top 10 last season, conceding 54 goals in total. Only eight teams conceded more than the Blues and they recorded just nine clean sheets across the campaign.
While no one is expecting Chelsea to fly straight up the clean sheets list (they are as far out as 22/1 to finish as the Premier League team with the most shutouts) the Blues should find improvement here.
Despite his age, Thiago Silva is still a top defender and won’t have lost the knowledge he built over the years as one of the best centre-backs in the world. With the Brazilian predicted to start a large number of Chelsea’s Premier League games (injuries permitting) the Blues will have the added security that will come with his experience.
And although they actually have a wealth of talent in their pool of centre-backs, experience is something lacked by Silva’s would-be partners, Kurt Zouma, Andreas Christensen, Antonio Rudiger or Fikayo Tomori. Chelsea can expect their other centre-backs to learn from Silva, whose leadership will also be key.
5. The rebuild on Fortress Stamford Bridge should start
Many Chelsea fans will still remember the period between 2004 and 2008 in which Chelsea did not lose a Premier League game at Stamford Bridge.
Since Fortress Stamford Bridge was toppled by Liverpool in October 2008, Chelsea have often struggled to string together a good unbeaten run at home, and last season was a pretty poor one for the Blues in this sense.
Of their 12 Premier League defeats in 2019/20, five came at Stamford Bridge, their worst home record in a single campaign since 2015/16 when they also lost five times. It also took the Blues four matches to achieve their first home win of the season, beating Brighton 2-0 at the end of September, having drawn with Leicester City and Sheffield United while losing to Liverpool.
Then there were the defeats to West Ham, Bournemouth and Southampton in the space of four games at Stamford Bridge, as Chelsea started to prefer playing on the road.
But towards the end of the season, this trend was reversed. Their last six Premier League games at Stamford Bridge have all ended with a Chelsea win, including a 2-1 victory over Manchester City and 2-0 against Wolves to seal a top-four finish. The 2020/21 campaign doesn’t start easily for Chelsea at Stamford Bridge with Liverpool the first visitors but, with their improved team, the Blues can make West London a tougher place for opponents.