Chelsea are embarking on yet another new era under yet another new manager, with Mauricio Pochettino officially taking over at the start of July.
2022-23 was certainly an interesting season for Chelsea, who saw four managers take charge at various points to secure their lowest-ever points tally in the Premier League era and their worst goal difference. Not a good first season for the Todd Boehly regime.
On top of all of the new arrivals, Chelsea struggled to get rid of their unwanted stars, meaning this summer has to see a big squad trimming as well as strengthening in key areas. We’ve already seen a number of names leave, with N’Golo Kante, Mateo Kovacic, Kalidou Koulibaly, Edouard Mendy, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Mason Mount and Christian Pulisic the main outgoings so far.
Chelsea have already confirmed the arrival of Christopher Nkunku and Nicolas Jackson, but who else could Chelsea sign this summer? We’ve taken a look at the strong rumours, bookmakers’ favourites with a couple of our own suggestions below…
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At the start of the transfer period, before the window even opened, Chelsea looked set to sign Manuel Ugarte from Sporting CP but suddenly pulled out of the race completely, with the Uruguayan now looking set for PSG.
So, there is still a lot of work to be done in the midfield, especially with Kante, Kovacic, Loftus-Cheek and Mount already gone and Conor Gallagher’s future in doubt, leaving the Blues pretty thin.
Enter Moises Caicedo. Chelsea may be wary of signing from Brighton after their two big flops last season (Marc Cucurella and Graham Potter), but there is little doubt that Caicedo has the quality Chelsea need in midfield.
The Ecuadorean was one of just two players to make 100+ tackles in the Premier League last season, with his ton only bettered by Joao Palhinha’s 147. But Caicedo also ranked highly for interceptions, with just Declan Rice (63) managing more than his 56, and possessions won in the middle third — again it was only Rice’s 173 ahead of his 142.
This is not the first time Chelsea have been linked with Caicedo, but they have tough competition for his signature in the likes of Arsenal and Liverpool. And a move does appear on the cards, with reports claiming terms have been agreed between Caicedo and Chelsea, with just the deal between the Blues and Brighton to be done – though fans have been waiting for quite some time.
One of the other key areas Chelsea need to strengthen is their attack, as they try for the umpteenth time to replace Diego Costa and Didier Drogba before him.
The Blues tried Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang last season and it didn’t really work, though it often wasn’t the Gabonese striker’s fault as he was given very little game time by Graham Potter and Frank Lampard. Kai Havertz often operated in the false number nine role, but is reportedly closing in on a move to Arsenal.
And don’t remind Chelsea fans of Romelu Lukaku’s 2021-22. Though still registered at Stamford Bridge, he isn’t expected to return from his loan at Inter Milan, or if he does, it will only be a brief stay at Cobham before he is sent elsewhere.
Chelsea have also finally confirmed the signing of Christopher Nkunku from RB Leipzig, but the Frenchman still isn’t a recognised striker and Nicolas Jackson may not have the experience to lead the line if he does come in.
The Blues will be linked with a few main strikers this summer and at the moment, Osimhen appears to be the main target. According to recent reports, they are still keen on making him the spearhead of Pochettino’s attack and will be dreaming of him replicating the kind of form that helped fire Napoli to the Scudetto.
In Serie A alone last season, Osimhen scored 25 goals in 31 games, more than every player Chelsea tried at striker combined.
But Chelsea appear to be getting no help from Koulibaly in touting his former Napoli teammate for a Blues move, with the Senegal defender recently saying: “We speak once in a while and if he needs, he’ll call me.
“Victor is an important player, among the best in the world. Gennaro Gattuso helped him, Luciano Spalletti was a turning point for him and now he needs nobody. He must feel free to choose without listening to anyone else. That’s the only way not to have regrets.”
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The Belgian only joined Southampton from Manchester City last summer but following the Saints’ relegation to the Championship, it is open season for a lot of their players.
While still young, Lavia showed a lot of promise at St Mary’s last term, and was one of the few shining lights in a dismal campaign for the fans.
And if Chelsea want to sign him, they may need to act this summer with Manchester City holding a buyback option which reportedly kicks in next year.
Chelsea are also reportedly in search of a more attack-minded central midfielder to replace Mount, who has left for Manchester United, with Gabri Veiga their top target according to the Evening Standard. However, there is competition with the likes of Arsenal and Man City also reportedly interested and, of course, they can offer immediate Champions League football which Chelsea cannot.
Lithe and ethereal, the homegrown sensation ranks third each for touches in the opposition box (69), take-ons attempted (72) and shots (58) in La Liga this season among central midfielders. That line-breaking ability and attacking threat makes him an archetypal Guardiola midfielder.
When Chelsea announced their travelling squad for their pre-season tour of America, Wesley Fofana wasn’t included on the list, with the Frenchman suffering yet another injury set back. A worry for Chelsea, if Fofana is out for longer than hoped, the Blues may need to dip into the transfer market to bolster their back line. And they have recently been linked with Harry Maguire.
Maguire has been stripped of the Man Utd captaincy after falling out of favour with Erik ten Hag, dropping down the centre-back pecking order and further adding to doubts surrounding his future. According to reports, Chelsea are among the clubs interested in signing Maguire, battling the likes of West Ham, Tottenham and Newcastle for the England man.
Along with other necessities, Chelsea need a good goalkeeper with Kepa Arrizabalaga not really showing he can be good enough as the club’s number one, and Edouard Mendy reportedly on his way out.
It’s a bizarre tale given how influential Mendy was to helping Chelsea win the Champions League, but he started to look error prone and without confidence. And while Kepa has his good moments, he is beaten from range far too easily, targeted mostly due to his stature.
The Blues were tipped to make a move for Inter Milan goalkeeper Andre Onana, who helped the Nerazzurri to the Champions League final, but reports have cooled slightly and the lack of European football next term may not help their cause.
Brentford stopper David Raya has courted attention for his consistent displays towards the Bees’ consolidation in the Premier League. He is more than capable of providing competition for Kepa at the very, very least, and a move to Tottenham seems less likely now that they have announced the signing of Guglielmo Vicario.
“I know there are rumours about me leaving. There are some options for me to go but obviously Brentford are asking for a lot of money. That could make clubs not want to buy me, it could make them look somewhere else,” Raya told The Times recently.
“But if that’s the value they give me, then it’s up to them. I have a year left on my contract and until then I’m a Brentford player, there’s nothing I can do.
“I have ambitions to make the next step in my career. I want to try to win titles and to compete in Europe in the next couple of years. I’m 27 now and I feel like I’m at the point in my career when I want to make that step up. There are options out there but it’s not just my ambitions, the club also needs to let me go.”
Three ways Chelsea could line up under Mauricio Pochettino next season
Pochettino has utilised a few formations in his career, opting for the 4-3-3 at Paris Saint-Germain, but you mostly associate him with the 4-2-3-1.
It’s a formation this Chelsea squad know how to play. So hopefully, they would not take too much getting used to it, and could pack the attack with stars including Nkunku and a potential striker.
But speaking of his 4-3-3 at PSG, Pochettino utilised that formation to get the most out of a fluid front three of Neymar, Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe.
Sure, Chelsea don’t have any attacking players of that quality, but it would be a decent plan B if he can find the right man to play the middle role.
Or how about a back three? This was a formation Pochettino liked to utilise at Tottenham, particularly at the peak of Dele Alli’s powers, allowing the Englishman to get close to Harry Kane.
It is a formation that has stuck at Tottenham too, with three close forwards in Kane, Heung-min Son plus one, meaning the attack does not suffer too much if the striker gets pulled elsewhere.