With just over a week to go until the 2018/19 Premier League season begins, and six days left of the transfer window, Maurizio Sarri’s Chelsea squad is yet to be finalised.
Indeed, with a number of players still recuperating following their World Cup exploits, and the factor of a new manager and formation, there are a number of places up for grabs in the starting XI for that first clash with Huddersfield on Saturday the 11th of August.
Without further ado, here is a potential starting lineup of the players currently at Sarri’s disposal…
1. GK: Thibaut Courtois
One of several Chelsea players who have been embroiled in a long running transfer saga this summer, his future remains tantalisingly uncertain as the countdown to the end of the window continues.
Despite an admittedly subpar campaign last season, the Belgian showed his true colours for his national team at the World Cup, and garnered the Golden Glove for his efforts. However, while I would normally advocate for a club to sell a player who’s head has so evidently been turned, the current region of £30-35m is a travesty.
2. RB: Cesar Azpilicueta
Unequivocally the first name on the team sheet, it will be interesting to see Azpilicueta back once again at his nominal position.
While his versatility at the back is arguably second to none in world football, Sarri’s 4-3-3 formation means he will spend the majority of the time at right back. With his propensity for defensive work unquestionable, he should now get a chance to further flex his attacking muscles.
3. CB: Antonio Rudiger
As it stands, the centre back positions seem the most competitive, with no outstanding candidates. Though Rudiger remains occasionally suspect at the back, his aerial threat in the opposite box coupled with and admirable passing range mark him out.
After a slow start to life in west London, the German impressed in the final weeks of the season, and his progress under new management will be worth looking out for.
4. CB: David Luiz
Again, perhaps Andreas Christensen is unlucky here, but David Luiz seems to have found a renewed lease of life at Chelsea this summer, and has been one of the most vocal figures of the club’s pre-season.
Very much on the periphery in the dying days of Antonio Conte’s reign, Luiz’s unerring bravery (almost to a fault) on the ball at the back will fit the bill for his new manager’s philosophy.
5. LB: Marcos Alonso
The only Chelsea player to earn a place in the PFA’s Team of the Year for last season, the wing-back will look to kick on after two good seasons at the Bridge.
There’s little doubt over the Spaniard’s attacking threat, and he’ll definitely be asked to bomb forward in the mould of Faouzi Ghoulam at Napoli. However, his defensive deficiencies could be exposed in a back four.
6. RCM: Jorginho
Chelsea’s only major signing of the summer has so far slotted in seamlessly into that midfield three, and will be a major factor in the success of Sarriball’s implementation.
It was a major coup to snag him from champions Manchester City, and as an out and out pass-master he should thrive in building the attacks. While his stature belies his true combativeness, his physicality will be tested in England.
7. CM: Ruben Loftus-Cheek
With N’Golo Kanté still enjoying some well earned rest following his conquering of the World, and thus unlikely to be rushed back, this space is certainly open for the first couple of fixtures.
Despite the flashes of resurgence that Ross Barkley has shown in pre-season, and a plethora of other midfielders on the books, it should Loftus Cheek’s to lose. Curtailing his holidays by a week won’t have hurt his chances.
8. LCM: Cesc Fabregas
Another man who looked down and out at times last season, the new manager bounce is clearly revitalising the 31-year-old. It will be fascinating to see how much his game shifts as Sarri’s influence grows.
The other interesting development will occur once Kante returns, in terms of who is expelled to make way for the Frenchman. If Loftus Cheek is able to reach the performance levels he is capable of, and can adhere to Maurizio’s model, Cesc could potentially make a return to his super sub days.
9. RW: Pedro
With Willian’s transfer speculation and passport problems effectively ruling him out from selection, the 30-year-old former Barcelona man is expected to fulfill the role he has played admirably in pre-season.
There is something quintessentially Sarri about Pedro’s game, and if he continue in his current vein, he could become a key component of this new dawn.
10. ST: Alvaro Morata
The club’s record signing has had an indifferent pre-season, showing glimpses of his clear class against Inter before a gaffe filled display against Arsenal in Dublin.
As with last season, he will miss chances. But, if Sarri has his way, there will be far more chances for him to miss this time around – and hopefully he can knock one of them in every now and again. His tenacity does appear restored, though.
11. LW: Hudson-Odoi
Perhaps the boldest shout of the lot, but I refuse to jinx anything Eden Hazard related until the English deadline closes, and even then the rest of August will still be anxiety filled.
Of course, if he is still in Blue, he will most likely start at the Kirklees Stadium, but in his three outings Hudson-Odoi has showed not only his incredible speed and trickery, but also a sincere level of wisdom and guile.