Chelsea are finally back in business this weekend, when they continue their push for a top four Premier League finish against Aston Villa.
Should the Blues come away with all three points, it would end a perfect week for the club after they completed the signing of Timo Werner – a long-term target of rivals Liverpool – from RB Leipzig on Thursday, adding to the already impressive coup of Hakim Ziyech from Ajax earlier this year.
Unquestionably, Werner and Ziyech will bring top level quality to Chelsea’s frontline, and the pair represent two excellent pieces of business from director Marina Granovskaia ahead of next season.
But for Chelsea’s current attacking crop – more so the younger ones – the pressure is on to impress head coach Frank Lampard.
Among the players who need to get in Lampard’s good books and prove they are worth their salt are Tammy Abraham and Callum Hudson-Odoi.
The pair have enjoyed relatively successful 2019/20 campaigns – returning from a season-long loan at Villa and long-term injury respectively – and between them have contributed 18 goals and 11 assists in all competitions.
But numbers like those may not be enough to retain regular places in the side. As the quality of Chelsea’s attack increases with Ziyech and Werner’s arrivals, so does the competition. Healthy competition is always useful – as has been evident for the rich attacking options of Manchester City – but it means that someone will be forced aside.
In Chelsea’s case, that could be Abraham and Hudson-Odoi.
Abraham has been brilliant up front, but his status as Chelsea’s number one striker is likely to be ended by Werner’s arrival. The German is second in the Bundesliga goalscoring charts this season – only trailing Bayern’s Robert Lewandowski – while he’s also impressed for Leipzig on the Champions League stage.
It’s a harsh reality for Abraham, whose 15 goals make him Chelsea’s top scorer this season. His goals have been crucial for the Blues, and to see him shoved aside after a stellar debut campaign would be a slap in the face to the perceived ‘youth revolution’ that Lampard is overseeing.
The same goes for Hudson-Odoi, who’s impressive recovery from a serious achilles injury could be overshadowed by the imminent arrival of Ziyech.
Between now and the end of the season, both need to prove to Lampard that they are undroppable. Prove to Lampard that the added weight of expectation and pressure is something they thrive on, rather than buckle under. Abraham and Hudson-Odoi also have a chance to prove that youth does have a future at Chelsea, and should be believed in – rather than returning to the days of money being splashed out left, right and centre on ‘big’ names.
There is, of course, a way that Lampard can accommodate all four.
This season, Chelsea have mainly played in a 4-3-3 formation, occasionally switching to a back three when Lampard has deemed it necessary. But the club legend has also used a 4-2-3-1, a regular formation and setup used over the years at Stamford Bridge. It’s also the one that could allow each player to flourish.
Ziyech could play as an attacking midfielder behind Abraham, who would continue to lead the line up front. Meanwhile, Werner’s pace and versatility could see take up a place on the flank, with Hudson-Odoi operating on the other side.
Not only does that setup have the potential to be potent, it allows for a blend of youthful promotion and exuberant summer spending. While it would come at the expense of the likes of Christian Pulisic and Mason Mount, few could argue with the setup on paper.
Whether or not Lampard could gel the quartet together is another matter, but experimentation and tweaking is what pre-season is for. Whatever he decides, Chelsea will be a force to reckoned with during the 2020/21 campaign – and will be feared by many Premier League defences.
So this weekend not only sees the club look to push on and fulfil their Champions League qualification destiny, it provides the platform for Abraham and Hudson-Odoi to take control of their own.
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