Chelsea Must Not Stunt Growth of Current Starlets With Influx Superstars

Christian Pulisic
West Ham United v Chelsea FC – Premier League | Michael Regan/Getty Images

It’s an exciting time to be a Blue. Frank Lampard, club legend is at the wheel, a dynamic and bold crop of academy products are blessing Stamford Bridge on a weekly basis, and the west Londoners are being linked with Europe’s elite talents.

TImo Werner and Hakim Ziyech have already signed on the dotted line to join the Lampard revolution, and the gifted name of Kai Havertz is also being tipped to make the familiar trip from the Bundesliga to the Premier League this summer.

Timo WernerTimo Werner
FC Augsburg v RB Leipzig – Bundesliga | Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images

It’s very exciting indeed. But with Chelsea flexing their financial muscles in this coming transfer window, they should do so with a degree of caution. The Premier League giants are already home to some of football’s greatest starlets, and with their young boss keen to help them grow into the next group of superstars, recruitment must be necessary, and not opportunistic.

Now, we’re not saying ‘Chelsea don’t need Havertz because they have Ross Barkley’, don’t get it twisted. But the likes of Christian Pulisic, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Tammy Abraham must be wondering what future they possess at Stamford Bridge with this summer’s influx of offensive jewels.

And before we all start drawing up ideal Chelsea XI’s for next season, sporting adventurous 2-4-4 formations or Ziyech in the holding midfield role, we should accept that some of these stars are going to miss out on regular football. There’s no other way around it.

The Blues are blessed with a posse of wide players who boast bags of talent and energy, and that was summed up by the brilliant Pulisic on Saturday evening. The American orchestrated the 3-0 win over Watford from wide, torturing his marker and generally being a pest for his entire time on the field.

The winger won a penalty for the second goal, could well have won another late in the second half, and carved out chance after chance for his teammates. It speaks volumes of a player when he can be so selfless on the ball, yet still be the standout performer by a country mile.

Whisper it quietly, but there were shades of Eden Hazard in the 21-year-old’s dominance and authority on the pitch. He’s got so much time to improve, too.

WillianWillian
Chelsea FC v Watford FC – Premier League | Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

But Pulisic was not alone in excelling. In a summer where transfers may be hard to pull off, with teams uncertain on their finances due to the coronavirus crisis, Chelsea already own a brilliant alternative in the form of Willian.

Although he is advancing in years, and can flit in and out of games, the 31-year-old provides an experienced head in a team of youth and vibrance. Is it really worth splashing £60m on another forward, when that money could be put to better use in the defensive half of the field?

That’s a question for the Chelsea board to answer, as they line up their targets for the summer window. But Lampard should be satisfied with the attacking options at his disposal, especially given that his backline has been the cause of his headaches throughout the season.

In the end, the bottom line for their spending spree should be: strengthen where necessary, and utilise what they have. But most of all – protect and nurture Pulisic at all costs, the boy is special.

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Chelsea 3-0 Watford: Report, Ratings & Reaction as Blues Reclaim Top Four Spot With Comfortable Victory

Olivier Giroud
Chelsea FC v Watford FC – Premier League | Pool/Getty Images

Chelsea rejoined the Premier League’s top four on Saturday evening, claiming a comfortable 3-0 win over relegation-threatened Watford.

The Blues dominated the opening stages, and they took the lead just after the cooling break, when Ross Barkley slipped a sneaky ball through to Olivier Giroud, who produced a perfect finish into Ben Foster’s far-left corner.

Olivier GiroudOlivier Giroud
Chelsea FC v Watford FC – Premier League | Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

And Frank Lampard’s men doubled their advantage just before half-time, when Willian calmly slotted home from the penalty spot, after Christian Pulisic had been fouled in the box. Chelsea continued to control proceedings in the second half, limiting Watford to speculative efforts from distance, rarely troubling Kepa Arrizabalaga.

Ross Barkley added a third in injury time, rifling home from eight yards out to hand Chelsea the three points, and send the Blues back into the Champions League qualification places.

Key Talking Point

It’s no secret that Chelsea have struggled massively from set-pieces this season – boasting the second worst record at defending corners in the whole of Europe. So, all eyes were on Frank Lampard’s backline selections, as he attempted to combat this serious frailty.

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FBL-ENG-PR-CHELSEA-WATFORD | GLYN KIRK/Getty Images

Facing a strong, tall, physical team like Watford was a real baptism of fire for this new-look defence. But when they so easily could have sunk, the youthful rearguard swam. The first goal was always going to be vital in this game, and until taking the lead, Chelsea defended manfully, repelling every high ball, cross, corner and free-kick that came their way.

Zouma and Christensen nullified the physical presence of Ismaila Sarr and Troy Deeney in attack, reducing the duo to committing a series of fouls, before the latter was quickly subbed in the second half. Height and strength did the trick.

Starting XI: Kepa (7); James (7), Christensen (8), Zouma (8), Azpilicueta (8); Kante (7), Mount (8), Barkley (8); Willian (7), Pulisic (9), Giroud (8).

Substitutes: Abraham (6), Loftus-Cheek (6), Hudson-Odoi (6), Gilmour (6).

Can you remember when there were rumours swirling that Pulisic was unhappy at Chelsea and wasn’t good enough? No, me neither. The winger eventually found his feet in the Premier League, and from that moment on, he hasn’t looked back. And once again, he was the difference-maker against Watford on Saturday.

Pulisic buzzed around the Hornets’ final third, nipping in between defenders and allowing the opposing backline no time to rest on their laurels. And he was equally devastating on the ball, too. The American was neat and tidy in possession, stretching the Watford defence when given the chance, and it was his quick feet which earned Chelsea the decisive penalty. Once he gets going, there’s simply no stopping him.

The Blues have got some serious talent arriving in the summer, but Pulisic is becoming undroppable.

Key Talking Point

Watford just haven’t got going since football returned. The Hornets had picked up one point from three matches before their trip to Stamford Bridge, and with time running out to pull clear of the drop, we were keen to see how Nigel Pearson’s men would respond.

Christian Pulisic, Etienne CapoueChristian Pulisic, Etienne Capoue
Chelsea FC v Watford FC – Premier League | Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

The Premier League strugglers were well in the game until the first drinks break, competing fiercely with the Blues all over the pitch. But Pearson’s men fell behind to a nicely-worked Giroud strike just before the half-hour mark, and it was all up hill from then on. In fact, Watford crumbled and posed very little threat to the hosts, in another worryingly limp display. Pearson may not have expected to get a result from this particular match, but time is running out at the bottom end of the table.

Starting XI: Foster (8); Femenia (5), Mariappa (5), Dawson (6), Kabasele (5); Hughes (6), Doucoure (5), Capoue (5), Chalobah (5), Sarr (5); Deeney (6).

Substitutes: Welbeck (5), Masina (5), Cleverley (5), Pereyra (N/A).

How many goals would this Watford team have conceded without Foster protecting their goal? The 37-year-old is still one of the best shot-stoppers in the league, and he showed his skills time and time again on Saturday evening. The Hornets were completely overrun by a superb Chelsea side, and once they fell behind, the floodgates opened.

Ben Foster, Olivier Giroud, Craig DawsonBen Foster, Olivier Giroud, Craig Dawson
Chelsea FC v Watford FC – Premier League | Pool/Getty Images

Watford sat deeper and deeper, drawing pressure on themselves, and fortunately Foster was in typically brilliant form to deny the Blues an even greater lead. The ex-Man Utd star kept out several efforts from Giroud and Willian, pulling off a string of fine saves along the way. Ultimately, he couldn’t prevent his side from slipping to another defeat, but with Foster in the way, Watford always stand a chance in this relegation battle.

Chelsea’s quest for Champions League qualification faces another tough test, when the Blues travel to Crystal Palace on Tuesday evening.

Watford continue their relegation scrap with a home tie against bottom of the table Norwich City on Tuesday, as Pearson aims to help drag the Hornets away from the drop zone.

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The Highest Profile Exits During the 2020 WSL Transfer Window

Anita Asante
Anita Asante is one of a number of high profile WSL players to depart her club this summer | Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

The WSL transfer window opened on 19 June and the English top flight has not been shy of a statement signing in recent seasons.

Chelsea snapped up Australian superstar Sam Kerr in January, while Everton signed England international Izzy Christiansen from Lyon.

Manchester City have upped the ante this summer, with Lucy Bronze and Alex Greenwood poised to join the club once Lyon’s Champions League campaign concludes.

As contracts tick down, a selection of high profile players have opted to not sign fresh terms and will be moving on to pastures new this transfer window. Let’s take a look at the most high profile exits.

Chloe KellyChloe Kelly
Kelly hit some screamers for Everton last season | Alex Davidson/Getty Images

Kelly was the only individual nominated for the WSL Player of the Season Award who did not play for one of the big three – so she immediately upped sticks and moved to one of the big three.

The forward hit nine goals for Everton last season and forced her way back into the England squad, but opted to not renew her contract on Merseyside and instead move to Manchester City, in one of the biggest transfers of the summer window thus far.

Ramona BachmannRamona Bachmann
Bachmann primarily featured from the bench for Chelsea this season | Visionhaus/Getty Images

The Swiss star has called time on her three-year spell at Chelsea to return to Wolfsburg – the club she left to join the Blues back in 2017.

Bachmann enjoyed two excellent seasons at Chelsea, grabbing a brace in the 2018 FA Cup final, but fell out of favour during the 2019/20 campaign due to the wealth of attacking options at Emma Hayes’ disposal.

Georgia Stanway, Anita AsanteGeorgia Stanway, Anita Asante
Former Chelsea defender and midfielder Asante earned 70 caps for England | James Chance/Getty Images

The versatile Asante has departed Chelsea for the second time in her career, having first left the club midway through the 2008/09 season.

Her second spell has been limited by injuries, rupturing her ACL on international duty in March 2018, and suffering a muscular injury during her first start of the 2019/20 season.

Having played in Sweden and the States, there’s no telling what Asante’s next move could be. However, at the age of 35 and having already begun building a media career for herself, the WSL may have seen the last of the England stalwart.

Pauline BremerPauline Bremer
Bremer was hugely prolific for City this season, but was not a guaranteed starter after Ellen White returned from injury | Charlotte Tattersall/Getty Images

Manchester City’s top scorer for the 2019/20 campaign is heading back to her native Germany after three years at the Academy Stadium.

Bremer hit 10 goals in the WSL last season, but was often forced to sit on the bench and play second fiddle to Ellen White during City’s headline fixtures. The 24-year-old announced she was joining Wolfsburg for the 2020/21 season in February.

Tessa WullaertTessa Wullaert
Wullaert has been in and out of the City team this season | Charlotte Tattersall/Getty Images

The Belgian international departs Manchester City after two years at the club, helping the Citizens win the double during the 2018/19 campaign.

However, Wullaert was used more sparingly during the 2019/20 season and opted to depart at the end of her contract. Her next destination is yet to be announced.

Danielle CarterDanielle Carter
Carter helped guide Arsenal to FA Cup glory in 2016 | Ben Hoskins/Getty Images

Arsenal’s longest serving player announced her 11-year stay with the Gunners was coming to an end in June.

Carter – who hit a spectacular winner in the 2016 FA Cup final – has endured rotten luck with injuries over the past two years, rupturing her ACL twice in the space of 15 months. Her next club is yet to be confirmed, but WSL fans are craving to see a fully fit Carter back to her best and back among the goals.

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Williams is one of the WSL’s all time top scorers | Chloe Knott – Danehouse/Getty Images

Birmingham’s last remaining senior players have all headed for the exits this summer following the departures of Aoife Mannion and Ellen White last year.

Williams – an England international and member of the Team GB squad at London 2012 – scored 43 goals in 94 games across two separate spells with the Blues. One of the most consistent and dependable forwards in the WSL, her next move will be interesting.

Kerys HarropKerys Harrop
The 2020/21 season will be the first time Harrop has played for anyone other than Birmingham | Alex Davidson/Getty Images

Long serving Birmingham captain Harrop has opted not to renew her contract with the club. Having narrowly avoided the drop last season, this is another telling sign that the Blues could really struggle next year.

Harrop had been a one club woman, making her senior debut in 2011 after rising through the Birmingham ranks. She was part of the Birmingham side that enjoyed a famous FA Cup success in 2012 via a penalty shootout victory over Chelsea.

Lucy Staniforth, Ramona BachmannLucy Staniforth, Ramona Bachmann
Staniforth was one of few remaining senior figures at Birmingham | Morgan Harlow/Getty Images

Arguably Birmingham’s star player and talisman, losing Staniforth is a bitter blow to the Blues. The creative midfielder had been with the club since 2018, making her England debut in her first season with the Blues.

Despite Birmingham’s struggles this season, Staniforth continued to get picked for England, such is her quality. She would be a shrewd acquisition for any WSL side.

Jade MooreJade Moore
Moore has swapped Berkshire for Orlando | Alex Davidson/Getty Images

Despite her defensive midfielder role, Moore was consistently a scorer of key goals for Reading. The 29-year-old was one of the WSL’s most underrated players, and was a pivotal, unsung hero during England’s journey to the 2015 World Cup semi finals.

Moore announced she was joining Orlando Pride in April, although her debut has been delayed as her new side were forced to drop out of the NWSL Cup after a handful of players caught coronavirus at a bar.

Jo PotterJo Potter
Potter has been ever dependent for club and country | Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

Potter was one of eight players released by Reading at the end of the 2019/20 season. The versatile midfielder and defender had been with the Royals since 2017.

Potter was part of England’s 2015 World Cup squad, putting in a shift as part of an unconventional back three as the Lionesses beat Germany to claim the bronze medal. At the age of 35, will she hang up her boots or does she have one more move in her?

Remi AllenRemi Allen
Allen has been an integral figure for Reading for the past four years | James Chance/Getty Images

Allen joined the long list of first team regulars departing Reading, bringing an end to her four year stay with the club.

The midfielder has been a key part of the Reading side that have comfortably established themselves in the WSL, and at the age of 29, she would be a smart signing for a number of top flight sides.

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Kai Havertz’s Teammate Admits Chelsea Target ‘Dreams of Playing’ in the Premier League

Nascimento Borges Wendell, Kai Havertz
1. FSV Mainz 05 v Bayer 04 Leverkusen – Bundesliga | Jörg Schüler/Getty Images

Bayer Leverkusen star Wendell has revealed that teammate Kai Havertz ‘dreams of playing’ in the Premier League, and has backed the midfielder to be a ‘success’ should a move to England materialise this summer.

Havertz excelled in Germany over the course of the 2019/20 campaign, and his outstanding performances have caught the eye of several top English clubs. In fact, his 12 goals and six assists have thrust him onto Chelsea’s radar, who are hoping to couple him with the already confirmed arrival of striker Timo Werner.

Bayer 04 Leverkusen v Eintracht Frankfurt - BundesligaBayer 04 Leverkusen v Eintracht Frankfurt - Bundesliga
Wendell believes Kai Havertz would be a success in the Premier League | Jörg Schüler/Getty Images

And the 21-year-old may indeed by destined for the Premier League, after Leverkusen teammate Wendell told The Guardian that the starlet is ‘a complete player’ who would be a ‘success’ in England, if he decides to take that leap from the Bundesliga.

“He’s a complete player. If you play him as a No 9, as a No 10 a little bit behind, or out wide, he will know what to do. He understands what the manager wants. He finishes well with both feet,” Wendell said.

“He’s strong with his head. He has good technique. Psychologically, the Germans are very focused people. They are very concentrated on what they want.

“If he goes to the Premier League, he will learn a lot. I think Kai dreams of playing there. He has that desire. If he decides to play in England, he will be a success.”

Timo Werner's move to Chelsea has already been confirmedTimo Werner's move to Chelsea has already been confirmed
Timo Werner’s move to Chelsea has already been confirmed | Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images

Havertz is seemingly not the only Bundesliga star to be tempted by the allure of the Premier League. The Leverkusen starlet would already be following in the footsteps of Werner, who opted to leave RB Leipzig at the end of this season to join Chelsea, while Bayern midfielder Thiago Alcantara is believed to be keen on a switch to new champions Liverpool.

Another player who is desperate to make an impact on Merseyside is Jonjoe Kenny. The Everton full-back has spent the past season on loan at German giants Schalke, but he admitted to 90min that he too is keen to test himself back in the Premier League.

And as for Wendell himself? Well, the full-back has left the door open for a move to England in the future, should the opportunity arise.

Krzysztof Piatek, WendellKrzysztof Piatek, Wendell
Wendell has praised the quality of the Premier League | Pool/Getty Images

“It’s a league that everyone wants to play in, it’s so good to watch,” the 26-year-old admitted. Who said the Bundesliga was the fashionable place to be, eh?

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Willian’s Recent Performances Should Be Forcing Chelsea to Reconsider Contract Stance

Willian
Willian’s contract expires at the end of 2019/20 | Michael Regan/Getty Images

Not long ago, it was looking a near certainty that Willian’s time at Chelsea was coming to an end.

After seven years at the club, it appeared as though the pair were unable to agree a new contract, with his current deal having expired on 30 June (although he has signed a short-term extension to keep him in west London until the completion of the current campaign).

Indeed, his comments in February weren’t so much as a hint, but rather a very open remark about his future. The 31-year-old admitted that Chelsea had offered him a two-year deal, but he was searching for a three-year contract. Furthermore, he added that the Blues ‘are not going’ to change their offer and, as a result, he ‘really doesn’t know if it will be possible’ for him to stay at the club.

But while he is nearing the end of his contract and despite the numerous links to other clubs, Willian has been a key player for the Blues since the resumption of play, starting all four games since action got back underway.

During the enforced break, critics of the Brazilian were alluding to the fact that after the close of the January transfer window, boss Frank Lampard had opted to start Willian in just two of his side’s five league games before play was halted.

Since the restart, it has been Christian Pulisic who has been receiving all the praise – and rightly so – for his impressive displays in attack. As a result, Willian’s performances have gone somewhat under the radar – despite his goal contributions – and they have perhaps not been appreciated by some as much as they should.

Willian, Tammy AbrahamWillian, Tammy Abraham
Willian netted twice against West Ham recently | Michael Regan/Getty Images

Willian has grabbed three goals and one assist in his four games since the restart, and his form is said to have left Lampard very impressed, so much so that the Blues have now reached out to the winger once more in an attempt to finally reach an agreement with him regarding a new deal.

While Willian has his faults and while he may be reaching the latter stages of his career, the fact remains that he continues to be an integral member of this Chelsea squad. Yes, it is his performances since the restart that have convinced the west Londoners to re-open talks, but the truth is, he has proven his value to the side throughout the season.

The Brazilian’s double against West Ham last time out saw him take his tally to ten in all competitions for the season, making him the club’s second top goalscorer – behind only Tammy Abraham. In terms of assists, Willian’s tally of seven so far makes him the club’s top provider.

WillianWillian
Willian remains a key Chelsea player | Pool/Getty Images

In a team filled with talented youngsters, especially in attack, Willian’s consistency and solid numbers alleviates the pressure off those around him.

But while his goal contribution figures speak for themselves, it is his numbers in terms of chances created that truly underline his continued importance to this Chelsea team. Within the Blues squad, no player has created more big chances in the Premier League than the winger in 2019/20, while overall, he sits ninth in this category.

In fact, he has created more big chances than Adama Traore, Raheem Sterling and Roberto Firmino to name just a few.

Defensively, the numbers speak for themselves as well, with his total of 39 tackles made in the league in 2019/20 seeing him rank just fifth in the whole Chelsea squad in this department. As an offensive player, he is often judged on his output in front of goal, but his tenacity and work rate out of possession shouldn’t be ignored.

Chelsea are heading in the right direction, there’s no doubting that. And youth is leading the way, but Willian has been a consistently impressive performer throughout the season. Yes, Willian’s form has fluctuated at points, and yes he has his flaws, but the Blues should be reconsidering their contract stance in an attempt to convince him to stay at Stamford Bridge.

It is his bright and emphatic displays since the restart which have seemingly convinced Chelsea to re-open talks, but in reality he has shown over the course of the current campaign that he can still be a major asset for Lampard moving forward.

Should he pen a new deal, the arrivals of Hakim Ziyech and Timo Werner will mean his game time would be limited. But it would be wrong of Blues fans to expect either player to immediately hit the ground running in a new league, while there is, of course, the possibility of all three players featuring in the same team.

With Willian capable of operating in a number of different positions, he would add depth to Lampard’s squad as he looks to build a team that is capable of challenging for trophies.

In a season when Chelsea have struggled to fill the void left by Eden Hazard, Willian has stepped up and has did his bit, registering some very respectable figures. The winger isn’t the man the Blues should be relying on moving forward, but it would be wrong of the club to not reconsider their contract stance, especially considering his form since the resumption of play.

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