Chelsea will start their pre-season campaign today, a whole month before they play their first game of the season i.e., The UEFA Super Cup final against Europa League winners Villarreal.
While Thomas Tuchel mustered every single bit out of whatever was handed to him when he joined mid-season, he would like to take a closer look at the squad, including players who were out on loan last season, were injured or were within the club’s development squad. Moreover, with a bunch of players still returning to Cobham due to their international duties, Tuchel can focus on the young talent and the players who he would like to give a chance in the senior team next season.
Thus, let us take a look at the players to lookout for during Chelsea’s 2021/22 pre-season campaign:
1) Conor Gallagher:
An out-and-out Chelsea product, Conor Gallagher was out on loan to Premier League club West Bromwich Albion last season and played as an attacking midfielder as Sam Allardyce hoped to avoid relegation. While the Baggies did get relegated, Gallagher had an impressive season as his creativity and confidence on the ball was sublime. There were also rumours at the start of last season that Lampard was planning on calling back the player sooner than expected because of his incredible technical quality.
Gallagher can play progressive midfielder while he can also play behind the striker, but since the Blues do not operate in such a formation, it will be interesting to see whether Thomas Tuchel employs the young Chelsea graduate, who looks to become the next Cobham player to make a name for himself in World football.
2) Charly Musonda Jr:
One of the more senior players in this category, Charly Musonda was one of the most exciting young stars in the 2014/15 season, but Chelsea never felt that the player was ready for first-team football, courtesy of which they loaned him out to Celtic, Real Betis, and eventually Vitesse last season. Musonda is an extremely fast player with quick feet and loads of skill on the ball.
There was a lot to admire about the player until he suffered a horrific knee injury, once in 2017 and the next one in 2019. However, since then, the player has been recuperating back to health at the Cobham academy, and as per the latest photos on the club’s official Instagram account, Musonda is raring to go again and willing to impress Thomas Tuchel. He might be elder to a lot of players in the senior squad, but his talent and potential remain the same, while his ability on the wing will also be something Tuchel will have a close look at during this pre-season.
3) Armando Broja:
The next best striker out of the Chelsea academy, Armando Broja’s talent was well known even before he performed incredibly well with Vitesse last year. The Albanian was given a run-out against Everton in the 2019/20 season before football was shut down due to Covid and it was disheartening to not see the player on the team sheet again. However, Chelsea were right on their part as Broja lacked the experience of playing at the top. He went on to contribute to 14 goals in 1800 minutes at Vitesse last season, which led to a couple of European clubs also looking to sign the player for next season.
However, Chelsea have since opened talks for a new contract with the player as they look at him as the long term-heir for the forward role and given that his contract is expiring in 12 months, Tuchel would want to take a close look at the player’s ability and where he fits into the future of the club.
4) Trevoh Chalobah:
The second Chalobah to make it out of the Chelsea academy after his elder brother Nathaniel Chalobah, Trevor might go a step forward than his brother should he feature for Chelsea’s senior team over the course of next season. A solid defensive midfielder, Chalobah, like the rest of Chelsea’s loan army, has been sent out on loan to a lot of clubs, with the player showing his talent at FC Lorient last season.
A very talented midfielder, Chalobah’s box-to-box qualities and strength on the ball make him one of the most unique players to come out of the Cobham academy. Thomas Tuchel will be keen on examining the player himself by giving him plenty of chances to impress during the upcoming pre-season.
5) Valentino Livramento:
The youngest player (18) on this list, Valentino Livramento is the up and coming attacking midfielder from the Cobham academy. Currently a member of the club’s reserve team, Livramento made the U-23 squad as a 17-year-old last year. His composure on the ball coupled with a desire to create all the time has turned him into one of the most exciting players to watch in the next 5 years.
The club have reportedly decided not to send the player out on loan because they feel that he can definitely make a difference in the development squad of the club while a run-out in the senior team can also not be ruled out. Thomas Tuchel has not had a chance to look at the academy talent closely as of yet, but it is pretty clear to the coaches of the youth-set up that Livramento will surely make a name for himself soon while Thomas Tuchel will also be willing to see the talent of the individual over the next month.
6) Malang Sarr:
Quite possibly the only player who could actually start for the first team next season, Malang Sarr was one of Chelsea’s 8 transfer acquisitions last summer. With Lampard starting with a back four last season, it was never going to be possible for Sarr to have his breakout season last year, and the Blues sent the player out on loan to Porto. Although Sarr made only 8 Liga Nos appearances, he made 6 Champions League appearances for the Portuguese club, who ironically enough, were eliminated by Chelsea in the quarter-finals, something Sarr could not appear for because of the loan regulations.
Sarr is tall, strong, and can play with the ball on the ground while his speed and physicality are perfect for the Premier League. Now, with a back three under Tuchel, Chelsea need central defenders in their squad. Thiago Silva might only last for one more year, while Fikayo Tomori was also sold at the start of this season. Moreover, Chelsea do not have a left-footed center-back, and given that Sarr has already played a lot of top-flight football, this pre-season could be his first test under Tuchel to prove that he will be knocking on the door for a start next season.
7) Xavier Mbuyamba:
Touted be the next ‘Virgil Van Dijk’ by the coaches at former club Barcelona, Xavier Mbuyamba signed for Chelsea last season as he was excited by the project at hand. One of the most talented young central defenders around, Mbuyamba started his career in his home country in the Netherlands before Barcelona secured his services. His awareness, technical ability, and strength to go into tackles was impressive and it was no surprise why Chelsea signed him.
However, after his arrival in August last year, he suffered a knee injury and has since made only a couple of Premier League 2 appearances with the development squad. While Mbuyamba has recovered, it is still to be seen how fit the player is, and Tuchel will be taking a more cautious approach with the player during this pre-season.
8) Marc Guehi:
Yet another central defender in this list, Marc Guehi is a Chelsea boy through and through, and like a lot of players on this list, was sent out on loan last season. Guehi was possibly Swansea’s best defender last season, if not the best player in the squad. Atheltic; strong; and an incredible passing range– Guehi made 45 appearances for Swansea last season, which shows the trust of the club in the player while they also enquired about signing the player permanently, although Chelsea have been repeatedly adamant about keeping the player at the club.
Guehi could also become one of the players to benefit out of Tuchel’s 3 at the back formation as Chelsea can use all the help they need. The future of Chelsea’s backline, Guehi will be looking to impress Tuchel during this pre-season, something he has already done a lot of over the last couple of years.
9) Ethan Ampadu:
One of the more versatile players on the list, Ethan Ampadu made his breakthrough with Chelsea when he made a couple of FA Cup appearances in the 2017/18 season under Antonio Conte, a trophy the Blues went on to win that season. While he also made one Premier League appearance that season, Conte was sacked at the end of the season as Maurizio Sarri replaced him.
Sarri took gave Ampadu a bunch of opportunities in the club’s 2018/19 Europa League winning campaign but still could not make the cut as Chelsea changed managers again next season with Frank Lampard coming to the helm. The player was then loaned out to RB Leipzig, where he was impressive, although they could not guarantee him game-time for the next season. Thus, Ampadu was then loaned to Sheffield United for the 2020/21 season, but a poor string of performances have damaged his reputation slightly.
The Welsh international is supremely talented and can play at the heart of a 3 man defence as well as in a central midfield role. With Billy Gilmour leaving the club on loan this season, Ampadu could use the pre-season as an opportunity to prove to Thomas Tuchel that he can be the fourth midfielder for the club next season, which albeit a hard ask, could change with good performances over the next month.
10) Ruben Loftus-Cheek:
The player with the most appearances for Chelsea on the list, it feels like Loftus Cheek will be given one more chance to impress under a new manager at the club. Loftus Cheek was Chelsea’s breakout star in their disastrous 2015/16 campaign, but after a loan spell at Palace in the 2017/18 season, Loftus Cheek felt ready for a spot in the Chelsea team and he featured heavily in the club’s 2018/19 Europa League-winning campaign with the player also scoring crucial goals in the knockout stages. While Lampard also wanted to provide Loftus Cheek with opportunities, he was injured for a lot of the 19/20 season.
However, to everybody’s surprise, the Englishman started the first league game of the 2020/21 campaign, but he looked poor and was sent out on loan to Fulham. Not the most impressive player of the Cottagers, Loftus-Cheek still has a lot of untapped potentials, and the attacking midfielder will be hoping to rejuvenate his Chelsea career during this pre-season under new boss Thomas Tuchel.
While there might still be a couple of more players to look out for, Thomas Tuchel’s main attention after the senior team will be on this group, and given Chelsea’s needs in some areas, a couple of these players could be included in the club’s 25 men squad next season. This pre-season is going to be a crucial one, and should these players want to don the Chelsea badge, this is their time to perform.