The 2020/21 campaign is likely to be a crucial one for Frank Lampard.
Although he seems to have benefitted from the goodwill of the Chelsea fans during his opening campaign at the helm, the Blues need to be winning trophies again, and arguably that’s what their former midfielder will be judged on in the long run.
It’s imperative that the club have a good transfer window, whenever that may be in the summer, and with three quality additions, they could be up there challenging for the top prizes again with the Evening Standard noting that the Chelsea boss is expected to be backed in the transfer window with a big budget.
Lampard, of course, has other decisions to make too, in terms of how to shape his squad.
A new goalkeeper would appear to be the most pressing need, and to that end, acquiring Jan Oblak from Atletico Madrid would give them the security they need.
With a release clause of €120m per MARCA, it’s a transfer at the top end of the scale in financial terms, but you can’t argue with his form over the last few seasons.
He remains on course for a fifth consecutive Zamora award, given in Spain for the goalkeeper that lets in the least amount of goals during a La Liga season.
Popular opinion would surely suggest that he’s a significant upgrade on current custodian Kepa Arrizabalaga, while the Express have suggested that the Spaniard could even be offered as part of a package to prise Oblak away from Madrid.
In Lampard’s back four, it’s difficult to see the experienced Cesar Azpilicueta being dislodged from the right-back berth.
Antonio Rudiger’s physical qualities should see him retain one of the central defensive places with Kurt Zouma and Fikayo Tomori battling it out for the other.
Another change comes at left-back. Marcos Alonso has done well enough, but the signing of Ben Chilwell from Leicester City would give Lampard more mobility and options down that side.
Chilwell is as comfortable in a back four as he is in a three, or even a five-man back line where he can be utilised as a wing back as needed, but Chelsea may well have to dig deep into their pockets if they want the England international as The Sun have suggested that Leicester will demand up to £80m for him.
One of the biggest conundrums for the manager is in central midfield.
Young Billy Gilmour has come in and looked like he’s played there for years. His poise, authority and calmness in possession belies that fact he’s just 18 and has only recently been handed a first-team debut.
Can Lampard really afford to leave out N’Golo Kante in his place, however?
Ross Barkley and Mason Mount on either side of a midfield three ensures creativity, invention, physicality and a solid work ethic. Both clearly enjoy the responsibility that Lampard has placed on their shoulders, and in 2019/20 they have repaid him with some high-quality performances.
Once fit, Tammy Abraham has to start in the No.9 role. Still learning his craft, the 22-year-old has already proved what a handful he is, and it’s beyond doubt that he’s good enough to be the Blues’ main man up front.
It’s been an age since Callum Hudson-Odoi has been in the first-team picture, though the 19-year-old always acquitted himself well when called upon. It’s about time he was given more regular employment on the left-hand-side of a front three.
Which just leaves the right wing. On the basis of cost (Crystal Palace want £80m according to Sky Sports) and availability, the Eagles’ lightning-quick Wilfried Zaha is a decent choice to replace Willian, who, for all of his attributes, is getting no younger and will be 32 by the time next season begins.
As per the Daily Star, Chelsea have been credited with an interest in Zaha, but it remains to be seen if he is the priority this summer for Lampard.
However, it’s difficult to see Hakim Ziyech not being first choice there, particularly as the 26-year-old has already signed and told the official Chelsea club website that he was “delighted and proud to have signed for such a huge club as Chelsea. I am looking forward to next season and hope we can achieve great things together.”
That said, Chelsea have also been paired with a £120m move for Jadon Sancho, as per the Standard, and so bolstering their options in the wide areas is perhaps still on the agenda.
Possible Chelsea XI next season: Oblak; Azpilicueta, Zouma, Rudiger, Chilwell; Barkley, Kante, Mount; Zaha, Abraham, Hudson-Odoi.