The expected position of the Guardian Book: Third (note: this is not necessarily Jacob Steinberg’s prediction but the average advice for our writers)
Last season center: The fourth
Odds of winning the league (via Oddschecker): 11-1
Chelsea’s generous take is not to be in a hurry. Although they have made impressive strides under Frank Lampard, they are unlikely to be strong enough to defend themselves for the title challenge this season. Inconsistency remains an issue, and given that Lampard is still learning about his trade as a manager, there should be quite a few stumbling blocks from this entertaining but infrequent aspect.
The transition period is not over yet. Chelsea’s performance was higher than expectations last season, as it qualified for the Champions League despite having to deal with the transfer ban, and work is still in progress.
Lampard saw the best and worst of Chelsea in recent weeks with an encouraging campaign for the first time. While Chelsea were effective when they finished fourth with a 2-0 win over Wolverhampton on the last day, they were in disarray when they lost the FA Cup Final to Arsenal the following weekend and seemed far from being able to challenge the elite when Bayern crushed them in Munich in The round of 16 of the Champions League. “We missed the suspension as other clubs spent it,” Lampard said after losing 7-1 on aggregate to Bayern Munich. “I know where we can develop.”
The obvious place to start is in defense, especially as Chelsea have sharpened their attack with Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech and are preparing to add Kai Havertz. Lampard’s side conceded 54 league goals last season, their worst record since the 1996-1997 season. They made a lot of single blunders, suffered set pieces and were vulnerable to counterattacks.
Part of it belongs to the employees. Lampard does not trust Kepa Arizabalaga, the world’s most expensive goalkeeper, and has been cut and swapped between Antonio Rudiger, Kurt Zuma, Ficayo Tomori and Andreas Christensen at the center of the defense. Thiago Silva was signed to bolster his strength there but he turns 36 in September and the Premier League may not be easy. César Azpilicueta can struggle against speed and right-back Spaniard’s deputy, Reece James, is inexperienced. The hope is that Ben Chilwell will solve the left-back problem.
Lampard is right to point out that N’Golo Kante, the world’s best defensive midfielder, was rarely available to protect the four defenders. The opponents found it very easy to run across midfield when Kante was not next to Matteo Kovacic. Although Jorginho offers calm on the ball, there are times when the Italian midfielder seems so heavy that it is difficult to thrive in England.
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