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Chelsea 2022-23 season preview - prediction, summer signings, star player

:Headline: Chelsea 2022-23 season preview - prediction, summer signings, star player:
Sports Mole takes an in-depth look ahead to Chelsea's 2022-23 campaign, including predictions, summer signings and their star player.
Sports Mole

Whenever a manager or head coach is appointed at Chelsea, it comes with the remit of delivering trophies in the short and long term. At least it used to under the previous ownership.

While that will remain the case to a certain extent under Todd Boehly, the owner may be more forgiving if Thomas Tuchel does not continue his previous progress with what remains a Chelsea squad full of quality.

Acquiring high-profile transfer targets - some efforts proving more successful than others - has dominated the headlines emerging out of Stamford Bridge in recent weeks, yet another distraction when it comes to Tuchel's players performing to the best of their ability.

At some point, there is hope and expectation that the dust will eventually settle with numerous more fresh faces coming through the door to join the likes of Kalidou Koulibaly and Raheem Sterling.

For now, however, Tuchel must try to ensure that Chelsea do more than merely tread water during the opening weeks, a slow start having the potential to prove decisive when it comes to challenging the likes of Manchester City and Liverpool for the Premier League title.

Having only ended last season with the UEFA Super Cup and Club World Cup to their name, Sports Mole takes a look at Chelsea's upcoming campaign, their 34th in a row in the top tier of English football.


FIXTURES

Chelsea renew acquaintances with Frank Lampard on the opening day of the season with the Blues making the trip to Goodison Park to square off against the Toffees.

A difficult month continues with games against Tottenham Hotspur, Leeds United and Leicester City, with meetings with West Ham United and Liverpool to follow in September.

Ahead of the World Cup, Chelsea play home fixtures with Manchester United and Arsenal, with their first encounter with Manchester City taking place at Stamford Bridge on January 2.

A trip to Liverpool is scheduled to follow 19 days later, with fellow visits to West Ham and Spurs to come before the end of February.

Tuchel will feel hard done by when assessing his team's run-in with three of Chelsea's final seven games being at Man United, Arsenal and Man City before a closing fixture against Newcastle United.

> Click here to see all of Chelsea's 2022-23 fixtures


SUMMER SIGNINGS

In
Raheem Sterling (£50m, Manchester City)
Kalidou Koulibaly (£34.2m, Napoli)

Out
Antonio Rudiger (free, Real Madrid)
Charly Musonda (released)
Danny Drinkwater (released)
Jake Clarke-Salter (free, Queens Park Rangers)
Lucas Bergstrom (loan, Peterborough United)
Andreas Christensen (free, Barcelona)
Sam McClelland (loan, Barrow)
Romelu Lukaku (loan, Inter Milan)
Nathan Baxter (loan, Hull City)
Jamie Cumming (loan, MK Dons)
Ian Maatsen (loan, Burnley)
Tino Anjorin (loan, Huddersfield Town)
Henry Lawrence (loan, MK Dons)

Total spent to date: £84.2m
Total received to date: £0m

Net transfer balance: £84.2m


SQUAD

Goalkeepers: Edouard Mendy, Kepa Arrizabalaga, Marcus Bettinelli

Defenders: Kalidou Koulibaly, Trevoh Chalobah, Ethan Ampadu, Malang Sarr, Thiago Silva, Ben Chilwell, Emerson Palmieri, Marcos Alonso, Reece James, Cesar Azpilicueta

Midfielders: Jorginho, N'Golo Kante, Mateo Kovacic, Conor Gallagher, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Billy Gilmour, Ross Barkley, Kenedy, Mason Mount

Forwards: Kai Havertz, Hakim Ziyech, Raheem Sterling, Christian Pulisic, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Timo Werner, Armando Broja, Michy Batshuayi


STRONGEST XI


STAR PLAYER - Mason Mount

After the signings of Koulibaly and Sterling, there is an argument that either of the duo could emerge as Chelsea's key man this season. You could also say - with plenty of justification - that Chelsea are a much stronger side when Reece James is being deployed down the right-hand side in a wing-back role.

However, Mason Mount's numbers from last season and overall growing influence on his squad cannot be disputed. The academy graduate offers so much more than assists and numbers, but if his statistics continue to match or exceed his passion for his boyhood club, Mount should always be one of the first names on the teamsheet.

The 23-year-old, who also participated in 53 club fixtures during 2021-22, chipped in 11 goals and 10 assists in the Premier League, by far the most productive campaign of his career, and a brighter light was shone on his importance through many of his fellow creators and attackers struggling for any kind of consistency.

Up until now, we have witnessed Mount excel in a team which has missed a ruthlessness and longevity over the course of the season, and it will be intriguing to see if he can maintain his previous high levels with a greater rivalry for positions in the final third.


MANAGER - Thomas Tuchel

Thomas Tuchel could not have been in a stronger position at Chelsea after delivering the Champions League title in 2021, the Blues feeling that they had shortened the gap between themselves and the top two teams in English football.

However, while it would be an exaggeration to say that the German's position at Stamford Bridge has weakened, he finds himself preparing for what feels like a crucial year. A team like Chelsea will always demand trophies, regardless of who the owners are, and Tuchel will be aware that any tinkering that he attempts to enforce with regards to mindset and performances at either end of the pitch will need to produce results in the short and long term.

Nevertheless, Tuchel will also be relishing having more control over transfers at Stamford Bridge, even if it means more pressure being placed on his shoulders. With a month of the transfer window remaining, there is every reason to think that more changes will be made to the senior group, and Tuchel will need to show that he can deliver with more of his chosen personnel at his disposal.

As of right now, delivering the Champions League, UEFA Super Cup and Club World Cup are feathers in his cap, but Tuchel must show that Chelsea have the potential to challenge Manchester City and Liverpool for the top-flight crown.


LAST SEASON - Third

Where to start? Everyone associated with Chelsea will be hoping that they never have to face another season like 2021-22 with regards to off-the-field matters. As a result of Russia's military invasion of Ukraine, owner Roman Abramovich had his assets frozen and sanctions were placed on the club, preventing them from renewing contracts and generating any notable revenue on a day-to-day basis.

On the pitch, it was one of Chelsea's most exhausting seasons in recent memory. A third-placed finish in the Premier League was as good as they could have hoped for given their schedule and the sheer relentlessness of the two teams above them, but that is not to say that a 19-point deficit to Man City should be brushed under the table.

Chelsea drew too many games at Stamford Bridge and struggled for consistency, and they were fortunate to hang onto third given how Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal both improved significantly during the run-in. Nevertheless, in the circumstances, a return of 74 points from 38 games was respectable enough, and laid the foundations for the upcoming year.

The West Londoners also featured in as many as five cup competitions, beginning the campaign with a UEFA Super Cup triumph over Villarreal on penalties. Global glory followed in February as Chelsea captured the Club World Cup in the Middle East, Kai Havertz scoring a late spot kick in extra time to earn his side a 2-1 victory over Palmeiras.

In the other three competitions, it was a case of so close yet so far. Chelsea reached the quarter-final stage of the Champions League and were well on their way to pulling back one of their greatest European successes as they led 3-0 in the Bernabeu against Real Madrid, moving 4-3 ahead of aggregate, only for Los Blancos to survive through sheer class and character after finding themselves trailing for the first time in the tie.

Chelsea reached the final of both of the EFL Cup and FA Cup, only to lose to Liverpool in a penalty shootout on both occasions. As we have already alluded to, a habit of wasting clear-cut chances cost Chelsea dear in each game at Wembley Stadium, even if you could make the same argument for Liverpool before they held their nerve from 12 yards. Still, these defeats hurt Chelsea, and made it difficult to reach a definitive conclusion over whether the campaign had been positive or not.


PREDICTION

As with every season, Chelsea fans will hope that this is a campaign where they can challenge for the Premier League and silverware in other competitions. With the quality and squad depth that Tuchel has at his disposal, there cannot really be any excuses if they come up as short in the top flight as they did in 2021-22.

However, there also needs to be some realism with regards to expectations. Man City, in particular, and Liverpool have the potential to be stronger than they were during the most recent season, whereas Chelsea have lost two first-choice centre-backs, a club-record signing and head into the season with doubts over several more of their players, whether that be regarding their desire to move elsewhere or their age.

While those scenarios will naturally resolve themselves, they are certainly not helpful at a time when Chelsea need to at least keep pace at the top during the early weeks. Games against Everton, Spurs and Leeds United - two of those games being away from home - do not represent the easiest of starts, and Tuchel will be hoping that his players can hit the ground running. It could make or break their season.

Nevertheless, even with the additions of Koulibaly and Sterling, Chelsea feel a year or two behind City and Liverpool in terms of squad development, and it would be deemed a monumental surprise if they were able to oust the top two who appear to be at the peak of their powers. Champions League qualification is far from a foregone conclusion, and supporters should be content with another third place if their team can deliver that position over the coming season.

VERDICT: 3rd


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