Preseason friendlies have ended for Chelsea . The club completed the US portion of their preseason tour by playing three matches against Liverpool, Real Madrid, and AC Milan before flying to Germany to face Werder Bremen. The International Champions Cup especially provided a good analysis for Conte (and the fans) on the strengths and weaknesses of the squad before the start of the season. It was helpful to see how the Blues played against stronger clubs after spending time in Austria.
Chelsea beat fellow Premier League club Liverpool 1-0 thanks to a Gary Cahill header from a corner kick. The goal came early and from there Chelsea seemed to sacrifice possession and let Liverpool have the majority of the ball. Although they had 65% possession, Liverpool couldn’t muster too many attacks. Chelsea were very good without the ball and seemed very defensively sound. It’s worth noting that some key players did not participate, especially in attack (Costa and Hazard). Ruben Loftus-Cheek started up front as Conte tries to mold him into a forward. I, for one, don’t think Loftus-Cheek has much to offer going forward. That was more evident in the following game as he seemed to fade away completely.
Chelsea’s next game was against Champions League winners Real Madrid. The weaknesses in the squad were much more noticeable as Real Madrid took a 3-0 lead. They easily cut through our defense time and time again. Chelsea wasn’t good with or without the ball for the first half and Conte made note of that after the match. Once Real Madrid took a more youthful approach during the second half, Chelsea began to attack better. Chelsea subbed in Batshuayi, Cuadrado, Hazard, and Moses in the second half and that attack looked much more dangerous. Hazard rounded the keeper twice and scored to spare us some blushes with a more respectable 3-2 loss but there was still much to do. I’d like to point out that Chalobah played exceptionally well and is forcing his way into Conte’s plans. His passing was quality and many can agree that he should stay with the first team this season.
Chelsea’s last game was against AC Milan. This was a game I wholeheartedly expected Chelsea to prosper in and they came out as 3-1 winners. Chelsea were making more of their attacks early on as Moses’s shot was parried for Traore to score in an open net. After a superb freekick from Milan’s Bonaventura and the second half started, it was all Chelsea from there. N’Golo Kante made his debut for the Blues and Conte seemed to switch his tactics, opting with a 4-1-4-1 formation. This formation appeared to suit Chelsea better as the squad dominated proceedings. Oscar scored the final two goals and many of the players looked sharp as the tour of the US ended.
Chelsea traveled to Germany for their final preseason friendly against Werder Bremen, who humbled Chelsea in preseason two years prior. Conte started with the same formation that Chelsea ended with against AC Milan. It paid off early on as Hazard and Oscar scored before ten minutes. After a Matic tackle conceded a penalty that former Blue Claudio Pizarro scored, Hazard dribbled his way through defenders and found Costa who in turn found the back of the net, giving Chelsea a 3-1 halftime lead. The second half was much quieter. Bremen pulled another one back through Thy and they continued to attack Chelsea’s back line, pulling defenders out of position regularly. Kante, who received his first start, had the task of shielding this defense and by all accounts he did a good job but there’s only so much he can do. The substitutions started coming and Chelsea’s final goal was a well worked passing effort involving Fabregas, Batshuayi, and Pedro the goalscorer. Chelsea’s final game ended 4-2 and they finished preseason with 5 wins and 2 losses, much better than last year’s preseason.
Final thoughts before the start of the season: I favor utilizing a 4-1-4-1 instead of a 4-2-4, strengthening our defense is the #1 priority before the transfer window closes, youth products (Aina, Chalobah, Traore) should be trusted this season, Loftus-Cheek shouldn’t play up top, and I’d rather see what the likes of Batshuayi and Traore can do up front before we spend a huge amount of money to get Lukaku back.
Let the season begin!