5 Ways Chelsea Could Line Up in Defence During the 2020/21 Season

Nischal Schwager-Patel
Chelsea manager Frank Lampard.
Chelsea manager Frank Lampard. / Matthias Hangst/Getty Images

Something very special is happening at Chelsea Football Club. An exceptional transfer window is getting better day by day, with four signings alone coming through the doors at Stamford Bridge in the last week.

Having already signed Hakim Ziyech and Timo Werner, the Blues bought in Ben Chilwell and Thiago Silva to hugely bolster their defence. For a team who conceded 54 goals - their worst league tally in 23 years - last season, it is exactly what they needed to improve and move forward under Lampard.

Lampard now has a surplus of defenders at his disposal, and while some look set to move on, he'll have plenty of players to work with. He has options galore for a back four and back three, putting Chelsea in strong position to push on and potentially challenge for the Premier League.

1. Azpilicueta - Silva - Zouma - Chilwell

New Chelsea signing Ben Chilwell in action for Leicester City last season.
New Chelsea signing Ben Chilwell in action for Leicester City last season. / Malcolm Couzens/Getty Images

Of all the backline options Chelsea have, this is by far their strongest. Integrating their new recruits with their best defenders, it is a no brainer to deploy this back four for must-win games - of which there will definitely be many during the upcoming season.

Keeping captain César Azpilicueta at right-back is crucial, as well as maintaining his rightful status as skipper. Chilwell will instantly be Lampard’s first choice on the left, though may need time to settle in and find his feet at Stamford Bridge.

Silva is the obvious selection, which leaves Kurt Zouma as his lucky partner. The Frenchman was the Blues’ best centre-back in a tumultuous campaign, and with the quality shown and potential he has, Zouma can really grow into a top defender alongside his new Brazilian counterpart.

2. James - Christensen - Zouma - Azpilicueta

Chelsea captain César Azpilicueta playing in the FA Cup Semi-Final.
Chelsea captain César Azpilicueta playing in the FA Cup Semi-Final. / Chris Lee - Chelsea FC/Getty Images

When Lampard is in need of more defensive stability Azpilicueta can put in a solid shift at left-back. He can continue to play there when needed in Chilwell’s absence, opening up his favoured position for the promising Reece James.

James will face even sterner competition to solidify his starting spot, but when he was given the chance last season, he was superb. When Silva needs to be rested - after all, he turns 36 in September - Zouma can remain and see one of his former partnerships restored.

Fikayo Tomori could come in, but with rumours that he will be loaned out for the 2020/21 season, Andreas Christensen may start as third choice. Christensen and Zouma created a bittersweet partnership last season, but it may be worth another go.

3. James - Tomori - Silva - Alonso

New signing Thiago Silva on the pitch with Paris Saint-Germain.
New signing Thiago Silva on the pitch with Paris Saint-Germain. / Soccrates Images/Getty Images

If Tomori remains in the first-team setup, a few games alongside Silva would be hugely beneficial for him.

Whether it is for rotation, tactics or due to an injury, no Azpilicueta again paves the way for James to start at right-back. It would also open the door to Alonso, who has a real point to prove now that Chilwell has arrived to seize his spot on the left flank.

Alonso is a good choice to give Chelsea that extra attacking edge, though it is more likely that the Spaniard will be reserved for when a back three and he can play as a LWB.

4. Azpilicueta - Silva - Zouma

Chelsea's Kurt Zouma.
Chelsea's Kurt Zouma. / Craig Mercer/MB Media/Getty Images

Chelsea will continue to turn to a back three when necessary, a setup which saw the Blues secure some of the finest results of their season in 2019/20. Azpilicueta played a key part in holding them together, but alongside Silva they could become even more formidable.

With the captain staying on the right side of defence, Silva is the ideal choice to start at the heart of the backline.

The debate restarts on which remaining centre-back is the go-to man, but the selection stays the same. Zouma was always superb when playing in a back three, and that should be no different for the new season should Lampard need to revert to a back three.

5. Zouma - Silva - Rüdiger

Chelsea's Antonio Rüdiger.
Chelsea's Antonio Rüdiger. / Marc Atkins/Getty Images

Where does Antonio Rüdiger’s future at Stamford Bridge lie? The addition of Silva puts the German in peril, and in a season where he lost his starting spot on several occasions, his best opportunity may be in a back three when Chelsea are rotating their squad.

In another instance of Azpilicueta’s possible absence, Silva will comfortably fill in with the captain’s armband. Zouma’s partnership with the Brazilian could be formidable, but it will be interesting to see how they operate with Rüdiger on the left.

Whether he would strengthen or weaken the back three is debatable, with a mixed bag of performances when playing with Zouma. Defensive dilemmas certainly exist in west London, but with two excellent signings coming in, it is a newfound dilemma worth deliberating over for Lampard.

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