For all of Chelsea’s huge transfers this summer, it poses some big questions for Frank Lampard. Who will make way in defence for Thiago Silva? Where do Tammy Abraham and Olivier Giroud fit into the Blues’ attack? Who will make up the midfield core?
That final question is the most difficult to answer, invoking a bittersweet dilemma for Lampard. Chelsea already had impressive depth with the perfect blend of senior experience and exciting youth, but with the long-awaited arrival of Kai Havertz on Friday, competition has got even tougher at Stamford Bridge.
Whichever set-up Chelsea choose this season, no-one has a guaranteed spot in the starting lineup. Havertz will be hardest to leave out, joining the Blues as one of Europe’s most promising young talents. But whether it is the defensive pivots, the central balance or the attacking force, Lampard is truly spoilt for choice.
Starting with Havertz, whose versatility is one of his most valuable traits. While he can play across the final third, he will most likely fit in as an attacking midfielder, in behind German compatriot Timo Werner and ahead of the key midfielders.
But where does that leave Mason Mount?
One of Chelsea’s players of the season, making more appearances than anyone else, has flourished as an attacking midfielder. While he is also versatile and can move across the pitch, competition out wide is just as harsh with the likes of Christian Pulisic and Hakim Ziyech hitting their stride.
Deciding between one of England and Germany’s most exciting youngsters will not be easy, but even if they play alongside each other in a midfield trio, it shifts the pressure across the pitch. It would be a real shame to see Mount forced to the bench, though Lampard will surely be keen to hold onto his Cobham starlet.
The rivalries extend to the senior players, and who should sit at the heart of midfield. The natural choice is Mateo Kovačić, Chelsea’s official player of the season. The Croatian really came into his element in an outstanding campaign - but even he must compete for his spot.
When fit, Kovačić could partner N’Golo Kanté, who struggled with injury throughout the season. He has been the subjects of intense links with Europe’s elite, with Real Madrid and Inter mentioned. Jorginho is also at peril of losing his place and being sold, with Juventus rumoured to be interested in the Italian.
Kovačić, Kanté and Jorginho can form a superb midfield trio, but they could all start the new season on the substitutes’ bench - or worse, on their way out of west London
That is not to mention Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Billy Gilmour, the British duo who had contrasting seasons. While Loftus-Cheek was sidelined for 13 months and began to find his way back onto the pitch, Gilmour had a breakthrough season before picking up a costly injury himself. Will the pair even get a chance next season?
Chelsea have an excess of reliable options, but it could drive important players out of the club. It is hard to imagine a player like Kovačić or Jorginho being content as a rotating player, sitting on the bench watching the Blues storm through with their midfield gems.
That begs the question: which midfielders will leave Chelsea?
Ross Barkley is certainly a player at risk as he moves further down the pecking order with Havertz’s arrival. Tiemoué Bakayoko is on the verge of joining Milan on a new loan with an option to buy, a frankly long overdue switch. Danny Drinkwater has already been out on loan twice, not playing in blue since August 2018.
Of the current active crop, Jorginho and Kanté could leave Chelsea if they receive the right offers. Both players have a good few years left before entering the twilight of their careers, and moving on from the Premier League could be the key to continue playing guaranteed first-team football.
Lampard has some big decisions to make, and with their season starting on 14 September and the transfer window closing on 5 October, there is little time left. Any of his midfield options could be regulars, bench warmers or incoming sales, and with the pressure on to perform, the time to make a decision is now.