Assessing Thomas Tuchel’s biggest Chelsea headache ahead of Crystal Palace opener
When it comes to strength in depth, it is fair to say that Chelsea have a fair bit of it, especially in defence and midfield.
Up front is an area that needs to be reinforced this summer and as we understands, that will be the priority area for Thomas Tuchel to strengthen as he has been linked with moves for Erling Haaland among a plethora of strikers.
But it is further back, especially in defence, where Tuchel has a lot of talent at his disposal and where he arguably has the biggest headaches when it comes to selection.
The German head coach has allowed one of his centre backs to depart this summer, that being Fikayo Tomori who has joined AC Milan permanently after a very successful six-month loan spell at the San Siro last season.
But even after the academy graduate’s sale to Italy, Tuchel is still blessed with a wealth of options at the centre of his defence.
A lot will be dictated on the tactics that the head coach employs next season. Tuchel immediately brought in what was effectively a 5-2-3 formation as soon as he replaced Frank Lampard in January.
Whether Tuchel stick with that this season or goes to a flat back four, we don’t know and all will be revealed when he names his first starting eleven of the new season against Crystal Palace on August 14, perhaps even before that for the Super Cup final three days prior.
One thing is for sure though, Tuchel will have a bit of a headache and here, we explore who is in the frame, who might miss out and who could be a surprise selection.
It is hard to see Chelsea not lining up without Cesar Azpilicueta, Andreas Christensen and Antonio Rudiger for their first game of the new season.
Rudiger’s Euros with Germany ended at the last 16 stage while Christensen and Azpilicueta both reached the semi’s with Spain and Denmark respectively.
The latter two will not have had a lot of time to get back into the swing of things following their exertions this summer with their country as both of them are not likely to report back to Cobham until early August.
Thiago Silva is the same as he reached the final of the Copa America with Brazil and with his 36 year-old legs carrying him, might be given more time to recover by Tuchel.
Rudiger is almost a dead cert to start the first game against Palace despite his ongoing contract stand-off but adding in the amount of rest that other players will need, their age and their form from last season, it is arguably on the German that, right now, can almost be guaranteed a place.
Reece James was deployed as a right sided centre back in the latter stages of the season and having not played too many minutes for England at the Euros, could come into the equation as well.
Who is looking in?
Kurt Zouma has been linked in a few reports with a move away from Chelsea but unless he forces it through it doesn’t seem likely that Tuchel will allow the Frenchman to go.
He was away with his country this summer but didn’t see a lot of game time and France were knocked out in the last 16 so he will have had a couple of more weeks extra rest which could put him in the frame for the Palace game.
Zouma made only seven Premier League starts under Tuchel since the German arrived to replace Frank Lampard, having very much been a regular for the club-record goalscorer when he was in charge.