As the longest and strangest Premier League season is at last put to bed, the big clubs are already dreaming of what the next one might hold. There will be a few nightmares, too, if games continue to be played in empty stadiums amid a surge of new coronavirus cases.
The new campaign is set to start on Sept. 12. In other words, the break is only six weeks and even shorter for clubs still engaged in European club competitions. Chelsea‘s interest in the Champions League is likely to end on Friday when they meet Bayern Munich trailing 3-0 from the first leg of their round-of-16 tie, but the two Manchester clubs and Wolves may be involved until late August.
Meanwhile, Liverpool are due to play Arsenal in the Community Shield on the 29th, though the champions’ participation was mysteriously not confirmed in a Football Association press release last week.
Amid all this, the transfer window is open until early October. Nobody can be sure how cash flow problems caused by the pandemic might impact the market, but it looks like a bad time for all but the richest clubs to break the bank.
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Chelsea have been quickest off the mark with early deals for Hakim Ziyech, a noted creator at Ajax coming in off the right wing, and Timo Werner, the speedy and prolific RB Leipzig striker. Kai Havertz, Bayer Leverkusen‘s highly regarded attacking midfielder, also looks set to sign at Stamford Bridge.
That gives manager Frank Lampard an embarrassment of riches in attacking areas, with the new men competing alongside Christian Pulisic, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Olivier Giroud, Tammy Abraham and Mason Mount. Michy Batshuayi is still at the club, though surely available for transfer. Pedro is Roma-bound and there is uncertainty over Willian, who is out of contract and seems disinclined to sign a new one.
Yet Chelsea’s problems are in defence. They conceded 54 goals in the league, as many as 15th-placed Brighton, which is why the pursuit of Declan Rice is so important. The England international is usually deployed as a holding midfielder by West Ham, but is also regarded as their best centre-back and that is where Chelsea may use him. He will not come cheap, though; expect West Ham to play hardball. Lampard also wants England left back Ben Chilwell of Leicester
And Chelsea are in the market for a new goalkeeper. Lampard has been unimpressed with both the form and attitude of Kepa Arrizabalaga, so his omission for the FA Cup final was no surprise. Burnley‘s Nick Pope, who has been superb this season, would be a good idea at an affordable price.