The 2021/22 season can officially begin in west London with a steady stream of Blues stars returning to Cobham for pre-season across this week.
Some, but not all, of Chelsea’s first team stars will be returning to Cobham across this week as the 2021/22 season officially gets underway in west London.
It has been five weeks since the Blues lifted the Champions League trophy in Porto on that famous Saturday night in May as Thomas Tuchel’s side secured a second European crown thanks to a 1-0 victory over Manchester City.
But there has been no summer respite for 17 of Tuchel’s players as they were called up for their country to represent them at the EURO 2020 tournament. Seven of them are still away with their national team as the competition has reached the semi final stage.
Mason Mount, Reece James and Ben Chilwell remain with England as they prepare for a final four tie with Denmark and teammate Andreas Christensen.
In the other semi, Jorginho and Emerson of Italy will take on Blues skipper Cesar Azpilicueta and Spain.
In South America as well, Thiago Silva is away with Brazil after they reached the last four of the Copa America.
Those six will not return to pre-season until early August with players entitled to at least an uninterrupted three-week break between seasons. At a time when there has been little respite from football since June 2020 and Project Restart, those 21 days will be crucial.
Those who were not called up for the country, returning loanees and a crop of youngsters will be back at Cobham across the coming days as Tuchel plots an assault on the Premier League title next season, fresh of penning a two-year contract extension earlier this summer following the Champions League success.
Football.London has already revealed the youngsters who will be back and some of the loanees too, with Tuchel keen to give every player who he hasn’t seen in action since he arrived at the club in January a chance to prove themselves.
So, on the first day of pre-season where a lot of tests will be done to ensure the players have kept themselves right over the break, what will be in Tuchel’s in-tray in his manager’s office?
Assessing the loanees
The likes of Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Davide Zappacosta, Ross Barkley, Danny Drinkwater, Tiemoue Bakayoko and Malang Sarr are all expected to be back at Cobham.
Tuchel is expected to give them the training sessions and pre-season friendlies, likely to be in Ireland, to run the rule over who he keeps with his first team squad and who could either be loaned out again or sold.
Zappacosta and Bakayoko are out of contract at the club this time next year, Barkley’s expires the year after while Loftus-Cheek and Sarr have long-term deals.
It may be the last chance for Loftus-Cheek to force his way in at Chelsea after his devastating achilles injury two years ago, whereas for Sarr he was always one for the future.
Tuchel won’t learn a lot about those players on day one of pre-season but he will get to finally meet them at the very least and, being the deep thinker that he is, work out what their aspirations are for 2021/22.
Likewise the youngsters
Football.Londonexclusively revealed ten days ago that the likes of Connor Gallagher, Xavier Mbuyamba, Trevoh Chalobah, Dujon Sterling, Marc Guehi and Armando Broja will all be given the chance to impress Tuchel in pre-season with numbers, initially, thin on the ground.
Billy Gilmour has already departed the club on-loan for Norwich City and Levi Colwill has joined Huddersfield Town for the campaign.
Such is the confidence Tuchel has earned from the club’s hierarchy since the Champions League win, he is being trusted to run the rule over the players before any transfer decisions are made.
Cobham has been a breeding ground of some incredibly talented youngsters over the past decade and with Tuchel at the helm, they will be given the chance to impress once again.
Tests, tests and tests
There will be a little bit of fitness work and ball work at Cobham this week but a lot of day one especially will involve plenty of tests for the players.
It will mainly be fitness tests to make sure the players have returned in good nick to then get out onto the training pitches, while all the players will have ECG scans on their hearts after the traumatic cardiac arrest suffered by Christian Eriksen at the Euros.
Then there will likely be some very, very light training sessions to ease the players back into things after five weeks off.
Things have been very quiet on the transfer front for Chelsea so far this summer, unsurprisingly.
The Blues didn’t submit an offer for Achraf Hakimi despite reports claiming the contrary and any business was never going to be done until after the Euros in any case.
But with Tuchel now back at work, perhaps the work on transfers will ramp up, especially with the Euros coming to a close this weekend.
The 47-year-old, as previously mentioned, is expected to run the rule over the returning players first before looking at potential incomings and outgoings, but it is no secret the German is still looking to sign a striker at the very least this summer.