Chelsea’s “extraordinary” transfer window business has brought a wow factor to Frank Lampard’s side, according to Pat Nevin.
The Blues boss has spent around £200m in the close season, with German international duo Kai Havertz and Timo Werner, winger Hakim Ziyech, and defenders Thiago Silva and Ben Chilwell all arriving.
And with young talent including Reece James, Mason Mount, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Christian Pulisic and Tammy Abraham already at the club, former Chelsea winger Nevin says 2020-21 promises to be a season to remember.
“It is one of the most exciting pre-seasons we have had in a decade or two and that is saying something considering we have had some amazing teams and great players and great signings,” Nevin told West London Sport.
“But looking at what has been brought in, and adding that to what we have already got at the club and the general age, and you can imagine the team in three years.
“There’s Kai Havertz who will be even better than he is just now and he is already amazing.
“Timo Werner, who will be at the peak of his career, Christian Pulisic who can be one of the best players in the world.
“You have Tammy Abraham, you have Mason Mount, you have Callum Hudson-Odoi, Reece James and so on and you think ‘Wow, that is some side’.
“You have Hakim Ziyech coming in and others. The group of young players and what Frank has put together is spectacular.
“There are still one or two gaps, but you don’t build everything in one year; have a look at Liverpool, have a look at Manchester City and it took a while. This build over the summer is extraordinary and I am very, very excited to see them play.”
The defensive issues of last season, which saw the Blues concede 54 goals in 38 Premier League matches, are the main area of concern and must be addressed, Nevin admitted.
But the signing of veteran centre-back Thiago Silva goes a long way way to helping in the short term.
And Nevin also says the Brazilian’s presence as one of the best defenders of his generation – and a leader in the John Terry mould – will help settle goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga, who came in for a lot of criticism last season.
The main focus, however, remains on the attacking talents at Lampard’s disposal this season – and how the Chelsea boss manages to integrate the new arrivals with the players who served him so well last term.
“They are very modern. When you buy a player everyone wants to know how they play and where they play,” Nevin added.
Lampard’s selection conundrum
“Werner can play anywhere across the front, Pulisic can play anywhere across the front, Havertz can play anywhere across the front. It doesn’t seem to matter to them; they are so adaptable so it gives you so many options.
“Havertz is such a natural goalscorer with a brilliant ability to arrive quite late into those danger areas, a bit like Frank.
“He is not coming from as deep as Frank, but from a wide area a lot of the time, but he always seems to arrive in the right area and he also, stunningly, slows down in the danger area. Only the best strikers do that.
“He’s left-footed, good in the air but good with his right foot. He has good vision, is creative as well and loves to get in goalscoring positions and seems to do it does naturally.
“Timo Werner is much more of a direct goalscorer but he is not just that. He can play all ways. That’s what’s so good about German football, it’s like the Dutch method, where you are probably expected to be able to play in at three positions. They are both like that.
“And if you asked them their favourite positions, I don’t think they could tell you because they are so comfortable in all of them.
“What Chelsea fans want to know is who’s going start and who is going to play where?
“Where do you fit Ziyech in? Does he play on the left and you ask Pulisic to play as a 10.
“But you could also do it the other way around. They all do different things in all different positions and it gives Frank a multitude of options.
“But on top of that he also has Tammy Abraham and Mason Mount and Callum Hudson-Odoi. It’s a really exciting time.”
And Nevin is in no doubt Lampard will be treating everyone the same, big-money signing or academy graduate – it makes no odds to Chelsea’s record goalscorer.
“I am not an elitist in any area of my life except when on the football field; you have to be good enough,” said Nevin, who played for Chelsea for five years from 1983-1988. “It doesn’t matter where you come from.
“It doesn’t matter if you came from the academy, if you are English or Scottish or Welsh, Brazilian or German, you have to be the best player for that position. That’s all that matters.
No time to sulk
“It sounds viciously hard and it hurts to say stuff like that but that is what sport is like.
“If you are Mason, Tammy or Callum and you are sitting there with your bottom lip out thinking, ‘why have we bought those players?’ then you are halfway to losing already. You have to think, ‘I can be better than them, I am better than them’.
“The great – and most important – thing that they have got is a manager that doesn’t care. If Tammy scores every week he will play.
“Frank doesn’t care. Have a look at what happened last season. Frank had a young player in Abraham and a World Cup-winning centre forward in Giroud. Who did he choose? He chose the youngster because he was the right guy for the job.
“Frank doesn’t think anything other than who is doing the best in training and who is looking the most likely to perform.
“And footballers absolutely love that, purely because they know it is on merit.
“If selection is based on players who are bought for X million then it ruins the spirit. Frank just doesn’t think that way.
“I can’t believe that people think the youngsters won’t get a chance. That is beyond me.
“The proof is there. Tammy and Mason were given chances, Billy Gilmour was chosen ahead of Jorginho, who is an incredible player.
“If they are selected, prove it. That’s competition. Frank has been so clear about that he dropped N’Golo Kante last season and he was seen by many as the best player in the world for a while.
“But Frank didn’t think he was the best player for the moment and some of the younger players got in ahead of him.
“I always look ahead when you buy people and that is why I am so excited with this group. Chelsea had the habit, for years and years, of just buying the finished product.
“They would go and buy a centre-forward or midfielder who had won World Cups or Champions League, but might be 32.
“This is different, hence the excitement. The group are young exuberant, vibrant and exciting. The only disappointment is that the fans cannot come to see it.”