Now that the Premier League is set to return from its international break, Chelsea will be tasked with answering a pivotal question: How should they build out their starting lineup moving forward?
Many may think this is an immaterial inquiry. Chelsea sits atop the Premier League standings and is favored by many vegas online sportsbooks to win the 2021-22 title. But making sound adjustments over the course of the season is part and parcel of any championship push. And there is no more important decision to make than assembling the starting unit.
Though it can be tweaked by the game and is subject to mid-match substitutions, the starting lineup represents the crux of every club’s attack. With so much on the line, on top of dealing with some injuries and healthy returns, Chelsea is no different from any other team over the rest of the year: They have to take a look at their unit and figure out if anything needs to be reassessed.
And with all that said, here’s how we believe Chelsea should flesh out the starting lineup in their games to come.
Goalkeeper: Edouard Mendy, Senegal
This should be seen largely as a non-decision.
Not only did Edouard Mendy play only one game for his native Senegal over the international break, ensuring he’s fresh for the stretch run, but he’s by far one of the most effective goalkeepers this season.
To wit: Through 10 appearances this season, Mendy has overseen six shutouts and saved over 80 percent of the shots that have come his way. Go ahead and say it: Whoa.
- Right Center Back: Cesar Azpilicueta, Spain
- Left Center Back: Antonio Rudiger, Germany
- Primary Center Back: Trevor Chalobah, England
There shouldn’t be any question for Chelsea at right center back. Cesar Azpilicueta is their captain. He gets the nod without hesitation.
Trevor Chalobah has not been an every-match player, so this is something of a dice roll. But he has done some nice things when called upon. He’s currently completing more than 50 percent of his attempted crackles, and he is always a threat to party-crash passing lanes.
Antonio Rudiger’s longstanding familiarity with playing Premier League defense wins out for the final spot. He may be someone Chelsea subs out mid-game, since his stamina is in question, but he’s played on too many winning teams in the past, as a starter, to bench frequently.
- Right: Reece James, England
- Left: Ben Chilwell, England
- Central: N’Golo Kante, France
- Central: Jorginho, Italy
Reece James is a shoo-in to start within this Chelsea setup. He has played capable defense all year and tallied four goals and three assists through eight domestic matches.
Ben Chilwell is just 24 years old and wasn’t too hot to start the year. But he really came on prior to the international break, establishing himself as one of Chelsea’s most consistent and feisty defenders.
Including N’Golo Kanta is a risk. He has appeared in just seven of Chelsea’s matches this season while meandering in and out of the starting unit. Still, Chelsea is a defense-first team, and he provides a physical grittiness.
The only reason Jorginho wouldn’t get the starting nod is if Chelsea becomes worried he played too much for Italy during the break—or if his offensive struggles from said international play persist in the Premier League.
- Right: Mason Mount, England
- Left: Callum Hudson-Odoi, England
- Kai Havertz, Germany
No justification is needed for Mason Mount’s inclusion. He has arguably been Chelseas’ best player this year. If anything, they could probably stand to urge him to look for his own shot more often.
Not all of Callum Hudson-Odoi’s numbers leap off the page, but he is perhaps Chelsea’s quickest player. Putting him in the starting unit will force opponents to chase after quick-fire dribbles and test their overall stamina early and often. That’s a huge advantage in most matches.
Kai Havertz wins our center forward despite his lackluster scoring vitals. He has notched just two goals in the Premier League season, but he’s a crafty dribbler and plays extremely well off Mount.