Bohemians 1-1 Chelsea
Goals: Michy Batshuayi
Fantasy Premier League managers were reminded of the wealth of options available to Frank Lampard’s Chelsea team in their first pre-season match.
With most of last season’s regulars absent, the Blues drew 1-1 with Irish side Bohemians on Wednesday evening.
The result was not too encouraging, but at this early stage of pre-season, it’s important not to read too much into such things.
Instead, it’s more important, especially in the case of Chelsea, to examine which players were and were not involved – as well as Lampard’s tactics.
At this admittedly early stage of his time as the Blues’ boss, he initially deployed his players in a 4-2-3-1 formation, finally taking the club away from Maurizio Sarri’s favoured 4-3-3.
A 4-1-4-1 was used in the second half, but this featured more peripheral figures.
Against Bohemians, Lampard also encouraged his players to apply a high press when they were without the ball and when in possession they were much more direct than in the 2018/19 season.
However, we will have to see these tactics utilised when more first-team players are involved before we can say with certainty that Lampard wants to use them in Gameweek 1.
As already mentioned, most of last season’s key assets were absent.
Antonio Rüdiger (£6.0m), Ruben Loftus-Cheek (£6.5m) and Callum Hudson-Odoi (£6.0m) all missed out due to injury.
Meanwhile, Willian (£7.0m) and Christian Pulisic (£7.5m) are yet to join up with the squad after involvement in the Copa America and CONCACAF Gold Cup with Brazil and USA respectively.
Only six options currently priced up by FPL were in the matchday squad on Wednesday night. We have updated the Google spreadsheet cataloguing their pre-season minutes.
Cesar Azpilicueta (£6.0m) and Pedro (£7.0m) were the biggest names to feature from the start.
After 12 months of right-back duties under Sarri, new manager Frank Lampard returned Azpilicueta to a centre-back role, which could have some interesting implications for the rest of pre-season.
Obviously, there is still a long way to go, but if the Spaniard ends up being preferred at centre-back, it would leave a vacancy in the right-back position.
It was youngster Dujon Sterling who started there against Bohemians but Davide Zappacosta (£4.5m) was handed the role for the second half.
If the Italian were to hold down a starting position in the Chelsea defence this season he could provide exceptional value, so we should definitely continue to monitor him and Azpilicueta during pre-season.
Crucially, the match with Bohemians reminded Fantasy managers just how many players will be at Chelsea’s disposal in 2019/20.
It was Michy Batshuayi who scored their only goal of the game to highlight that the centre-forward battle is between three players for the 2019/20 season.
Olivier Giroud (£7.0m) is the only one to have been priced up by FPL so far but Tammy Abraham and Batshuayi, returning from loans at Aston Villa and Crystal Palace respectively, will also be in the fight.
Monitoring each of these players during pre-season will be vital, to see which one claims the number one spot given the potential bargain on offer.
In defence, former Newcastle loanee Kenedy was deployed at left-back to throw his name into the hat for competition there.
Marcos Alonso (£6.5m) already faces the challenge of Emerson Palmieri (£5.5m) so there is definitely uncertainty on that side of the defence, although Kenedy is also capable of playing on the left of midfield.
As Fantasy managers clamour for Everton assets, especially in defence, Chelsea’s match in Ireland provided a chastening reminder of the Toffees’ missing puzzle piece.
Kurt Zouma (not currently priced by FPL) was deployed at centre-back in the second half as his future continues to hang in the balance.
Marco Silva is reportedly hoping to bring the Frenchman to Goodison Park on a permanent deal but this pre-season will give us an indication of whether Lampard will let him do that.
If he starts getting regular game-time in the pre-season friendlies, it might suggest the new Blues boss would rather keep hold of him.
This would be a blow to Silva and Everton, as well as Fantasy managers looking to the Toffees defence as Zouma was a key factor in them keeping eight clean sheets in their last 11 matches of 2018/19.
Also worth tracking during pre-season is the versatile Ethan Ampadu (£4.5m).
The former Exeter City man is also capable of playing at centre-back but has historically been used in a deep central midfield role at Chelsea.
Against Bohemians, Ampadu helped screen the defence and earned high praise from the local press, who described the bite and aggression he added to midfield as something Chelsea missed under Sarri.
Meanwhile, as promised, Danny Drinkwater (£4.5m) was given an opportunity by Lampard after being forced very much out of contention by Sarri last season and Willy Caballero (£5.0m) played 45 minutes in goal.
“Fitness was our issue, we’ve been working hard on it, even this morning. Fitness was always going to be an issue against a team that’s halfway through their season. We certainly pushed ourselves to the limit. The quicker we get there the better. It’s about individuals getting fit. Some of the young lads were really good. We want to get a level of fitness and intensity in their game.” – Frank Lampard
Chelsea first-half XI (4-2-3-1): Caballero; Kenedy, Guehi, Azpilicueta, D Sterling; Ampadu, Drinkwater; Palmer, G Gallagher; Pedro; Batshuayi.
Chelsea second-half XI (4-1-4-1): Cumming; Maatsen, Zouma, Chalobah, Zappacosta; Bakayoko; Brown, Baker, Gilmour, Piazon; Ugbo.
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