LONDON: Chelsea are banking on a lavish shopping spree to give them more bite up front and much-needed solidity in defence after coach Frank Lampard spent last season relying heavily on a crop of inexperienced home-grown players.
The Londoners have been among the Premier League’s most active buyers in the close season in stark contrast to a year ago when they were subject to a FIFA transfer ban, giving their youngsters a chance to shine.
Germany striker Timo Werner arrives in London having scored 28 times in the Bundesliga for RB Leipzig last season, while international team mate Kai Havertz plays like Lampard in his pomp with runs from midfield into the box to score.
At the other end, England left-back Ben Chilwell and Brazil veteran Thiago Silva, moving from Leicester City and Paris St Germain respectively, should stiffen the defence.
Chelsea had already snapped up Morocco winger Hakim Ziyech after he bamboozled the Londoners in last season’s Champions League group stage playing for Ajax Amsterdam.
“Chelsea aren’t buying a team, they are buying and building a dynasty, which I think is extraordinarily exciting,” former Blues winger Pat Nevin told the BBC.
He stressed the young ages of many of the signings.
There is also talk of a new goalkeeper to replace, or at least challenge, Spaniard Kepa Arrizabalaga whose erratic form contributed to the leakiest defence in the top half of the league last season.
Lampard exceeded most people’s expectations in his first campaign as coach at Stamford Bridge by securing a fourth-place finish and the Champions League spot that goes with it.
As well as giving a chance to young players from the academy, such as Mason Mount, Reece James, Tammy Abraham and Billy Gilmour, Lampard got United States winger Christian Pulisic to reproduce the moments of magic that Chelsea fans feared had gone when Eden Hazard was sold to Real Madrid.
But Lampard was left with a tinge of disappointment as the COVID-19-interrupted season finally drew to a close.
His side lost the FA Cup final to London rivals Arsenal and went out of the Champions League 7-1 on aggregate against eventual title winners Bayern Munich.
The domestic league table underscored the scale of the challenge ahead – Chelsea finished a yawning 33 points behind champions Liverpool and 15 off second-placed Manchester City.
Lampard, the club’s record scorer, knows he must aim higher this term, especially after such a heavy outlay on new players.
“It’s Chelsea. We need to be competing for titles,” he said, knowing full well that the club’s demanding owner Roman Abramovich will be similarly impatient for progress.