Will Arsenal Legend Help Chelsea to a Flying Start or Prove an Instant Speed Bump?

As the end of July approaches, Chelsea look to be doing something that’s distinctly out of character: the Blues are remaining quiet. Last se...

As the end of July approaches, Chelsea look to be doing something that’s distinctly out of character: the Blues are remaining quiet. Last season, to power a side that performed incredibly well under a transfer embargo, owner Roman Abramovich threw £222.48 million into the transfer market.

This summer, having won the Champions League but wanting another run at the title, the Blues have been the focus of several rumours but little of substance. So, with much of the same unit that conquered Europe, Thomas Tuchel will be looking to draw more from each player, and even tinker with the systems that brought him and the club such sudden glory.

However, the first fixture is somewhat tricky to judge. Being against a team with a new and relatively inexperienced manager, and having lost several stars over the summer, you’d expect Chelsea to trample Crystal Palace. That said, this is the Premier League, and with the Arsenal legend Patrick Vieira at the helm, you can already see the headlines of an upset. 

Chelsea are still among the best in the league

With perhaps one exception, despite what happened in the Champions League final, every team in the Premier League will be expected to struggle against Chelsea this season. With the likes of N’Golo Kanté, Kai Havertz, Jorginho, Christian Pulisic, Mason Mount, Reece James, Thiago Silva, and Edouard Mendy all proving themselves to be formidable in their roles.

The only element that was really lacking last season was a go-to, reliable goalscorer. Timo Werner, Tammy Abraham, and Olivier Giroud netted 12, 12, and 11 goals, respectively. If Werner can be moulded into a 20-plus goalscorer, with Mount and Havertz feeding him, the Blues could be next to unstoppable. That said, Tuchel managed to pull the team to fourth after joining in January with the tools at his disposal.

As such, it won’t be surprising that the odds at Space Casino favour a hefty win for Chelsea on 14 August. Tuchel’s team isn’t just favoured at 4/17 to get three points, but there’re also odds of 10/17 for both teams not to score, and 29/20 for Chelsea to win with a -2 Asian handicap. As the reigning champions of Europe, Chelsea are rightly the preferred pick, but Crystal Palace could yet cause an early upset.

What to expect from Patrick Vieira’s Palace

At 45-years-old, Patrick Vieira is still a relatively inexperienced manager. His 89-game stint with OGC Nice yielded an average of 1.42 points per match in Ligue 1, and he secured 1.58 points per match with New York in the MLS. He’s been taking pointers from his old boss, per Football London, but his preferred style clearly draws from his first stint as a youth coach at Manchester City.

What’s proven to be important to Vieira so far is possession. Even if it doesn’t always result in more touches in the final third, the Frenchman’s teams have notably been drilled to hold the ball when they can and work it up the field. With the likes of Wilfried Zaha, Jeffrey Schlupp, Jordan Ayew, new signing Michael Olise, and the still injured Eberechi Eze, they have the weapons to quickly spring an offensive move.

Even if Vieira’s side are allowed to play this way by Chelsea, the Blues have very recently proven that they can go toe-to-toe with the best of them, even without the ball. In the Champions League Final, Chelsea had a mere 40 per cent of the ball, and yet had an extra shot than Manchester City (8 to 7), and had the same number of free-kicks (13).

So, even if Palace park the bus or just hold back the ball, Tuchel’s team would be backed to find a way through. Few would expect the Champions League winners to slip up to this Palace side in the opening match, with a convincing victory seeming to be more likely.

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