Much of the talk about Chelsea as they approach this summer is in regards to transfer targets. Which striker is needed? Is a defensive midfielder still missing? How about a new centerback? And, of course, who needs to clear out to make way for new players?
Those decisions are important but there are even more important ones that aren’t being talked about at all or very, very little. Chelsea’s preseason plans are still very much an unknown (as are everyone’s), as are how involved they plan to be with Thomas Tuchel throughout the summer. Perhaps more than who comes in and who goes, these decisions can shape the course of next season.
A good preseason is crucial to a good season. Just ask Jose Mourinho. Of all the things that went wrong in 2015, the rapid fire worldwide tour set the Blues up extremely poorly for the season. Even more recently, Frank Lampard understands that the lack of a preseason can set a team behind early. Not much could have been done about it this year due to Covid, but Chelsea did have a much shorter and much more interrupted (thanks random international break!) than their rivals.
Of course, this summer is little safer than last even with vaccines becoming more available. It seems unlikely that Chelsea will go on some huge world tour which is usually a good thing when it comes to preseason. But there has been no information about where Chelsea might set up shop or who they may face. There isn’t even talk of when it may begin.
And there is also the matter of oodles of delayed international tournaments to work around. This summer will feature a Copa America, a Gold Cup, various nations league matches, the Euros, and the Olympics (which shouldn’t affect Chelsea much now) just to name a few. Many of these competitions end within two weeks of the start of the season. Players involved in finals will likely be given that time off and will only start training again as the season starts. That is less than ideal for a club like Chelsea that is sure to be drained by the end of this season and is sure to see most first teamers with national teams this summer.
Maybe more than anything else is the Thomas Tuchel situation. As things stand, he will enter the summer with a year left on his contract. Silverware this season could easily extend that but it is no guarantee and it can’t be assumed either. But if Tuchel enters the summer with a year left on his contract, it will become a very relevant question as to how involved he is allowed to be in planning Chelsea’s future.
That, of course, will become a catch 22. Planning around Tuchel instead of with or through him is a pretty surefire way to ensure he will fail at Chelsea. It’s happened to far too many managers with the Blues to assume any different. At the same time, however, the club will be hesitant to involve him too much in the planning if there is a concern he will not stay beyond a year. After all, no club wants to bring in a ton of players for someone only to see them bounce at the end of the year and leave the next manager with players he can’t use. That’s also something Chelsea has seen first hand as of late.
It’s a big summer for Chelsea no matter what. It goes far beyond just the transfers that come in and go out. The Blues need to set themselves up to succeed with the best preseason they can muster, but they also have to figure out if they are planning with or without Tuchel. These decisions can make or break the Blues next year far more than who comes in or who goes out.