Filling the void – Chelsea’s biggest task this season will be replacing Eden Hazard

Frank Lampard will be well aware of the upcoming challenges that await him in his first season him as Chelsea manager. One of the most difficult will be finding a way to replace the squad’s main source of goals after key departures this summer, in particular their star forward Eden Hazard.

It’s been an eventful summer so far for ‘the blues’, considering they are unable to sign players due to a transfer ban resulting from breaching rules on the signing young players from abroad. That, coupled with departure of both their manager after a successful first season and their best player would be enough to have most clubs on their knees and wondering what direction they are going in.

However owner Roman Abramovich acted swiftly to bring in ‘club legend’ Frank Lampard to take charge for the new season. He faces many challenges, and it will be an uphill battle to keep the London club in the Champions League places.

The transfer ban will definitely hamper Lampard in more ways than one. He will have to make do with his current squad whilst rivals around him sign players and strengthen. He will also be unable to replace any players that have already left or subsequently leave this summer which will weaken the squad further. In particular, this could prove to be a major issue in the goal scoring department.

Chelsea scored sixty three goals in the Premier League last season, with sixteen of them coming from Eden Hazard, the team’s leading goalscorer. Gonzalo Higuaín and Álvaro Morata, who both scored another five goals each, have also left the club. This is nearly a third of their total goals in the Premier League that they will need to replace if they are to maintain a challenge for a top four spot. Finding a way of replacing these goals will play a massive part in whether or not Chelsea have a good campaign.

So what are Lampard’s options when it comes to tackling this task? Not only was Eden Hazard their top scorer, he was also their most creative player and led the way with fifteen assists, over double the number the next best player, Willian. This could lead to a total departure from the style Chelsea used under Sarri last season, which saw Hazard operate centrally a lot of the time, and more of a focus on attacking with width.

The introduction of Christian Pulisic from Borussia Dortmund should help to add goals and a creative edge to the midfield. However the one star signing will not alone be enough and Lampard will probably have to rely on some of the more younger players in the squad to provide the attacking threat needed, such as Callum Hudson-Odoi. He has been linked with a move away over the last couple of months, but will more than likely stay on with the prospect of a lot more game time under the new manager.

We could see the centre of the pitch reshuffled as Lampard may be tempted to restore Kante back to his favoured position in a deep lying central role. Last season he had been displaced by Maurico Sarri, who felt Jorghino was more adept to carrying out his game plan, much to the chagrin of the Chelsea faithful.

Other ‘new’ options in midfield include Ruben Loftus Cheek who impressed towards the end of last season may see his game time increased dramatically assuming his recovery from injury goes to plan; and Mason Mount, who impressed on his loan spell at Derby last season under the management of Lampard  and could prove to be pivotal on the creative side if things. He played thirty eight games for Derby scoring eight goals and Lampard has hinted that he will be part of his plans for the new season.

However midfield options will not provide a solution on their own. In the Premier League though having a prolific striker is a must if you have aspirations of being a success. This is a position Chelsea have struggled with over the last number of seasons. Álvaro Morata had looked like an astute signing if a little pricey, but didn’t seem to be able to adapt to the pace and physicality of the English game. It’s something we have seen time and time again with some foreign imports, who leave and flourish in different league’s, think Diego Forlan or Iago Aspas to name a couple of examples. Morata may well go on to flourish at Atletico Madrid but he clearly was never going to settle at Chelsea.

Furthermore Gonzalo Higuain has returned to Juventus after a disappointingly lumbering loan spell. This leaves Oliver Giroud as the only striker remaining from the previous season. The thirty two year-old Frenchman scored only twice in the league last season as he did most of his damage in the Europa League, helping his team to lift the trophy. He is not the type of player who is going to net you a lot of goals and isn’t mobile enough to play week in week out upfront by himself.

Given the options available Lampard will more than likely have to turn to returning loan players Michy Batshuayi and Tammy Abraham to lead the line for him. It’s well documented that Chelsea have a vast amount of player’s on loan every season, so it makes sense that they make use of them during the transfer ban. Abraham especially will be looking to finally make his mark on the first team after a successful loan spell at Aston Villa last season, where his goals contributed massively to their promotion back to the Premier League.

While none of the players in the squad are individually as good as Hazard, collectively, if put together correctly, they could go a long way to filling the void left behind by his departure. The Chelsea team should have a much younger look about it this season and a lot of the players will know that this is their big opportunity to show the club they have what it takes to keep them towards the top of the table. Only time will tell if Lampard is the man to put all the pieces of the jigsaw together correctly.

The Author

Philip Flanagan

A West of Ireland based football writer/blogger. You can find me daily over at The Bottomless pit of football.

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