With the 2022/23 Premier League campaign just weeks behind us, all football fans can now start dreaming of the players their respective clubs will be signing, as they start scrolling through next seasons (just released) fixture lists. This short spell will at least give some respite to Liverpool fans who are desperate for that second signing of the summer, after the magnificent capture of Brighton’s Alexis Mac Allister. I expect Khéphren Thuram to be the next through the door, in what I hope will be a transformative window of change.
A couple of my WhatsApp groups starting beeping away (after the fixture schedule was announced), to alert me of our opening day trip to Stamford Bridge. Admittedly, I will often look at the positive in most football related situations (once I even argued the merits of signing Paul Konchesky) that enter the Anfield scene. In terms of our game week 1, I genuinely could not be happier with the draw. After an away fixture was requested by the club (so that the final works can be completed on the new stand), I had no ambition to visit either a team just promoted or a side that is well settled. I absolutely wanted to be Mauricio Pochettino’s first visitors next season, as their own torrid situation makes ourselves look very strong in comparison. Since the previous owner was sanctioned and moved on, the new ownership group (led by Todd Boehly) has been a circus of scatter gun signings and bad decisions. With approximately £600m either spent or committed towards players they have acquired, the Blues have both a mass load of assets they must move on, as well as a long list of players they need still need to recruit in order to create a working system.
With news circulating that Kai Havertz could be about to jump from West to North London, it only adds to the confusion within their wealthy and misshapen squad. They have two keepers, with neither one really offering huge levels of confidence, the defence is well stocked, yet we do not yet know how they will line up. Kalidou Koulibaly leaving should open the door to the brilliant Levi Colwill, yet even he could still leave this summer. The midfield has lost N’Golo Kanté, whereas the important Mateo Kovačić appears Manchester City bound. Despite Enzo Fernández being a brilliant winter addition, it is hard to see which players will help build a working midfield. Ruben Loftus-Cheek appears set for a move to AC Milan, whilst Conor Gallagher is on the West Ham radar. Carney Chukwuemeka is a talented young player; however, it is unclear whether he is ready to start consistently. Denis Zakaria is now likely to return to Juventus (after a yearlong loan), whilst Andrey Santos is the returning loanee that will be underprepared for the Premier League. We can be certain now that Mason Mount is on his way out, though it is probable that teams will start bidding closer to the Blues FFP deadline.
With the defence and midfield having questionable options and that middle area potentially lacking depth, it leaves the forward line as the most equipped group. Below are the forward players currently contracted to Chelsea. This is a group that no longer includes Atletico Madrid’s on loan forward, João Félix.
David Datro Fofana
From the list above (inclusive of incoming Christopher Nkunku), I suspect only Raheem Sterling, Mykhailo Mudryk, David Datro Fofana, and Noni Madueke, will remain. That sets up a strong group, yet one that will take time to gel and create the required dynamic. The hardest job in the Premier League right now is to try and find a system amongst the players that are present and those they will likely sign. With much of their recent dealings allowing the total spend to be spread over the length of individual contracts, it averts an insurmountable short-term issue. The major problem remains, which is that each year they will now have to meet FFP requirements prior to the start of each new season. This initial scenario is fast approaching the free spending West London side, which is something that will come around every single year for the foreseeable future. With no Champions League money coming their way this year, it does mean that the problems will continue to mount. This is a club that has not hidden their expenditure (like Manchester City), therefore will have to answer for what has been laid out. Many Chelsea fans will be hoping the club can land Moisés Caicedo, however, Tony Bloom (the Brighton owner) will not accept staggered deals that take years to complete. With Caicedo not sitting on a release clause and the south coast side not needing the funds, they can now demand £100m, with much of that demanded up front. Even if the two-time European Cup winners were to manage to meals this deal happen, there is still so many comings and goings that will need to be addressed still.
Ultimately, our London rivals will find their way into some form of consistent path. Under the former Tottenham manager, they can at least start to grow a stronger dressing room unity and perhaps find a structure to their ever-changing squad. This kind of work takes time (perhaps even a season), which is why match day 1 is the ideal moment to visit Stamford Bridge. Alexis Mac Allister is through the Anfield door, whilst a good few others signings are expected in the next month or so. The reds hit their lowest point under Klopp last season, yet now possess clear knowledge of what is needed to improve. Moments will be key to how Jürgen Klopp’s side flourish this season, which is why I believe a trip to Chelsea on 13th August will end in three points to start the new campaign.
Liverpool’s first five fixtures of the 23/24 season:
Aston Villa (H)
Fucking into these, Reds pic.twitter.com/HtSkDPikHQ
— The Anfield Wrap (@TheAnfieldWrap) June 15, 2023