How Chelsea will line up in 2018-19

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Chelsea fell short in the Premier League last season, finishing fifth under their volatile former manager Antonio Conte, but earning a Champions League spot at least is the aim this season.

Since being taken over by Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich in 2003, the Blues have been the most successful club in the Premier League after winning more honours than any of their rivals.

An FA Cup win last season added to the club's silverware, but league form is a benchmark of consistency of performances - the type of which were lacking last season.

Maurizio Sarri has been given four additions in the transfer market, although his very presence alone gives chances to players who were on the fringes of the starting line-up under Conte. Sarri is overhauling Chelsea's style of play, favouring a high line with high pressing, as well as quick, attacking football.

Is this how his team will look in the upcoming campaign?


Goalkeepers


Kepa Arrizabalaga Chelsea

Kepa Arrizabalaga is Chelsea's record signing after they activated Athletic Club's £71 million release clause to also make him the world's most expensive goalkeeper.

The Spain international will be the undisputed number one goalkeeper at Stamford Bridge, replacing Thibaut Courtois, who departed for Real Madrid in the summer transfer window.

Willy Caballero deputises once again and is the only surviving member of the goalkeeping team from last season. Even Gianluca Spinelli left as the goalkeeping coach and he is replaced by Massimo Nenci, with third-choice goalkeeper Eduardo departing on loan to Vitesse.

Local boy Rob Green has come in to replace Eduardo, but it is unlikely that he will ever play for the club in a senior competitive game, unless significant injury problems take hold.


Defenders


David Luiz Chelsea versus Man City

Chelsea have made no defensive signings this summer but their backline will still be radically changed. They will switch from a back three to a back four under Sarri which, in turn, changes the role of all the outfield players.

The wing-backs are converted to full-backs, which reduces their physical workload, but exposes them to more defensive responsibility. The centre-backs will get less time on the ball and have to cover more gaps between them.

Sarri is also implementing a high line and defending without the ball in a narrow shape, as he hopes intelligent pressing can get his side the ball back quickly.

David Luiz is back and seems to be a player that Sarri likes after he fell out with Conte last season, causing him to play just 17 times having been essential for the club the season before.

Antonio Rudiger looks like he will take a starting spot under Sarri to begin with, leaving the likes of Andreas Christensen and Gary Cahill on the bench. Cesar Azpilicueta was a centre-back last season under Conte, but he reverts to the right-back position in which he made his name.

Marcos Alonso is so far winning the battle with Emerson Palmieri to play at left-back, with Davide Zappacosta offering an option in both full-back positions.


Midfielders


Mateo Kovacic Croatia 2018

Chelsea are moving from a two-man midfield to a three-man midfield this season, with new signing Jorginho set to be the main man. He will replicate his Napoli role, where he sits at the base of the three and works as a pivot for the other midfielders when Chelsea have possession of the ball.

Without the ball, he plugs in gaps and helps the full-backs, as the ball is dragged out wide. He is also in charge of leading the press between the defensive and midfield line, marking him out immediately after signing as a leader in the middle of the pitch.

He will be flanked by two players in what will be a huge battle for starting roles this season. Mateo Kovacic arrived from Real Madrid and provides competition to the likes of Cesc Fabregas and Ross Barkley, who performed well throughout pre-season.

N'Golo Kante remains a key player, but will have more license to get forward at Chelsea with Jorginho set to play deepest. The World Cup winner may have to add an attacking threat to his game but his reputation as a world-class midfielder should protect his status at the club.

Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Danny Drinkwater also remain in the squad to fight for places, but it looks as if Tiemoue Bakayoko will depart for AC Milan this summer on loan.


Attackers


Alvaro Morata Petr Cech Chelsea Arsenal 2018-19

Alvaro Morata remains Chelsea's main striker despite having scored just three goals in 2018, across all competitions and including the recent pre-season friendlies. One of Sarri's main tasks is to get the best out of his club's former record £70m signing, who arrived from Real Madrid last summer.

Olivier Giroud provides the main competition for Morata, Tammy Abraham, who spent time out on loan last season, still remain in the Italian head coach's squad.

Batshuayi has moved on loan to Valencia and Abraham, with only one starting spot available for a striker, may join him out of the door in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, the striker will be flanked by two wingers, which is another area where Sarri has great depth at his disposal.

Eden Hazard is the star man and he will start on the left. The emerging wonderkid Callum Hudson-Odoi will operate as his deputy, but Pedro and Willian are also in the mix as players who have played on both sides.

Pedro will likely start the season on the right after a positive pre-season, while Victor Moses is moving up from wing-back to compete for a spot in attack.


Manager


Maurizio Sarri Chelsea ICC 2018

Sarri has come to Stamford Bridge to bring his expansive style play to Stamford Bridge in his 4-3-3 system that he used to great effect at Napoli.

So far, he hasn't used any other system in his implementation of a tactical overhaul during his pre-season with his new club. His pre-season has been shorter than most of his rival managers, having seen Conte take the first two training sessions, before he was relieved of his duties.

Even Sarri won't know his best starting line-up straight away and a period of experimentation is likely, at least in terms of personnel, at the start of the season.


How Chelsea could line up


Chelsea possible line-up vs Huddersfield

The first starting line-up is likely to feature more players who didn't go to the World Cup, with many of Chelsea's struggling stars of last season not called up by their national teams.

Tiemoue Bakayoko will likely be the next to leave Chelsea with the transfer window across Europe still open, allowing the Blues's slightly bloated squad to decrease in size.

Chelsea could introduce Kovacic at a later date, but Barkley looks likely to start the season after his impressive form and fitness in pre-season.

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