Jamie Carragher has warned Chelsea manager Frank Lampard that he risks taking his side “backwards” due to the volume of business they’ve done in the summer transfer window. The Blues kickstarted their Premier League campaign at Brighton on Monday night.
Timo Werner and Kai Havertz both made their competitive debuts for the west London club at the Amex Stadium.
Fellow new additions Thiago Silva, Ben Chilwell and Hakim Ziyech were all unavailable, while Malang Sarr is expected to head out on loan this term after joining on a free from Nice.
There has been understandable excitement around Chelsea following their £200million summer spend with the arrivals of Germany internationals Werner and Havertz grabbing the most attention.
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It has been suggested that Chelsea must compete for the title in order to live up to expectations after such a lavish outlay, but Lampard has been keen to publicly play down such suggestions.
Former Liverpool defender Carragher fears that his old England team-mate may have actually brought too many fresh faces to Stamford Bridge, despite the individual quality of their new recruits.
Lampard will have to regularly switch up his starting line-up with Werner, Havertz and Ziyech adding to the likes of Christian Pulisic, Tammy Abraham, Olivier Giroud, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Mason Mount as the Blues’ offensive options for the 2020-21 campaign.
And Carragher believes that changing up his attack and also his defence, with Chilwell and Silva expected to be immediate starters when fully fit, will allow Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United to stay ahead of Lampard’s charges.
Solskjaer’s United have only signed Donny van de Beek from Ajax so far this summer despite their attempts to add winger Jadon Sancho from Borussia Dortmund.
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Carragher believes the stability of their team, which has been significantly bolstered since playmaker Bruno Fernandes joined from Sporting Lisbon midway through last season, can help them stay ahead of Chelsea after pipping them to third in 2019-20.
Both sides finished 33 points adrift of champions Liverpool and are hoping to significantly bridge that gap this season.
The player-turned-pundit said on Sky Sports’ Monday Night Football: “Bruno Fernandes made a huge difference when he came in from January, I thought he was outstanding, and if he can continue it this season I think they could go a lot closer.
“I think the thing we should remember with Chelsea and all these players in is the most difficult thing in management, something I remember Sir Alex Ferguson saying, is managing change.
“Frank Lampard is managing change at his club after 12 months. Normally a manager manages change after having a cycle of four or five years and the team needs to evolve and move on.
“Frank’s bringing six or seven players in and that’s not easy so Chelsea could easily go backwards.
“They’re bringing those players in to propel them forwards, they had to make changes, I get that, but it can easily go the other way.
“It’s not easy to bring those players and make them gel and we know for certain, not all of those transfers are going to work.
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“Not all of those players they’ve brought in will be successful so that’s why I still see Manchester United as being possibly the closest challenger to the top two.”
Carragher’s colleague Gary Neville, who spent his entire playing career at United, added: “I think what he [Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich] would want to see is progression towards that top two.
“What I would say about Chelsea this season is there’s an element of we don’t know quite what they’re going to do.
“I don’t think they can win the league irrespective of whether they get a goalkeeper or not.
“But if you said to me about Manchester United, for instance, I feel Manchester United will not win the league, I think that’s pretty certain.
“I can predict pretty much what they’ll do. They will improve, they’ll get closer to Liverpool and Manchester City, I think they will finish in the top four.
“If you had to predict Chelsea I’d say out of them and United which one could win the league it could be Chelsea because you just don’t know what those young players are going to do.
“If they go and do that they could really surprise everybody but there’s also a chance they could go the other way.
“There’s an element of the unknown with them. I think that’s a massive opportunity, it will excite Frank Lampard but it’ll also scare him a little bit.
“How’s Timo Werner going to settle in? How’s Havertz going to settle in, Ziyech going to settle in? Thiago Silva – different end of the spectrum in terms of experience but how’s he going to adapt to English football.
“There’s a lot of unknowns about the Chelsea squad I think Lampard will be excited by but also a little concerned by.”
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