It had to be Everton, didn’t it? Of all the clubs Chelsea could have started their 2022/23 Premier League campaign against, it just had to be the one managed by Blues legend and former head coach Frank Lampard.
Not only a London derby but another reunion at Stamford Bridge with Antonio Conte, who guided the Blues to the Premier League title in 2017 before leaving a year later in rather acrimonious fashion.
Chelsea’s third Premier League fixture of the season will take them to Leeds United, historically bitter rivals following the brutal 1970 FA Cup final between the two clubs.
Elland Road was raucous – and somewhat nasty – when the Blues visited last term.
Come the start of August, Tuchel’s side will need to be ready.
The opening three fixtures will not allow Chelsea to ease into the season, new players can’t still be feeling their way into the starting XI. They’ll need to be ready to go – and to go hard.
The Blues can’t fall behind Man City and Liverpool off the bat.
So Chelsea must push in the weeks ahead. The first group of players return for pre-season training on July 2.
The second will arrive a little more than a week later, at which point the squad will be in Los Angeles for a five-day training camp at UCLA. It’s there the hard yards will need to be put in.
Off the pitch, there is much to do for the consortium fronted by Todd Boehly, which completed its takeover of the club less than three weeks ago.
Season ticket renewals and the release of Chelsea’s 2022/23 kits are commercial priorities, but the biggest work that has to be undertaken is on Thomas Tuchel’s squad. The German has already admitted a rebuild is required this summer; it is not just a case of improving on what was in place.
Romelu Lukaku is expected to complete a return to Inter Milan.
In the frontline, Timo Werner, Christian Pulisic and Hakim Ziyech all want more regular game time.
Naturally, not all the aforementioned players will leave Chelsea, such a turnover is almost impossible in one window.
Signings – and players returning from loan spells – will be needed to fill gaps in the squad. And Tuchel has already admitted that in an ideal world, that would happen in time for pre-season.
“It is a pre-season when you have at least three-and-half to four weeks together and not a lot of people are arriving at different times – it’s more or less two groups,” the Chelsea head coach explained last month.
“We have clear ideas for the profiles and characteristics of these players. But it’s not like we put a name on the list, and then we get the player. We have to convince the player, speak to their clubs, and convince ourselves this is the player [we need]. So there is normally a lot of work, and it will be the same to be competitive next season.”
Chelsea remain confident that a deal for Jules Kounde will be completed in the coming weeks.
The Blues are also keeping track of Raheem Sterling’s situation at Man City and have been offered Gabriel Jesus, who is also wanted by Arsenal.
There is an abundance of potential targets for Chelsea this summer; some are more realistic than others.
What is clear is the Blues must now accelerate their work in the transfer market and build on the foundations already in place for next season.
Those opening Premier League fixtures will not allow Tuchel a slow start – and the Blues head coach will know that.