Manchester United start their 2019/20 Premier League journey on Sunday with Chelsea coming to Old Trafford.
We reached out to Jamie Wilkinson, editor of Talk Chelsea, to gather some thoughts from a Blue.
He gives us some perspective on Lampard’s return, losing Eden Hazard, and how Chelsea have performed in pre-season.
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Dale: Manchester United v Chelsea has two former managers completely inexperienced at this level. How do you think Lampard will get on this season and do you think he will last longer in the job than Solskjaer with Chelsea’s reluctance to give manager’s time?
Jamie: Regardless of how Frank Lampard does in the coming weeks and months, he’ll be given the full season and next summer to rebuild the squad. The club have been successful in drawing attention from why we were given the ban in the first place amid all the excitement of having Lampard back. There’s been no finger pointing, no blame game, just thanks and gratitude at bringing back a club legend. I think politics will keep Lampard in power, but I’m not convinced Solskjaer will be so lucky. Especially having had money to spend, he’ll be judged more harshly on his, and the team’s, performance this coming season.
Dale: You qualified for the Champions League last season. How annoying has it been to have not been able to make quality additions to your squad this summer, except for the flurry of players returning from loan spells (what impact do you expect from those coming back)?
Jamie: It’s never nice to see top players becoming available while your hands are tied, but we Chelsea fans have been campaigning for our talented youngsters to be given opportunities since what feels like the beginning of time. We cannot now complain now they have been given the chance they’ve been waiting for. In Mason Mount, Tammy Abraham and Kurt Zouma we have a spine of first-team ready talent through the side – and of course – Christian Pulisic, who has looked utterly brilliant thus far.
Dale: Does losing Hazard put Chelsea in trouble?
Jamie: Losing Eden Hazard is something that we have feared every summer since he signed. We all knew that it would become reality at some point. Unfortunately for us, we have been unable to replace the influence of the best player in the Premier League with the transfer ban in force. It’s difficult to gauge in pre-season just how worse off we’ll be without him, but I fear that when we find ourselves with our backs against the wall, and there’s nobody bailing us out, that’s when his absence will really be felt.
Dale: Sum up Maurizio Sarri as a Chelsea fan.
Jamie: Some Chelsea fans will have fond memories of Maurizio Sarri. We finished third and won the Europa League, which can be considered a good season. However, his arrival was supposed to mark a changing of the tides here. We expected the implementation of an expansive and entertaining style of play, but in reality it was utter dross which saw many of us lose interest entirely. That’s not what football’s all about, when you no longer enjoy watching your team play. Lampard’s return has provided a reinvigoration and has us all feeling positive ahead of the new season. It’s refreshing, which is why I for one am glad Sarri is gone.
Dale: United away. Are you going? How do you rate Old Trafford compared to Stamford Bridge?
Jamie: I’ll be arm-chairing this one, which is a shame because Old Trafford is always a fun day out. Nothing compares to a home atmosphere, of course, but there’s few better away grounds to go to in the country. Although, you can definitely sense the change of attitude there since Fergie left. I went there before and I’ve been there since, and it certainly feels less like an environment that a player would want to play in. Less pressure as a result of high expectations, more pressure as a result of fan resentment. At least, that’s how I perceive it!
Dale: Prediction for the match?
Jamie: If our defence performs anything like the way it has in pre-season, we’re in trouble. Against United nowadays you always have a chance heading into the game as you don’t know which version is going to turn up, but I honestly fear for us if your attack is on song. We’ll cause you problems, though. Our attack has looked potent in the past few weeks. There’ll be goals in this one, so I’ll go for a 2-2 draw.