Reading wrap up their pre-season with a tough home test: Chelsea. The Premier League side are at a particularly interesting time in their history now, operating under a transfer embargo but now with club legend Frank Lampard in the manager’s seat.
To find out more about what’s going on at Stamford Bridge, what the future could hold for them, and of course what might happen on Sunday, we spoke to Chelsea writer Ram Srinivas. He not only writes for our SB Nation sister site We Ain’t Got No History, but also covers the English Football League with some great stats insight on his own Twitter account. Thanks to him for giving us a hand with these answers below.
Frank Lampard joined as manager this summer - is he the right man for the job?
He’s the right man for the job. Things aren’t exactly straightforward at Chelsea Football Club these days; we’ve lost a generational talent in our best attacker, can’t buy any players and have a very disorganised squad. On the other hand, we also have a number of talented youngsters more than capable of playing at this level but just waiting for a chance to prove it.
We also can’t compete with the likes of Manchester City in the market anymore, so the best solution to drive us towards a more sustainable future that also helps re-establish a ‘connect’ with the fans is a transition period where we build a core around these youngsters and set ourselves up for more long-term success. Who else is best to oversee this period but someone who knows the club inside out, has done more than decently as a manager in his debut season and is loved unequivocally by the fans? Frank Lampard all the way for me.
There’s a lot of young players coming through at the moment - who are you most excited to see this season?
Mason Mount, Reece James, Tammy Abraham and Callum Hudson-Odoi. I can’t possibly choose among them. And no, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Andreas Christensen aren’t young players anymore! Every one of the aforementioned group is capable of excelling at this level. I’m delighted they’re finally going to get the chance, not only because Frank is in charge but he has Jody Morris as his number two, and he’ll know a great deal about them in addition to already sharing a positive relationship.
You’ll know all about James, Mount and Abraham - each of them proved their salt in the Championship, were immensely loved by the fans of their loan clubs and would be prised away by bigger clubs at the first opportunity (hypothetically speaking). The fact that James was captain on his last appearance speaks volumes. Hudson-Odoi being courted by Bayern and his whole contract extension saga was well-documented. I chose not to pay much attention to that but I’m glad it’s finally been resolved and we can continue seeing such a mercurial talent continue on his path of progression.
What are your expectations for the season as a whole?
They’re tempered to say the least. Keeping long-term building and goals in mind, I’d take a fifth to sixth-placed finish, as long as we’re in Europe next season. That being said, I’ll even go so far as to say even one or two places below that isn’t cause to sack him. I want Lampard to be given this season as a free hit.
What do you make of Reading at the moment?
They excite me; I liked what I saw of Reading after Jose ‘Gomsh’ took over. More possession-based football, although clearly we haven’t yet see the full extent of what Gomes wants to implement due to personnel limitations and also no pre-season. I realise that Reading are heavily strapped for cash but that also means the several youngsters (Loader, Olise, Barrett, McIntyre and so on) waiting to break through will get their chance and I love to see that.
So you can count on the fact that I’ll be watching a lot of the Royals! Michael Morrison is a decent signing on a free and will definitely be an influence in the dressing room. Hopefully Ejaria and a couple more astute loan additions will follow.
Lewis Baker and Matt Miazga had good loan spells for us last season - what’s your take on their time at Reading and futures at Chelsea?
They’re both great players in their own right, although neither are going to play for Chelsea (again) before moving on permanently. I think either of them have the ceiling of a good European-league-standard player. Miazga got a little unlucky at Nantes and for Baker to be at Boro, then Leeds - two clubs that clearly didn’t suit him - was very unfortunate.
We’ve seen what Baker can do at Vitesse Arnhem, it’s just a matter of a manager who trusts him and helps bring the best out of him. Obviously, Gomes did that last season but for whatever reason, Lewis has chosen to go to the Bundesliga to further his development and perhaps find a permanent home as well. Miazga is a very capable CB, I’d even say he’s playing below his level by spending another season in the Championship. He’ll go on to bigger things for sure, hopefully that’ll be with Reading, though.
How do you think Chelsea will set up against Reading?
Hard to zero in on one formation as Lampard will still be trying things out, but we’ll probably start with a 4-3-3 and move on to 4-2-3-1/4-4-2 diamond later on in the game. We’ve got a friendly against Salzburg, so I’m expecting two groups of players to get an equal amount of minutes in either, whether that means the ‘first-choice’ group playing majority of the Reading game or the other way around. I suspect it might be the latter, though.
How do you see the game going, and what will the score be?
I think Chelsea will win comfortably (sorry!) but Danny Loader, assisted by Michael Olise will peg one back from Reading. So let’s make that a 1-3. Should be fun either way, and lots of young talent on display. Can’t really ask for more!