The arrival of several superstars at Chelsea this summer has heralded an exciting new dawn for the club. After securing a Champions League spot last season despite a transfer ban, Frank Lampard has now been backed through the most remarkable of spending sprees.
The likes of Kai Havertz, Timo Werner, Hakim Ziyech and Ben Chilwell have been signed for hefty fees, and there is no doubt that the expectation is for Chelsea to push on all fronts next campaign in the hunt for silverware. Thiago Silva and Malang Sarr have also been recruited on free transfers
But the players largely responsible for the west London outfit’s exploits before the summer may now find themselves shunted to the sidelines. In the absence of any new faces, it was a number of academy graduates who led from the fore and helped fuel a young and impressive team.
Tammy Abraham netted 15 Premier League goals, Mason Mount played the third-highest amount of league minutes of any Chelsea player and Callum Hudson-Odoi attracted fierce interest from Bayern Munich.
But now the talented trio will likely be forced to scrap harder than before for a regular first-team berth.
Here, Sportsmail takes a look at who will be glancing nervously over their shoulder ahead of Lampard’s enviable team selection headache.
Abraham’s impressive league haul last season saw him rank 12th among the top scorers and cemented his spot as one of the most prolific young strikers in Europe. But Werner’s signing from RB Leipzig now poses an interesting conundrum for the Chelsea coaching staff to tackle.
It is the Germany international who will undoubtably become the first-choice frontman, although Abraham should provide stern competition.
The 22-year-old appears to be relishing the new-found battle to ensure he remains as high up in the pecking order as possible.
He told The Times: ‘It is Chelsea Football Club. There are always going to be new signings. I don’t do too well when I’m in my comfort zone. It’s good to have me on edge. That’s how I love to be.’
Abraham also alluded to wanting to start alongside Werner, but Lampard’s preference for formations with just one man leading the line means he will likely start the new campaign on the bench.
The English ace is still young and raw and should not be overly concerned with Chelsea competing across multiple fronts. His time will come, and it will be down to him to snatch it with both hands.
According to Bild, Mount has not been best pleased with Havertz’s arrival at Chelsea. The playmaker’s signing from Bayer Leverkusen means that Mount, who also operates in an attacking role, is another academy graduate in danger of dropping out the team.
His father has laughed off the speculation, however, and Mount himself has also underlined his sheer will to fend off competition and remain a key performer under Lampard next season.
Mount exclusively told Sportsmail in January how he planned to deal with big-money additions and the challenge to avoid becoming merely a sporadic bench option.
‘You just have to fight,’ he said. ‘You know Chelsea can always buy £60m or £70m or £80m players that are world class. They want to come here and take my place.
‘Just because I am an academy boy and young, that doesn’t mean anything. But the mentality I have means I won’t be pushed over easily. I will fight for my position and keep working hard.’
The 21-year-old played 53 games across all competitions last season and rapidly became a fan favourite. His versatility across the front line means that he too will feature heavily next term, although Havertz is certain to take up his spot in the starting XI.
Exciting Chelsea prodigy Gilmour was named the club’s academy player of the season last month. He had been handed his senior debut against Sheffield United and went on to make 11 appearances in total, two of which came in man-of-the-match performances in wins over Liverpool and Everton.
But his flying start to life in Chelsea’s first team was brought to an abrupt end after a serious knee injury. The setback required surgery and Gilmour is not expected to return to action until later this year. The Scot is expected to be ruled out for three or four months, and his last cameo came back in July.
It is this lengthy absence, combined with the new signings, that could cause concern over his immediate future.
He will need to sharpen up after his recovery during the period in which the likes of Havertz and Ziyech will have embedded themselves into the team.
The Chelsea midfield had been crowded when Gilmour initially broke through. He will find his spot even more under threat next season after the club’s splurge, despite his ability to operate across a number of positions.
It appears increasingly likely that he will find himself sent out on loan in the winter window.
The development of Hudson-Odoi at Chelsea has been stunted in recent months. A number of his fellow academy graduates flourished under Lampard last season, making regular appearances, but the 19-year-old’s progress was hit by injuries and the coronavirus pandemic.
His breakthrough season came under Maurizio Sarri, and he caught the eye of Bayern Munich despite his limited game time. A call up to the England senior team in March 2019 promptly followed. It is understood that Hudson-Odoi had already thrashed out personal terms ahead of a move to Bavaria, only for the deal to break down after Chelsea rejected several bids.
Any uncertainty lingering over Hudson-Odoi’s future was then banished after the signing of a new five-year contract at Stamford Bridge.
He still struggled with inconsistency, however, and the pandemic hitting in March threw another spanner in the works.
The forward will be well aware that the pressure is on to deliver next season. Having competed with Christian Pulisic and Mount for a starting spot, Hudson-Odoi must now battle against Ziyech and Havertz too.
There can be no doubts that the starlet will also have one eye on next year’s European Championship, although he must certainly be concerned over his potential lack of action when top-flight football resumes.
Chelsea youngster James was forced to wait patiently for his first-team chances to materialise last season, but he will resume his tussle with captain Cesar Azpilicueta again this term.
The Blues have not strengthened at right-back this summer as part of their eye-watering outlay, and Lampard will be able to rely on both players to step into the breach and perform.
James had missed the whole of pre-season and the beginning of the previous campaign through injury, and hit the ground running when given his first opportunities.
He bagged his debut goal against Grimsby in the Carabao Cup and also impressed during Chelsea’s Champions League group clashes.
Lampard’s preference for a back three in the final months of the season truly allowed James to flourish down his flank. His ability to contribute at both ends of the field makes him an invaluable member of the squad, and his dangerous deliveries will provide another useful aspect to the club’s attacking arsenal.
Despite Azpilicueta likely to be given the nod to start on most occasions, James will still be afforded plenty of opportunities to continue his impressive development. He is one of the academy graduates who truly has nothing to fear from the spending spree.
Despite Chelsea’s promising first season under Lampard’s stewardship, the club legend was rightly left concerned with his team’s shambolic defending.
The arrival of former Paris Saint-Germain stalwart Silva will go a long way in fixing this and the experienced centre-back will certainly slot straight into the starting XI.
A number of defenders struggled to impress as part of a notoriously leaky backline, and Lampard may now be tempted to trim the numbers in the hope of instilling some much-needed consistency.
Kurt Zouma is likely to stay, Antonio Rudiger will be given chances to impress and Azpilicueta can also operate centrally. The arrival of Silva therefore forms a solid four-man group to occupy just two positions.
This means Tomori’s place is under serious threat. Chelsea are looking to loan him out and Everton are keen.
Rennes have reportedly been in discussions regarding a possible short-term move for the versatile England man – but there can be no denying that Tomori lies down the pecking order and will be worried about what is in store for him.
After the influx of new faces at Chelsea, Loftus-Cheek may be braced for another frustrating year on the sidelines. Despite impressing in the academy system, the midfielder has struggled to perform on a regular basis after making the step up and now faces increased competition.
Both Ziyech and Havertz are capable of playing in his position, and Loftus-Cheek may also struggle for a spot on the bench with Lampard now truly spoiled for options in the centre of the field.
Despite impressing during his loan spell with Crystal Palace, Loftus-Cheek was unable to earn regular starts under Sarri and also suffered last season. After breaking into England’s World Cup squad, his promise came crashing to a halt following an Achilles injury sustained in Chelsea’s pre-season friendly in the United States last May.
The serious setback, and subsequent recovery time, reduced him to just nine appearances overall last term. Just two of those came from the off. His frustrations are set to continue, with sporadic appearances in cup competitions beckoning.
Lampard insisted before the end of the last campaign that he hopes an injury-free Loftus-Cheek would become like a new signing for Chelsea.
The star must demonstrate his value, but will almost certainly struggle to do so after the club’s summer business.