It’s nearly impossible to analyze this team without veering into hyperbole. The only certainty is that pitches will turn to post-apocalyptic desert landscapes as the Chelsea XI roar across it in an octane cloud of goals and explosives, while Emma Hayes riffs on a fire-spewing guitar*.
In last year’s pandemic-shortened season, Chelsea FCW scored 47 goals in 15 league games. The vast majority of that scoring was done without arguably our best player in Fran Kirby, who was held to two starts and two sub appearances due to pericarditis (look it up, it’s an awful thing). Chelsea went 4-1-0 against rivals Manchester City and previous season’s champions, Arsenal. Chelsea didn’t just snatch the league title from Arsenal, we also beat them in the League Cup final (the Continental Cup) and pummeled the ex-champions across three matches for a combined scoreline of 8-3.
And then Chelsea got better.
Emma Hayes always talks about how the goal of the club is to win everything, with the crown jewel being a Champions League title. Chelsea underscored this seriousness by pulling off the January signing of Sam Kerr, one of the best goalscorers in women’s football. And that was just the start. In March, the club signed Bayern Munich captain Melanie Leupolz, a smart and composed midfielder with great passing range and technique. Then, Liverpool’s relegation opened the door to sign their best player, 21-year-old winger Niamh Charles. Chelsea continued. Twenty-two year old Canadian international midfield prodigy Jessie Fleming chose Chelsea to begin her professional career.
You may be thinking, ‘Wow, that’s amazing! What an excellent job addressing areas of need and convincing young gems to join the club!’; and while you would be right, we’re not finished. Because then Chelsea signed one of only two forwards who can claim to be better than Sam Kerr, Wolfsburg’s Pernille Harder.
Oh and Fran Kirby appears to be back, fully recovered and in excellent form already. Also, Bethany England has transformed herself into a force of nature. The talent added to this already stacked squad fully capable of scoring goals in bunches is absurd.
*Have you ever seen the movie Mad Max: Fury Road? If you haven’t, well, imagine a muscle car lover’s post-apocalyptic desert landscape painted with Pennzoil and at least two of the chemicals in C4. A consistent piece of the film is a pasty mutant-looking guy without eyes and clad in torn red pajamas whose only job is to wail on a guitar while atop a flatbed piled with speakers. Oh, and the top of the guitar spews fire whenever he wants it to.
I bring all of this up to say that, 1) you should watch it, and 2) it’s the closest facsimile to what I think the 2020-21 Chelsea FCW squad is capable of.
Striker Adelina Engman departed Chelsea after playing just 81 league minutes last season. Defensive midfielder Anita Asante exited Chelsea as well, after three years but just six league starts. Defender Deanna Cooper left after three years as a Blue as well. Dribbler extraordinaire Ramona Bachmann signed with PSG and will be the Blues’ biggest miss. Bachmann played in 12 league matches (5 starts), but scored only one goal and collected just two assists (Kirby, who appeared in just four matches, had three).
But seriously, watch this:
January 2020 – Jamie-Lee Napier and Sam Kerr
March 2020 – Melanie Leupolz
June 2020 – Niamh Charles
July 2020 – Jessie Fleming
September 2020 – Pernille Harder
Goalkeepers – Ann-Katrin Berger (starter), Carly Telford
Defenders – Millie Bright, Magdalena Eriksson, Maria Thorisdottir, Maren Mjelde (RB), Jonna Andersson (LB), Hannah Blundell (RB), Jess Carter (LB/RB)
Midfielders – Sophie Ingle (DM), Drew Spence (DM), Sophie Ingle (DM), Charlotte Fleming, Melanie Leupolz, Jessie Fleming, Ji So-yun (CAM)
Forwards – Fran Kirby, Erin Cuthbert, Guro Reiten, Jamie-Lee Napier, Niamh Charles
Strikers – Bethany England, Sam Kerr, Pernille Harder, Emily Murphy
I honestly have no idea. Emma Hayes calls the number of attacking options at her disposal “a privilege”, but there must be some headaches as well. It will be very difficult to keep…