As has been so common this season, Chelsea once again have a quick turnaround in a relentless season of fixtures. The Blues have nine games remaining in the final month of the season having already played 54 over the course of it.
Thomas Tuchel’s still have an intense end to 2021/22 campaign thus far but the German coach finally has a set schedule that can be planned around, with Arsenal’s visit to Stamford Bridge the first on the agenda.
The Blues still have injury concerns surrounding Ben Chilwell and Callum Hudson-Odoi, while Mateo Kovacic was added to that list after picking up a knock against Crystal Palace that saw him leave Wembley with some heavy bandaging on his ankle. Tuchel still has enough options to rotate his side for the final weeks and football.london take a look at the changes that could be made for Wednesday night.
Thiago Silva start
It was just an eight-minute outing for Thiago Silva at Wembley and such is his quality and importance it has become almost difficult to imagine the starting XI without him. The Brazilian brings everything to the heart of Chelsea’s defence and regardless of whether Andreas Christensen keeps his place in the team, the veteran defender seems very likely to return.
Silva has only played fewer matches that Antonio Rudiger, Mason Mount, Jorginho and Edouard Mendy, which at 37 is an impressive feat. Particularly when he sat on the bench for Chelsea’s opening two matches of the season.
Romelu Lukaku start
Romelu Lukaku is by no means a guaranteed starter with Kai Havertz Chelsea’s first choice leading the line but it’s impossible not to hark back to August and remember the hope the Belgian’s display against Mikel Arteta’s side brought. The forward bullied Arsenal’s defence, and just maybe he could do it again, while offering Havertz a break.
Tuchel has already suggested Lukaku could follow a similar path to Timo Werner. Reflecting on Werner’s form following matches against Southampton and Real Madrid, the Blues boss summed up how quickly the situation can change for a striker.
The 48-year-old said: “In the games, it’s an opportunity for everybody, and especially for strikers. Things can be turned around in minutes, in moments, whole careers can be turned upside down and changed in any direction. Always as a striker, you can have a chance to put things into your favour, either as a substitute or if you have the chance to perform from the beginning.”
Wednesday could be the perfect opportunity to provide Lukaku with a platform to rediscover his mojo. The 28-year-old was deemed not fit enough to play 90 minutes, not fit enough for the intensity of our game in an FA Cup semi-final’ by Tuchel against Crystal Palace but still made it off the bench to miss a good opportunity. The former Manchester United striker’s misses do signify he’s doing something right to get in the position in the first place, and maybe Arsenal can tip the scales in his favour.
Reece James at wing-back
This would not necessarily have to result in a change of personnel with Cesar Azpilicueta and Reece James able to simply swap positions if Tuchel hopes to make use of the latter’s attacking proficiency. The wing-back more than showed his capability in a back three against Crystal Palace and Real Madrid but remains one of the Blues’ most prominent attacking threats.
Only Kai Havertz, Timo Werner and Mason Mount have recorded more goal contributions over the course of this season than James, despite the 22-year-old missing the early parts of 2022 through injury. Trevoh Chalobah, who missed out on the FA Cup semi-final squad, and Andreas Christensen remain other options that could slot into the right side of defence.
Mateo Kovacic replacement
This is one change the Blues boss will be forced into ahead of the Gunners’ visit to Stamford Bridge. The Croatian left Wembley with heavy strapping on his ankle, but without the aid of crutches on Sunday and it seems unlikely Chelsea will risk one of their star performers in any way.
It will be an interesting choice for Tuchel who will likely decide between N’Golo Kante and Ruben Loftus-Cheek, to partner Jorginho, unless both players come in. Loftus-Cheek proved at Wembley that he has the ability to perform and he may be rewarded