Ahead of the trip across London to take on the Blues early on Saturday, we had a chat with avid fan Jenny Brown to get her views on the season so far, thoughts on the fixture and much more.
Q. Looking back, how do you rank last season, now that the dust has settled?
Last season at Chelsea had to be one of the oddest and most contrary seasons we have experienced in a long time, maybe ever. Taking everything away and looking at it in pure black and white terms, it was ultimately a success. The team managed to finish third in the league, which was just about the best anyone could have hoped for amid last season’s title race. We managed to reach, and give a performance to win the League Cup final and then managed to take home a European trophy. Incredible scenes.
However, the football itself felt like hard work, the manager had no relationship with the fans – or even many of the players. As each week went by the atmosphere within the ground died a slow death while infighting on social media channels increased as Maurizio Sarri and his ‘tactics’ continued to divide the fans. The summer could not have come soon enough!
Q. How has the season been so far for you?
This season has been an absolute whirlwind so far. It could not be a starker contrast to last season if it tried. Coming in without much expectation in terms of results and being led by club legend Frank Lampard, it has allowed the fun to return to Stamford Bridge both in the stands and on the pitch.
It has been an absolute pleasure so far. With so many young academy stars now in the team, it’s amazing to watch them develop as the season goes on. Week in and week out they grow in confidence, but you can also see the changes from week to week and how they adjust their own game to improve within the team itself. Obviously, Lampard was always going to be given a lot more time than any other manager in terms of results both from the board and fans alike. But he’s currently exceeding expectations and brought so much joy back – as cringe as that sounds. I look forward to going each and every week again, something I didn’t have just six months ago.
Q. It was expected to be a bit of a transition season what with the transfer ban but has Frank Lampard exceeded expectations?
Frank Lampard has most definitely exceeded expectations this season. I watched a fair amount of Derby County last season – a bit of escapism from Sarri-ball. and it was curious how he would be as a manager. As one of the most clever midfielders in recent times, he always had the aura about him that he would get into management at some point. Despite doing a decent job with Derby, even I thought this job may have come a bit too soon for him and would have been happier to see a more experienced hand take charge for a couple of seasons until he was ‘ready’.
Chelsea are renowned for their management turnover and Lampard is the one person that no one wanted to see get sacked after a short stint in charge. With the transfer ban in place, Chelsea were going to need to rely on a number of academy players this season to play alongside the more senior squad members. With Jody Morris’ exceptional knowledge of these players and Lampard’s experience at Chelsea himself – they were actually the perfect pair to take charge this season. Who knew?!
Q. What is the general feeling among fans about the transfer ban?
Most fans, while annoyed that Chelsea were singled out for what a number of clubs have done, were pleased. Not just now while they are performing well, but throughout the summer there was a bit of a buzz among fans about the potential academy stars that would be brought into the team. Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori were exceptional at Derby under Frank Lampard, so they were almost a given. But it was the other players who might get a chance to show that they can make the step up that people were most excited to see week in and week out. Players like Billy Gilmour and Reece James.
Q. If the club had been able to, which areas would the club looked to have strengthened in the summer?
If they could have, the club would likely have looked to add another striker to the squad. Tammy Abraham has really impressed this season, but Chelsea had really struggled in front of goal since Diego Costa left and there never seemed to be a solid solution. Even now papers continue to run a number of transfer stories about who Chelsea will sign if the transfer ban is lifted, and they are still linked to forwards like Timo Werner and Callum Wilson.
Q. One to watch for Chelsea this season?
The player who has been an absolute diamond, for me, this season has been Mason Mount. However, the player to watch would be Christian Pulisic. He came to the Premier League with the expectation of an entire country on his shoulders. He impressed in the Bundesliga but between injury and Jadon Sancho making the step up, he lost his place and until recently has struggled to get into this Chelsea side. He will play with a point to prove and he’s already shown flashes of brilliance. He looks like he could be a very exciting addition to the Premier League as he continues to grow as a player.
Q. If you could pick one Palace player to sign, who would it be and why?
Gary Cahill! Just kidding. Probably the most obvious answer would be Wilfried Zaha. He’s arguably one of the most creative talents around. He constantly challenges defenders with both pace and skill and would be an asset to just about any team in the country. It’s genuinely surprising that he doesn’t score more goals himself.
Q. Which Chelsea player do Palace need to keep an eye on in the game?
Saturday should see the return of N’Golo Kante. Even though it will be his first game back from injury, there is never a time that he’s not a handful, but you won’t even see him coming. However, the player to really keep an eye on is Mateo Kovacic. He’s transformed under Frank Lampard as he’s been given a lot more freedom than under previous regimes. He is key to the forward thinking movement of Chelsea’s young attacking lineup and could be the difference again on Saturday.
Q. Perhaps you could share your views on what you expect from Palace this season?
I think it comes down to getting your forward players firing. Roy Hodgson has done an excellent job of building out from the back and Palace have one of the strongest defensive records in the Premier League this season. However, only Newcastle and Watford have scored fewer goals this season – averaging less than a goal a game. If Andros Townsend and Zaha can help Jordan Ayew out with a few more goals, it should be a top ten finish.
Q. Your prediction?
I’m afraid I’ll have to be biased here and go for a Chelsea win. It won’t be easy, as I said before Palace’s defence have been rock solid and will be difficult to break down. It should be a little more chilled out than the Champions League draw against Ajax. Chelsea for a 2-1 win. We don’t really do clean sheets and Ayew has been in excellent form but think Pulisic and Abraham may prove to be a handful for Cahill and Co.