Chelsea could field a new look attack next season, with Raheem Sterling and Raphinha both potentially on their way to Stamford Bridge.
While they bagged the third-most goals in the Premier League last season, Chelsea’s highest scorer was midfielder Mason Mount with 11 – both Sterling (13) and Raphinha (11) grabbed more than any of the Blues’ forwards.
Romelu Lukaku is on his way back to Inter on loan and so Chelsea’s frontline could look very different in the coming months. Here’s how Thomas Tuchel could set his side out if both Sterling and Raphinha sign on the dotted line.
The most obvious way for the two potential Blues to fit into Tuchel’s starting XI would be in their natural positions – Sterling off the left flank and Raphinha from the right.
With Lukaku leaving, Kai Havertz is likely to see an extended period as Chelsea’s number nine, though Timo Werner and the returning Armando Broja could also come in if they stay at Stamford Bridge.
If Tuchel has been watching Manchester City highlights from 2017/18 then he could also play the two new boys on their natural sides, though don’t bet your bottom dollar on it.
Raphinha (RW) – Havertz (CF) – Sterling (LW)
Raphinha (RW) – Werner (CF) – Sterling (LW)
Raphinha (RW) – Broja (CF) – Sterling (LW)
Sterling (RW) – Havertz (CF) – Raphinha (LW)
Sterling (RW) – Werner (CF) – Raphinha (LW)
Sterling (RW) – Broja (CF) – Raphinha (LW)
The problem with Sterling and Raphinha coming into two forward slots is that it would displace one of Chelsea’s key players in Mount.
The 23-year-old wouldn’t have as much of an impact if he were to play in a two-man midfield, and so keeping him further up the pitch is a must.
However, the easiest way to do that would be for Tuchel to switch to a back-four formation – systems he has rarely used while at Chelsea. It remains a possibility, however.
Raphinha (RM) – Mount (AM) – Sterling (LM) – Havertz (CF)
Raphinha (RM) – Mount (AM) – Sterling (LM) – Werner (CF)
Raphinha (RM) – Mount (AM) – Sterling (LM) – Broja (CF)
If Tuchel is feeling particularly rambunctious with his rotation this season, then Sterling could be played through the middle, giving one of the Blues’ other wide forwards a chance to get some minutes.
It could also free up Havertz to play a little deeper and would give Mount a chance to play higher up without diverting from a back-three.
Raphinha (RW) – Sterling (CF) – Havertz (LW)
Raphinha (RW) – Sterling (CF) – Mount (LW)
Raphinha (RW) – Sterling (CF) – Pulisic (LW)
Raphinha (RW) – Sterling (CF) – Hudson-Odoi (LW)
Ok, we won’t entertain this one for long, but it has been reported that Raphinha could be an option as wing-back.
It’s not unlike Tuchel to put forwards there, with Callum Hudson-Odoi and Hakim Ziyech both filling in at times last season, particularly when Chelsea were trailing games.
Playing forwards as wing-backs is fairly common in the modern game, too – Dejan Kulusevski has featured there down the road at Tottenham, while Arsenal’s Bukayo Saka is often utilised at wing-back on England duty.