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Impressive Gallagher, Sterling’s role: What we learned in Chelsea’s pre-season draw


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icking off one hour late because of thunderstorms, Chelsea’s supporters were forced to wait even longer to see their marquee signing Raheem Sterling in Wednesday’s pre-season friendly with Charlotte.

For many in attendance, it was United States international Christian Pulisic who was the main attraction and he delivered the Blues’ only goal of the match, lobbing goalkeeper Kristijan Kahlina to make it 1-0.

Chelsea rotated their entire outfield line-up in the second half, allowing the £47.5million signing from Manchester City to make his pre-season debut.

However, Trevoh Chalobah’s handball in the box allowed Kami Joswiak to net a last-minute penalty, thus sending the game to a spot-kick shootout. Conor Gallagher‘s missed attempt then cost Chelsea with Charlotte netting all their efforts past Edouard Mendy.

Unlike Sterling, fellow new signing Kalidou Koulibaly was left out of the squad and will likely make his debut against Arsenal in Orlando on Saturday.

With the usual caveats that this was a pre-season friendly – and against a team midway through their season – here are five takeaways from the match…

Tuchel may need defensive signings

In the first half, Chelsea lined up with a back three of Thiago Silva, Reece James and Emerson Palmieri.

Silva was immaculate in his display but often had to cover the other two, who specialise as full-backs. On at least two occasions, the 37-year-old got up gingerly after last-ditch clearances.

Luckily, he finished his half before being replaced by a new back three featuring Malang Sarr, Trevor Chalobah and teenage defender Levi Colwill.

The latter of the three is targeted by a dozen Premier League clubs with Crystal Palace, Southampton, Brighton and Leicester thought to be frontrunners.

Levi Colwill in action versus Charlotte

/ Chelsea FC via Getty Images

The 19-year-old looked a little nervy with the nearly impossible task of playing so well that Tuchel doesn’t move to sign £50m internationals to replace him.

Chelsea made a new £55m offer for Sevilla’s France international central defender Jules Kounde shortly before kick-off and they continue to attempt to persuade Presnel Kimpembe to leave Paris Saint-Germain.

Waiting in the wings are young defenders like Sarr, Ethan Ampadu, Colwill and arguably even Chalobah. The young backline was a bit shaky in the second half and it ultimately allowed Charlotte to score.

It will only strengthen Tuchel’s resolve to spend money on his defence, where he most believes improvements are needed.

Second-half attack is a vision of the future

Chelsea’s new-look attack got a first outing against the MLS side in North Carolina.

Kai Havertz was the central striker in the second half with England internationals Raheem Sterling and Mason Mount on either side.

Mount, adorned with the captain’s armband, played on the right with the new £47.5m signing in his favoured left-wing position.

The Blues want to give Sterling a leadership role in the attack but Havertz, as the sole tall striker in the squad, will likely get many matches next season.

Raheem Sterling takes on a defender in the pre-season game with Charlotte

/ Getty Images

Mount was Chelsea’s Player of the Season last year having tallied the most goal involvements. On paper, this is the Blues’s most potent attack.

This second-half attack followed a first half with Michy Batshuayi leading a line with both Hakim Ziyech and Christian Pulisic behind him.

Batshuayi was poor but those in behind performed very well, with the US captain netting the opening goal. Timo Werner missed the match through a minor injury.

Sterling will start against Everton and you would expect Mount and Havertz to join him.

Conor Gallagher continues to impress

Conor Gallagher reacts after missing his spot-kick in the friendly shootout

/ AP

Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic had bossed the midfield in the first half but Conor Gallagher showed he could do the same, lining up in front of a young back three and with Ampadu as his partner.

The England international will play in Tuchel’s squad next season after a successful year at Crystal Palace and in the US is proving that he is ready to play.

Cross-field balls, intense pressing and his vocal leadership were on display on Wednesday night in a humid Bank of America Stadium.

Unfortunately, his penalties could do with some work, missing the decisive kick with a tame effort. Regardless, Tuchel will look favourably on this latest outing.


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