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PICTURES: Chelsea open training in Japan ... and 3 premature conclusions (+1 Ashley Cole)

We’re all antsy, so let’s over-analyze an open training session, shall we?

Ahead of Chelsea’s preseason match against Kawasaki Frontale, Lampard put his Blues through their paces in an open training session — all except for Tammy Abraham, who was feeling unwell. While these things are usually just opportunities for fans to feel close to the team, there were some interesting tidbits detailed in Football.London’s report.

They list five conclusions, but “The fans are mad for Chelsea” and “Love for Mount” are useless, so let’s focus on the other three.

Buddy System

Players were split into two groups of 10 (goalkeepers worked elsewhere), which is consistent with Lampard playing two different XIs in each half of our previous preseason matches. They don’t detail the ten in each group, but did spotlight Azpilicueta, N’Golo Kanté and Christian Pulisic coming out together, which would suggest a first team and a second team. The two teams came together for a game at the end of the session.


Even though new boy Christian Pulisic doesn’t have a number yet — please hurry, there are overpriced shirts to be sold! — Lampard might have an idea of where to play him. One of the groups he had a close eye on was a three behind Giroud consisting of Pulisic on the left, Barkley central, and Kenedy(!) on the right. Hurray for inverted wingers!

Now we know we’re supposed to be chronicling and overhyping everything Pulisic does (he scored a goal in training!) but the most interesting part of this may be Kenedy on the right. In Brazil Kenedy was either a winger or a forward, but in England (especially at Chelsea) he’s been mostly stuck using his size and speed in service of trying to defend from the LB position. Every now and then he’ll venture forward in a preseason match and you’ll remember he’s actually good with the ball at his feet, and loves an elástico. But maybe Lampard is considering giving him a try at a more natural position, which could be a lovely little surprise — although he did deploy Kenedy at left back in the first preseason match.

Welcome Back, N’Golo?

Last but never ever ever ever least, Little Baby N’Golo seems to have returned to training with teammates, and in His (not Makélélé’s) DM position. Too much was made of Kanté’s position last season — in which he equaled Allan’s best ever production in the same role under Sarri including a triple nutmeg goal against Spurs — because he’s always been a much more versatile talent than he tends to get credit for. But Lampard isn’t playing around, and will seemingly use Kanté as the impenetrable brick wall on a skateboard that we all know and love. He was working in a midfield three with Danny Drinkwater (no idea who that is, going have to look him up) and Mateo Kovačić.

It should go without saying to take these observations with several grains of salt. The squad is still too large and it is just a session in July before a preseason friendly against a Japanese team. But it certainly sounds like Lampard has a clear idea of what he wants to do on the pitch and how he wants the team to play. With the season just over three weeks away, and with four additional preseason matches to get through after tomorrow’s, we’re probably starting to get closer to knowing some things for certain-ish. Who knows, Pulisic might even have a number soon!

BONUS: Ashley Cole has arrived

Ashley Cole teased his imminent arrival in Japan on Instagram and sure enough, he was at the training session. But the Chelsea legend who played for Lampard last season at Derby County is apparently just a club ambassador for now and will not be part of the coaching staff. After all, he’s still working on his badges.

Chelsea Pre-Season Tour to Japan - Day 3 Photo by Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC via Getty Images

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