High hopes Raheem Sterling can give Chelsea a jump-start amid new era’s whirlwind summer

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High hopes Raheem Sterling can give Chelsea a jump-start amid new era’s whirlwind summer
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The new era at Chelsea officially gets underway at Everton on Saturday.

This will be the club’s first game since the Todd Boehly-Clearlake takeover but expectations remain as high as they were under Roman Abramovich.

Just as high is the off-field intrigue, spending and drama.

It has been a whirlwind summer as the new owners got up to speed, while a rocky pre-season was far from ideal preparation for manager Thomas Tuchel.

A tour of the United States welcomed in the largely American consortium as Chelsea racked up more air miles than most clubs in the Premier League.

They played and trained in energy-sapping heat, and a 4-0 defeat by Arsenal in Orlando led to Tuchel warning that he could not guarantee his side would be ready for the new season. He also admitted they cannot currently compete with Manchester City and Liverpool.

There has been no sign of Chelsea curbing their spending but they have missed out on several targets and it is doubtful they are strong enough to close the gap to the top two.

But there is still plenty of quality at Stamford Bridge.

Sterling will become the figurehead for Chelsea following his £50m move from City. Tuchel believes the 27-year-old is the perfect fit for his system and the feel around the club is he can be a leader on and off the pitch.

Chelsea have also signed Kalidou Koulibaly from Napoli and Aston Villa’s Carney Chukwuemeka, with Marc Cucurella close to joining for £52.5m and two further transfers planned.

Spending this summer is projected to surpass £200m and Chelsea are set to have one of the highest net spends in Europe. With that spending comes the expectation to at least finish in the top four.

There is an acknowledgement that the loss of Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen on free transfers to Real Madrid and Barcelona will make the beginning of the season difficult.

Amid plenty of change, Cesar Azpilicueta’s decision to sign a two-year contract last night was a major boost for Tuchel. His leadership and influence could be key this season.

“I am really happy to extend my stay at Chelsea, my home,” said Azpilicueta, who agreed to join Barcelona but they failed to stump up the transfer fee demanded. “It is almost 10 years since I first arrived and joined the club so I really feel the love and I am really excited for the new project we have in our hands.”

In Pictures | Chelsea sign Raheem Sterling

(Chelsea FC via Getty Images)
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Competition for a top-four finish will be fierce. Tuchel believes Tottenham have “maybe the strongest team they have ever built” and Arsenal look good.

If Chelsea cannot catch City and Liverpool, a top-four finish and a run in the Champions League and domestic cups may have to do.

In the longer term, the owners hope recruitment will be less chaotic and want to appoint a new sporting director, with ex-Liverpool chief Michael Edwards in talks about coming in.

They will also look to increase revenues to make the club more sustainable and use algorithms to judge the aims of managers over the season against their spending.It will be a change from the emotional and sometimes reactive transfer business under Abramovich.

Still, it was a way of working that Tuchel bought into. He loved the old regime and the people working under Abramovich. Whether he can forge those relationships with Boehly-Clearlake remain to be seen, despite the honest intention from both sides to create that connection.

There will be huge attention on what happens next at Chelsea and whether this new era will be as successful as the last.

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