After a comfortable 2-0 win over Fulham, Chelsea were crowned champions of the Premier League Summer Series. Whilst it is only a preseason competition, the past few preseason games have encouraged optimism across Chelsea fans for the upcoming season. A couple of names in particular have been highlighted for positive or underwhelming performances that could influence Chelsea's squad this season.
Winner: Ian Maatsen
Comfortably the biggest surprise of preseason, Ian Maatsen's versatility has become a valuable asset to Pochettino. Maatsen has been utilised as a winger on both flanks rather than his preferred position at left-back where he was instrumental for Burnley last season on loan. Prior to preseason, it looked almost certain that Maatsen would move away from Chelsea on a permanent deal but it is clear to see that the player has earned a place in Pochettino's squad.
It is too early to suggest that Maatsen should be regularly starting, however, he will be able to provide much needed competition for Mudryk, Madueke and Sterling. My only concern for Maatsen is that it is unlikely that he will be selected ahead of the previously stated wingers when they are all fit, resulting in limited game time for Maatsen. If he is content with the potential limited game time, then Maatsen could be a fantastic utility player for Chelsea this season.
Loser: Raheem Sterling
From the biggest surprise of preseason to the biggest disappointment, unfortunately, Sterling has not impressed so far this preseason. One of the few players to survive the clear out this summer, Sterling's seniority in comparison to Chelsea's other forwards means that there is a higher level of expectation for Sterling's performances than other players. This preseason however, he has been unable to reach those expectations. Of course in preseason, players are not going to always be at 100% but it is safe to say that Sterling has been underwhelming so far. Since his arrival from Manchester City last summer, his performances have been inconsistent which could be excused by the overall lack of quality surrounding Sterling last season. Although that excuse is not going to be valid this season as Sterling will be a role model for these young attackers. I believe that Sterling has the ability to be a key player this season but he will have to improve if he wants to cement a place in Pochettino's starting lineup.
Winner: Nicolas Jackson
Ever since Diego Costa's departure in 2017, Chelsea have more than struggled to find a suitable successor. Whilst it is very early into his Chelsea Career, yet to make his official competitive debut, Jackson has already sparked a lot of excitement and belief that he can cure Chelsea's recent striker curse. In the game time that Jackson has had so far, he has shown all the qualities of a striker that Chelsea have missed out on in previous seasons. His work-rate, hold up play and most importantly finishing have heavily impressed so far. in a half an hour cameo against Brighton, he was able to pick up a goal and two assists, showing his natural strikers instinct and chemistry with his teammates.
For a modern day striker, it is essential that they can get involved in the build up play and Jackson has shown a constant willingness to drop deep to start attacks and progress forward to create chances. His striker instinct has been shown in his frequent attempts of running in behind to put himself in a position to go 1-on-1 with the goalkeeper. He scored an early goal against Newcastle with a smart run in behind and an early but calm shot to slot the ball past the keeper into the back of the net. His combination of instinct, work-rate and technical ability will make him a handful for Premier league defenders this season.
Loser: Marc Cucurella
Picking out a player for poor performances in a preseason friendly can be harsh, but Cucurella's defensive flaws could be a detriment to the team if ignored. Cucurella has not been terrible during preseason, in fact his ability to play as an inverted fullback could make him a useful asset to Pochettino. His defensive liabilities however, inhibit his performances and cause the team to be put under needless pressure. For example, against Newcastle at the end of the first half, Cucurella misjudged a pass after attempting to intercept it which allowed Almiron to get in behind and slot the ball past Kepa to make it 1-1. Of course in a preseason friendly mistakes can easily happen, but its the same problem that Cucurella has showcased multiple times last season of running into no mans land, leaving the defence vulnerable. Mistakes such as this, constantly put Chelsea under pressure which could have easily been avoided by more patient and intelligent defending. When Chelsea have Chilwell, Hall and Maatsen all in the same squad, it is tough to argue that Cucurella's qualities out way his weaknesses enough to put him ahead of those players in the pecking order.
Winner: Andrey Santos
Many other players could have also been regarded as "winners" so far this preseason such as Nkunku and Gusto, however, Santos' maturity beyond his years have been extremely impressive. Having spent the last few months on loan back at his old club in Brazil (Vasco Da Gama) due to complications over acquiring a working visa, it was likely that Chelsea would loan out Santos to a European club this season to give Santos experience of European football. This preseason, he has shown that may not be needed and that he can be an important player in Chelsea's midfield already.
Pochettino has mostly used him as the deepest midfielder, allowing Enzo Fernandez to play further up the pitch. For a young player to play in that position, it is easy for them to make multiple mistakes and become overwhelmed, even in a preseason friendly, however Santos showed maturity on the ball and that he was ready to get stuck into challenges. Chelsea's midfield this season has been left quite thin due to the departures of multiple midfielders such as Kante, Kovacic and Loftus-Cheek. As such, Santos could have a clear pathway to becoming a regular in Pochettino's midfield lineup this season, even with a lack of experience in European football. Despite Santos' impressive preseason, Chelsea should still sign another midfielder to increase squad depth and take pressure off Santos during his first season in European football.