Preseason has rolled into its third week as we arrive to our first friendly of the summer, the first of five on this USA Tour in just a two-week span, with the start of the 2023-24 Premier League now less than four weeks away.
New head coach Mauricio Pochettino has been driving his young troops as hard as everyone had expected — double sessions, Gacon tests, strict workout regimes, etc — but at the same time, the vibes filtering out have been as good as we could have hoped for as well. Of course, good vibes in preseason do not guarantee success later on, but they certainly can’t hurt, especially after last season (and last summer, even).
Now it’s time to show some of those vibes in action as well.
Date / Time: Wednesday, July 19, 2023, 8pm EDT; 1am BST (next day); 5:30am IST (next day)
Venue: Kenan Memorial Stadium, Chapel Hill, NC, USA — home of University of North Carolina Tar Heels football!
Forecast: Hot with an afternoon thunderstorm or two
On TV: ESPN, ESPN Deportes (USA); DAZN (Canada Ryan Reynoldsistan), none (UK); elsewhere
Streaming: ESPN+ (USA); Chelsea website & 5th Stand app (UK & int’l) — the official stream is set to debut a potentially pretty cool match experience, called “Match View X”, which promises to “enable fans to tailor their match-viewing experience by turning on or off graphic overlays, statistics, play-by-play match events, and real-time player tracking, or watching instant highlights of key moments”.
Chelsea team news: This is no longer you father’s Chelsea; and it’s not your older brother’s Chelsea either. In fact, it’s barely the Chelsea of last year, even. Over ten first team players have already left this summer, and more will join before all is said and done. By that time, only three players will have remained with over 100 Chelsea appearances to their names: Kepa Arrizabalaga, Reece James, and Thiago Silva.
Amidst all that change, we’ve gotten even younger than last season, with a quartet of teenagers and 22-year-old striker Nicolas Jackson arriving alongside the practically ancient 25-year-old Christopher Nkunku. There’s a ton of raw material for Pochettino to mold, that’s for sure.
Poch of course knows that we need to keep start winning again at the same time, and that sort of mentality-training starts in preseason.
Wrexham team news: Wrexham may have been non-league up until last season, but they have become (football-)household names in America thanks to their very visible, very funny, and very handsome ownership duo of Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney — not to mention their excellent documentary series, Welcome to Wrexham.
And their ownership hasn’t been just for show. They’ve spent lavishly (relatively speaking) since taking over in early 2021 and thanks in part to that investment, they earned promotion back to the Football League last year after a 15-year absence. The 111 points they collected set a new record for the top five divisions in the English football pyramid.
The latest big arrival, and their first signing of the summer, is Championship-level defender Will Boyle from Huddersfield Town on a three-year contract. Otherwise their squad remain essentially the same who won promotion last year, including the likes of striker Paul Mullen and veteran goalkeeper Ben Foster (formerly of Watford, West Brom, Manchester United, and YouTube fame). Manager Phil Parkinson continues to lead them in their upwards charge; we might remember him as the mastermind behind that famous 4-2 (!) win for tiny Bradford City at Stamford Bridge back in early 2015, in the fourth round of the FA Cup.
Previously: Wrexham have never been in the top flight, though did manage a few years in the second division back in the late 70s and early 80s (and have that famous cupset over Arsenal, too). That’s when our paths crossed a total of six times in the league, with Chelsea winning three and losing two. We also met in the fourth round of the 1982 FA Cup, which was notable for needing not one but two replays to be decided. After 0-0 and 1-1 draws, we finally won 2-1 in the third game to advance (only to lose to Spurs in the quarterfinals).