5 Chelsea players who impressed the most during pre-season

Sarri and Zola would have certainly kept an eye out for the best performers
Sarri and Zola would have certainly kept an eye out for the best performers

Chelsea's pre-season preparations came to an end with a win over Lyon in the International Champions Cup clash at Stamford Bridge last night. The Blues emerged victorious on penalties after the two teams played out a cagey affair that failed to muster a single goal over the course of regulation time.

The win helped Chelsea finish their ICC campaign with 5 points after failing to win any of their games within normal time over the course of the tournament. Chelsea had to force the initiative into penalties on all three occasions against Inter Milan, Arsenal and Lyon respectively, only falling short against their London rivals before they had already beaten Perth Glory in Western Australia to kick-start life under the new manager.

The delayed return of Chelsea's active World Cup stars meant that Sarri had very little to operate with initially, but some of the players who were called up to be a part of the squad stood out glaringly courtesy of a few resounding performances. In this segment, we take a closer look at five players who impressed the most during Chelsea's pre-season campaign:

#5 Pedro

Pedro was a central figure in pre-season
Pedro was a central figure in pre-season

Before the appointment of Maurizio Sarri, there was plenty of speculation surrounding the winger's future at Stamford Bridge. Pedro had enjoyed a dream run under Antonio Conte during the 2016/17 season, where he eventually helped Chelsea lift the title, but the Spaniard had struggled to replicate the same kind of form ever since then.

However, the unavailability of Eden Hazard and Willian during the majority of pre-season had forced Sarri to try and work his way out with Pedro and the results were overwhelming, especially for someone who was labelled 'not good enough to be at the club' anymore.

The 31-year-old has signed a new one-year extension with the club and seems to have grasped Sarri's high pressing system very well, where he relishes the opportunity to attack. Furthermore, goals against Perth Glory and Inter Milan were enough to make him Chelsea's top-scorer from pre-season and also provided him with a starting role against Manchester City in the Community Shield.

#4 Davide Zappacosta

Zappacosta is already benefiting from playing in his natural role
Zappacosta is already benefiting from playing in his natural role

Davide Zappacosta, who joined Chelsea from Torino last year, was termed as a mediocre panic buy by the end of last season due to his inconsistency that came to light whenever he was called in to provide cover for Victor Moses as a right wing-back in the 3-4-3 system.

The Italian was forced to improvise in an unnatural role throughout last season but Chelsea reverting to a back four under Maurizio Sarri has proved pivotal in his uprising during pre-season. Zappacosta has looked the part all throughout Chelsea's friendlies and even showcased a better overall performance than Chelsea's rumoured first-choice full-back in the form of Cesar Azpilicueta, who struggled to re-adapt himself to his natural position.

Sarri has a reputation of working wonders with relatively unknown full-backs, just like he did with Elseid Hysaj and Faouzi Ghoulam at Napoli, and if Zappacosta continues to impress then he could well and truly establish himself as a regular at Stamford Bridge.

#3 Marcin Bulka

Bulka has emerged as an unlikely hero for Chelsea during pre-season
Bulka has emerged as an unlikely hero for Chelsea during pre-season

Chelsea's 18-year-old shot-stopper from Poland has been a revelation between the sticks all throughout pre-season. Marcin Bulka started all of Chelsea's pre-season friendlies except the one against Arsenal and his best performance came in that particular game against the Gunners in which he conjured a number of decisive saves to help Chelsea force the game into penalties.

Bulka has proven to be a calm and reliable presence in goal for the Blues and stood out with his impressive reflexes and astute decision making in crunch situations. However, it is understood that Bulka will not be a part of the first team this season and it will be ideal if Chelsea can loan him out to a club where he can continue to develop whilst also getting the desired amount of playing time.

#2 Ethan Ampadu

Ampadu displayed maturity way beyond his age
Ampadu displayed maturity way beyond his age

Chelsea's search for a new centre-back probably came to an abrupt end due to the emergence of Ethan Ampadu in pre-season. The 17-year-old has arguably been one of Chelsea's best performers and his performances have certainly caught the eye of the new manager, who was not shy in trusting him with enough responsibilities during the last couple of weeks.

A natural ball-playing center-half by trade, Ampadu looked astonishingly comfortable and strong on the ball which further implied the fact that he is probably tailor-made for Sarri's infamous system despite his relatively humble age background.

The defender had already made his first senior appearance for Chelsea under Antonio Conte last season and with Chelsea preparing for numerous competitions in the form of the Europa League, Carabao Cup and the FA Cup to go with the hustle of the Premier League, Ampadu could become a handy option to have at Stamford Bridge this season.

#1 Callum Hudson-Odoi

Hudson-Odoi impressed against Manchester City as well
A star in the making!

Callum Hudson-Odoi was already a household name among a certain section of Chelsea supporters, who had the habit of keeping a cheeky eye of optimism on their youth academy, even before he made his senior competitive debut for the club last season. The 17-year-old was earmarked as one of the best ever talents to have emerged out of the academy since John Terry and it is not surprising considering the way in which he has backed up the audacious claim with his performances during pre-season.

The FIFA U-17 World Cup winner was Chelsea's best player during the notable 3 appearances he made during pre-season against Perth Glory, Inter Milan and Arsenal which prompted Sarri to grant him a starting role against Premier League champions Manchester City in the Community Shield.

Despite Chelsea's 2-0 humbling at Wembley, Hudson-Odoi was their tiny ray of sunshine in a rather gloomy afternoon and rightfully earned the plaudits for his performance at the highest level. Undoubtedly a star in the making for both Chelsea and England!

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Edited by Arvind Sriram
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