Chelsea has in its usual form, failed to defend its Premier League title. Here are some things that need to be fixed next season
Unless a miracle happens, Chelsea will not defend their Premier League title successfully- a situation that has repeated itself for the umpteenth time.
Ever since the Premier League came into existence in 1992, the Blues have won the title 5 times (second highest behind Manchester United) but only the 2005-2006 win under Jose Mourinho has been a successful title defence.
This shows that the club’s policy of organized chaos has been great for getting title-winning teams but has been detrimental to long-term success.
While there is no shame in losing out to a Manchester City team that has been peerless, the meek surrender would have grated on manager Antonio Conte & owner Roman Abramovich.
The UEFA Champions League (they face a daunting task against FC Barcelona in the second round), the FA Cup & Carabao Cup (they play Arsenal in the second leg semi-final) are still in play but planning for the next season must begin in earnest to avoid the mistakes of the current season.
#5 Decide who will be the manager & support him accordingly
It has been a funny old season as Antonio Conte has been in the news for more reasons other than on-the-pitch matters.
The long-running drama over transfers in the summer served as cannon fodder for the vultures in the media and was not helped by the stony silence of the board (former sporting director Mike Emenalo & director Marina Granovskaia) and the petulance of Conte himself.
It became obvious to regular watchers of events at Stamford Bridge that Conte’s influence over transfers was negligible and that the opinions of others within the club held more weight than the manager’s.
Conte’s spat with Diego Costa, his silly feud with Jose Mourinho and general moody demeanour tell of a man who is still unsure of his place.
The club needs to make a definitive decision on who will be in the dugout next season be it Conte or someone else (rumours are rife about names like Maurizio Sarri, a return for Carlo Ancelotti et al).
If the club still believes that Conte is the man to take them forward, then it must back him to the hilt and deliver on things like transfers, control over first-team affairs and what not.
#4 Have a better summer transfer window
Shambolic, strange, bonkers were just some of the adjectives that could describe Chelsea’s actions in the summer transfer window.
It had been obvious that in terms of quality & numbers, Chelsea needed to have a good window to be able to compete on all fronts as the lack of European football certainly helped the team in its 2016-2017 title run.
Rumours were rife that Radja Nainggolan, Romelu Lukaku, Alex Sandro were the targets that Conte wanted but the board felt that these were players who would come in on huge wages and little in terms of resale value.
In came German centre-back Antonio Rüdiger from AS Roma (£29m), striker Álvaro Morata from Real Madrid (£58m), midfielder Tiémoué Bakayoko from AS Monaco (£40m), Davide Zappacosta from AC Torino (£22m), and Danny Drinkwater from Leicester City (£35m) which was a significant outlay.
None of these players have been roaring successes due to injuries, Conte’s tactics and a mishmash of other issues but it was obvious that a lot of the buys were not the manager’s first choice.
There are obvious issues with the squad and the club will need to be decisive and get their targets in early.
#3 Do something about the loan army
Chelsea’s transfer policy concerning young players has long been a discussion on the ethics or otherwise of the loan system in football.
The club currently has a whopping number of 32 players out on loan and something has to be done to bring this list to a manageable number as the modus operandi which has gotten the club in trouble with the authorities is under serious scrutiny.
The manager; Conte or whoever the club decides to appoint will need to take a good, hard look at the players and decide which ones are worth keeping in the first team, which ones would benefit from another loan spell and which players need to be cut loose.
The acquisition of players like Ross Barkley, Drinkwater and Bakayoko means that talented youngsters like Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Mason Mount may need to be sold as the central midfield role seems set for the long haul.
Other talented players like Tomáš Kalas, Tammy Abraham, Matt Miazga may need to decide if they are ready to cut the umbilical cord with the club or believe enough in themselves to continue as the club want them to.
Of the current lot, Loftus-Cheek looks like he is the only one who would fetch a good transfer fee if sold (something Chelsea have been very good at) and this might be the way to move to whittle down this army.
#2 Get their star men to sign long-term contracts
Arsenal’s situation with Mesut Ozil & Alexis Sanchez will have been a stark reminder to the big clubs of the need to ensure that the stars are tied down to long-term contracts.
The rumours about the Belgian duo of Eden Hazard & Thibault Courtois and their links to Spanish & European giants Real Madrid would have done little to help the heart conditions of the decision makers at Stamford Bridge.
Losing players such as these would deal a death blow to the Blues’ title aspirations & mean that the team may need to spend upwards of 300m to replace the pair given the state of the transfer market in Europe.
Statements by people like Hazard’s father Thierry about his son’s ambitions will have given the board added impetus to get the gifted attacker to sign a new deal and if the news is to be believed, the captain of Belgium will be offered a deal where he will earn about £300,000 per week.
That for Courtois seems more straightforward with the towering goalie having rejected previous offers but the club is said to have capitulated and are set to offer him a £200,000 per week contract which will make him the highest paid goalkeeper in the world.
Keeping this duo would send a strong message to the world and ensure that the team’s long-term health is well taken care of.
#1 Reduce the average age of the team
With an average age of 27.0, Chelsea are one of the older teams in the league and will need to fix this to bring about a certain level of dynamism to the team.
This is a big problem as a cursory look at the presumed First XI of the Chelsea team shows that Alvaro Morata at 24 years is the youngest player in the team with most players in their late 20s to early 30s.
This shows in the gameplay of the team as wing backs Victor Moses and Marcos Alonso (who isn’t the fastest player in the world) are the players tasked with providing pace for the side and when they are unable to provide this width, the team struggles with building attacks with pace.
There have been doubts over the long-term status of players like Pedro Rodriguez, Francesc Fabregas, and Willian and the club will need to look at younger, faster players to add a different dynamic to the team.
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