Chelsea won the 2016-17 Premier League title at a canter. They were crowned champions after a spectacular campaign which saw them finish with a record number of wins and second highest points tally in the premier league era. Things looked rosy at Stamford bridge again as Blues fans hoped that the success would help build a foundation that enables them to defend the league title and challenge for the champions league.
In football, as Chelsea learned in a hard way two seasons ago you can’t stay steady, no matter how good you are. In order to continue achieving big things, you have to improve your abilities, quality, and depth of squad season after season. This is a major reason clubs like Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Juventus have established themselves as serial winners.
While it doesn’t count for much, Chelsea’s form in pre season hasn’t been impressive. It’s not only the results but the performances which have the fans worried. Except for the first game against a tired Arsenal, the blues have seemed out of ideas. It was evident in the penalty shootout defeat to the Gunners at Wembley in the community shield that the team is nowhere close to levels of last seaon. The players and Conte would know they need to wake up and putting in performances of the same intensity or else they could be left behind very early.
So far with only a day left for the Premier League season to kick off, Chelsea have done anything but strengthen their side. While they have brought in four players, all of them are replacements and whether they are even upgrades also remains up for debate. Another issue is that Chelsea have still let go of more players than they have bought in. It must not be forgotten that Chelsea squad last year itself was quite thin and the lack of European football ensured it wasn’t a big problem.
This year with the extra games, Chelsea need a bigger squad. Starting the season with only 15 senior players is not at all justified. The top management at the club needs to address the problem and get transfer business done as swiftly as possible. The fact that Victor Moses and Marcos Alonso are still the only wingbacks at the clubs or the fact that Cesc Fabregas and N’Golo Kante are the only midfielders available for selection at the start of the season with Tiémoué Bakayoko injured is unacceptable. Two top quality wingbacks and a backup midfielder are the most immediately required arrivals.
There are very few days left for deadline day and every passing day the chances of panic buying increases. It is a scenario, Chelsea has to desperately avoid and make sure they don’t do a Papy Diljobodi. They still have enough time to ensure that doesn’t turn out to the case.
At the moment, they board aren’t doing the job optimally is visible to all. If there was any validation required to that claim, it can be done by how frustrated Antonio Conte has looked off late in press conferences and interviews. His lack of excitement about how the summer has been for Chelsea is evident. The defending champions have to make the manager happy and more importantly give him the squad to challenge the best in Europe.
Blues fans won’t have any doubts in believing the words of their manager of how inefficient the work of their top officials has been as it is not happening for the first time. Both Carlo Ancelotti and Jose Mourinho were massively let down by the club after their title wins. Conte knows that despite their inefficiencies when things turn sour he is the one that will get the sack. If he does meet the same faith, he can at least claim to have gone down fighting, unlike Mourinho and Carlo who were too nice to stand up for themselves and ended up scripting their own downfall.
Having said that Antonio Conte has to himself evolve too. He must know that he has to flexible with his tactics to ensure the team becoming too predictable. In the Modern Age of technology, it doesn’t take too long to find chinks in the armor of a particular system. Also, The premier league has some of the finest managers in the world who have the acumen to outfox anyone and anything.
Arsenal’s success in not allowing Chelsea to play from the back as they like too and forcing Courtois to take every goal kick long is an example of why Conte will have to find new ways. Chelsea sort of struggled against the big sides away from home last season and the manager would need to come up with new solutions to address the issue. To remain at the top against these men, Conte would have to continue to think one step forward like he did in his first season in charge.
One area where Conte’s work remains questionable is his usage of youth. This summer Chelsea have lost 3 top talents from the Academy, namely Dominic Solanke, Nathaniel Chalobah and Nathan Ake. The latter two could still be at the club had Conte had showed more belief in them. Of course in their case with them waiting for their chance at the club for 3-4 years, it is unfair to just blame Conte but it’s a worrying trend. Another of Chelsea’s most promising academy product Andrea Christensen, who was tremendous on loan in Germany with Gladbach was only given one start in pre season and barely given minutes otherwise. On the context of Hazard and Pedro being injured he said “I have only Willian” for the wide positions justifying his attempt at playing Morata on the left. This despite the presence of the extremely talented duo of Charly Mosounda and Jeremie Boga on the bench. Lewis Baker, who was phenomenal at loan at Vitesse and is highly rated barely got a look in These are situations and statements that are sure to reduce the confidence of the players and make them contemplate a move away from the club. If that happens it can be detrimental for the long term future of the club.
As the saying goes “its easier to get to the top than stay there”. The top hierarchy of club can’t keep sleeping if the club wishes to sustain their success. The board must improve the squad, the manager must continue to improve his tactics and the players must keep getting better if they wish to taste more success.
The 2015/16 season which was nothing short of a disaster for the club did not happen long ago. It happened in a season where Chelsea was defending the premier league title. There is nervousness and tension around the club at the moment which is justified. It’s upon the people around the club to act efficiently and for the players and coach to perform on the pitch in order to calm the fans down.