The 2016-17 Premier League has kicked off and it has kicked off in grand style. Even though it is just a couple of weeks old, the new season has already thrown in lots of headlines and is promising to provide a lot more. As it happens every season, all eyes are on the big boys of the League along with last seasons wonders, Leicester City. The arrival of some world class names in managerial helms at the clubs such as Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea have also gained lots of interest as many believe this season will be a tactical battle by the managers that will be very interesting to observe.
One such arrival that gained lots of attention was that of the charismatic Italian Antonio Conte to Stamford Bridge. Conte led Italy through an impressive Uefa Euro competition but could not take his team all the way to the finale. However, his impressive style of management and the bundle of energy and animated responses on the touchline promised lots of hope to the Stamford Bridge faithful who had a forgettable title defence last season. And one of the major points of discussion was the incoming and outgoing traffic that Chelsea would be making in this transfer window.
The summer transfer window has already made big headlines with the Red half of Manchester bringing in some huge names such as Zlatan and Pogba, while their Blue half, not far behind bringing in the likes of Gundogan,Leroy Sane, etc to the Etihad. And while many other impressive transfers were going on around the league, Chelsea decided to strengthen the not so glamorous side of their midfield by bringing in the recent Premier League winner N’Golo Kante. This was followed by the signing of an exciting young Belgian striker in Mitchy Batshuayi. This was a clear indication of the transfer strategy Antonia Conte had in place for Chelsea.
While there are many stories coming in such as Conte wanting to see at least 5 new additions to the current squad to have a realistic shot at the Premier League title, we have a look at how not having many signings won’t hurt Chelsea much.
Chelsea dominated from start to finish in the 2014-15 and were worthy Champions for the 4th time. They led the table from the start to finish and showed impressive character to shrug off the ‘boring’ tags. However, the Chelsea side had an entirely different season last year as they portrayed the worst defence of the Premier League title.
Chelsea starts the 2016-17 with an aim to put the forgettable season behind him and all hopes are on the new boss Antonio Conte. One of the main reasons why we believe Conte won’t be needing too many signings this season to have a shot at the title is because Chelsea possesses a strong squad that is capable of tearing apart any team on their day. However, the challenge for Conte would be to correct last season’s troubles and we believe a majority of these were completely because of the off-field happenings.
Chelsea players had an extended season break last time around and this proved to be a costly error as they were caught wanting fairly early in the season itself. Few disappointing results, followed by the not so pretty episode including the team physio ensured Chelsea had more than one problem to solve. And they only managed to pile up the troubles as the attitude of a certain player to play under the then manager Jose Mourinho was questioned which eventually saw Jose leave his throne at the Stamford Bridge.
The damage was already done and incoming caretaker manager Guus Hiddink tried his best to make Chelsea finish as high as possible. Chelsea finished 10th with a total of 50 points, a drastic 37 points lesser than what they managed in the season before. However, the performances and results were much better in the second half of the season.
Now, coming into the new season, the question that everyone has in their mind is whether Chelsea needs more big signings to win back the title. And the answer to that, we believe is not necessarily.
A quick look at the Chelsea squad will be enough to realize that this team has quality written all over them across the field. From shot-stopper Courtois to the deadly Diego Costa up front, Chelsea have enough in the repository to make a shot at the title this year. The arrival of Conte and his initial signings indicate that he also had a clear idea of what he can get off this squad.
Even though they were the Champions in the 2014-15 season, their business in the transfer market was less than impressive as they made many raise their eyebrow when they decided to bring in a struggling Radamel Falcao, Alexandre Pato and a not so heard of Baba Rahman. These signings left many wondering as the season before that saw clear intentions when they brought in Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas. These two were indeed the prime reason for their title success. But the same cannot be told about the signings made in the 2015-16 summer window. Many were led to wonder if Chelsea needed to make those signings and letting Cuadrado away on loan even deepened the concerns.
The intentions of Conte were clearer as he brought in a solid defensive midfielder in N’Golo Kante to partner Nemanja Matic and an in-demand young striker in Batshuayi as a deputy to Diego Costa.
The solutions to Chelsea’s problems may not be a steady inflow of new signings, but a better handling of the current crop. The squad lacked confidence and passion last season and the early couple of weeks has already indicated a change in this already. In Conte, Chelsea has an extremely skilled tactician and a bundle of energy and positive aggression on the sidelines. These are traits that Jose injected to his squad in his own style and saw positive results.
Conte could be an answer to Chelsea’s troubles as the recent performances of Eden Hazard and Diego Costa show newly found confidence and has given us an indication that they may well be back to their threatening best. Conte has already mentioned the admiration he has for Cuadrado and this pacey winger, if used in the right manner could well strengthen the side to a whole new level. Though the defence lacks the solidness they should be having, the presence of John Terry both on and off the field could well play a vital role. The creative side of Hazard, Cesc and Willian could get a new boost as they have the added protection of Kante who won praises for that role behind them.
And one of the most important factors is that the squad consist of players who still have a memory of their impressive title-winning season. The challenge would be to get the disappointment of last season behind them and the arrival of the new boss with his fresh strategy and attitude has already wiped a small part of last season away. Add to that the upcoming of young talents like Loftus-Cheek made more impact towards the end of the season.
While the transfer window is still live and the stories are still surrounding arrivals in Chelsea, Conte might well have enough in his squad already to make a realistic title shot. Slowly stitching together a few good results might inject new hope every week and improve the confidence of the whole club. Giving another chance to the current crop might also mean renewed confidence the manager has in the players and the change in performances of Hazard and Diego Costa is an indication of what this might do to their confidence.
Chelsea has had a good start to the season with wins in their opening two fixtures, scoring 4 goals. We will have to wait until the end of the transfer window to know what changes might happen in this club’s squad, but not having enough signings might not hurt Chelsea as many do believe.