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Whereto For Chelsea in 2016/2017?

Chelsea will start the new season with a new manager, a revamped squad and with a point to prove. But can they do the unexpected and win the league?

16/07/2016

/ by Editor
The past ten or so months have been disastrous for Chelsea. They were the worst defending champions in EPL history, lost fan favourite Jose Mourinho, finished the season as a mid-table club and are now fearing that their status as a big club and a constant Champions League participant may be in danger.
Roman Abramovich is probably kicking himself that Financial Fair Play rules are in force and that spending big on players is now considered illegal. If football was like a casino and spending a lot of money was legal like it is in South Africa, then Roman would have quickly solved the problem and Chelsea would soon be champions again.
Unfortunately for the Russian oligarch, Chelsea’s hierarchy have decided to play by UEFA’s and FIFA’s rules and Chelsea’s new manager, Antonio Conte, will have to find a way to improve his squad by buying smartly and improving from the inside, preferably from the club’s academy.
This means that it is unlikely that Chelsea are going to spend a lot of money in the transfer window, and except for the already acquired Michy Batshuayi and a reasonably priced defender and a midfielder, there shouldn’t be any further expenditure by the West London club.
The fact that Chelsea have been saying for a long time now that they want to become a self-sufficient club should be a clear indicator of the club’s future transfer dealings. Furthermore, the appointment of Antonio Conte is exactly along these lines. The Italian did miracles with a limited group of players at Euro 2016, and only an unlucky penalty shootout against Germany prevented him from being part of the Top 4 national teams in Europe.
This inactivity in the market shouldn’t worry Chelsea fans. They already have a solid group of players, and key stars like Courtois, Hazard, Willian, Fabregas and Costa have already confirmed that they are happy in London and that next season they are going to do their best to return the club back on track.
With the addition of Michy Batshuayi, Chelsea have secured a more than capable competition for Diego Costa, even though some media outlets have already said that Conte is going to play with two forwards. If he indeed does that, then EPL defences should really up their game next season, because Diego and Michy can be quite a handful for defences when they are playing as lone forwards, let alone as a pair.
The only real additions other than Batshuayi that this Chelsea team needs are a top quality central defender and a proven holding midfielder. Chelsea’s defensive line has always been one of the best in the world, but time is catching up with John Terry, Gary Cahill, and Branislav Ivanovic. This means that Kurt Zouma, Cesar Azpillicueta, and Baba Rahman are going to be playing much bigger role next season, and that a defender of the calibre of Bonucci or Kalidou Koulibaly is likely to be Chelsea’s main transfer target.
In terms of reinforcing the midfield, Conte doesn’t have to change much since Chelsea already have a solid looking group of midfielders. Fabregas, Matic, Oscar, Mikel, and Loftus-Cheek are all good choices for the midfield department, but with the rumours that Matic is looking for a move away from the club, Conte has suggested to club officials that Chelsea should make a move for one of Radja Naninggolan or N’Golo Kante. Of the two, the Frenchman is much more likely to join the Blues.
One major drawback for Chelsea when trying to lure players to the club for next season is going to be their absence from the Champions League. Europe’s elite competition has been in Chelsea’s blood ever since Roman came to the club, but now fans will have to wait until September 2017 for the earliest possible Champions League match. And that seems really far away.
However, Chelsea’s absence from the CL might turn out to be a blessing in disguise. The number of games that Chelsea are going to play next season is going to be much lower than that of Arsenal, Manchester City, Tottenham and Manchester United, and this will probably give them a competitive edge over the other title contenders. In fact, this smaller number of games was one of the main factors why Leicester City won the EPL last season.
One more thing that goes in Chelsea’s favour is that in Conte, Chelsea have one of the best managers in the world, and while Mourinho seems to have stopped evolving as a coach and Guardiola has always chosen the easiest jobs in football management, the Italian has had to play in Serie B and fight match fixing scandals, before turning Juventus into a force to be reckoned with. Maybe he has the weakest CV of the three managers, but one feels that Conte comes to England with much more desire to succeed than both Guardiola and the returning Mourinho.
All in all, the appointement of Conte should be enough to galvanize an already talented Chelsea squad with a point to prove. In addition, the West London club won’t have the distraction of European football and will play a game a week most of the time. If Conte manages to add a couple more players to this Chelsea side then anything is possible and the Blues might have an outside chance of winning the EPL title once again.
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