Replace JT? Go for European glory? What next for champions Chelsea?
It’s official: the Premier League belongs to Chelsea once again, and Antonio Conte’s men are going about it in style, sitting 10 points clear at the top of the table with one game still to play.
But, believe it or not, we reckon there’s still plenty of work that needs doing in West London between now and the opening day of next season.
As convincing as they’ve been on the pitch, they’ve been far from that off it. Back in October, Conte himself was favourite to be the next Premier League manager to face the chop. And Diego Costa, despite netting 20 goals, has been the subject of a mega-money move to China.
Their last attempt at a title defence was nothing shy of embarrassing – and that’ll likely be in the minds of players throughout the summer. There’s also an argument to suggest that Chelsea don’t have enough in their ranks to mount a serious title challenge while trying to compete in the Champions League. So does Conte add strength in depth?
These are all questions which need addressing at Stamford Bridge, but we’ve been discussing them in the office all day.
Here’s how the Ladbrokes News team thinks Chelsea should prioritise over the coming months…
The Champions League was always seen as the holy grail by Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich. And despite the fact the Blues got that monkey off their backs in 2012, no doubt the Russian billionaire will be hungry for more continental success.
He’ll give Antonio Conte the necessary funds to chase that dream – he deserves that after all – but I think the Italian boss could well see his side struggle unless they make the right acquisitions.
Keeping the rejuvenated Eden Hazard is a must while Diego Costa’s time at the Bridge has appeared to be up for the last 12 months.
And then there’s the need to find a new dressing room leader owing to John Terry’s departure. And adequate cover in the wing-back positions.
It might seem bizarre to suggest that the newly-crowned Premier League champions need a refit but the fact is Conte and co. have much to ponder. And if the big boss wants a serious shot at more European glory then the team around him need to prioritise a detailed recruitment strategy. And sooner rather than later.
What next for Chelsea? A sustained European challenge AND another Premier League title tilt.
That’s what Conte will need to achieve, in my opinion.
The Blues have clearly been a cut above in England this term, but Manchester City and United will break the bank to challenge them next season, so they’ll need to be ready for that.
And I can already see Conte and the Blues excusing themselves due to a lack of ‘experience’ in Europe should they come unstuck.
But there is no excuse. They won the thing five years ago with a squad half as good as the one they have now.
If Conte wants to create a legacy at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea must compete on both fronts next season.
For me, it’s about strength in depth.
There’s no doubt that a lack of European football this term has kept the Blues fresh for their domestic commitments. After all, Tottenham have matched the champions’ form for much of the season – with two of their only four Prem defeats following Champions League games.
So with both battling on a continental front next term, there’d be very little to separate the two sides. And what Chelsea need to get the edge is to bolster the side with quality squad players.
John Terry’s off, so bringing in a few more sprightly but still experienced defensive recruits is important.
Likewise, it would be good to see a few of the talented loanees brought into the fold, with Chelsea battling on more fronts. The likes of Nathan Ake and Lewis Baker have proved they’re ready to play a part.
As for their strike-force, another forward needs to come in – and a couple, if Diego Costa leaves. They’ll need a ‘Plan B’ sometimes, and his power and tenacity won’t always be the thing to do the job, especially with the referees in the Champions League a bit more whistle-happy than in the Prem.
Where do you start? If Costa goes in the summer, who’s going to come in and replace him? Romelu Lukaku? That’s a big risk. Does Michy Batshuayi get promoted to the starting XI? He’s done very little to suggest he’s a worthy starter.
Then there’s the John Terry issue. Granted, he’s hardly played this season, but his presence will be sorely missed. Gone are the days of Petr Cech, John Terry, Branislav Ivanovic, Ashley Cole, Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba. You’re now looking at this Chelsea side and wondering whose voice will be heard in the dressing room when things start to go wrong.
Not only that, but there’s a season of Champions League football ahead of them too – and, in my opinion, not enough players around to sustain a decent continental challenge.
My points all go back to one thing: players. Don’t get me wrong, this is a strong Chelsea team we’re talking about. But Costa needs to be tied down, Terry needs to either be replaced, or someone like Gary Cahill needs to step into his boots and become the go-to guy.
I’d be baffled if Conte left, and equally as perplexed if he wasn’t given a huge amount to spend in the summer. Does the first-team need altering? Not that much. But quality, experienced back-up wouldn’t go amiss.
We’ve had our say, but what do you think? Let us know in the comments section below!
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