It may seem premature, especially with roughly 10 games remaining, but with the title wrapped up bar a PSG like collapse and the relegation battle ending sooner rather than later as teams like Palace and Leicester begin to pull away I thought I’d take an early look at the three best ways to improve the current 20 teams in England’s premier football decision. I will break it down into 20 separate articles as a series of sorts in order to keep it shorter and more manageable to read so keep an eye out!
Find out what to do with their youth prospects – Per the official club website, as of today, Chelsea currently have 37 players out on loan!
(How it is within the rules for a big club like Chelsea to effectively buy players they don’t want/need – probably just to spite rivals – and loan them out to make squad numbers is beside the point! )
Chelsea, along with Manchester City, have spent huge sums of money in recent years on their youth teams and both clubs have seen their efforts rewarded. Yet again their two youth sides meet to decide the winners of the FA Youth Cup. However, very few if any of these players ever seem to get any first team experience; largely down to the urgent win-now pressure on whoever is in charge at said time.
Out of the 37 players, clearly there are some to be excluded; Marco van Ginkel, Loic Remy (who would have been ideal for Liverpool or Spurs this year), Juan Cuadrado, Baba Rahman and Christian Atsu will surely finally be mercifully sold this summer. However, there are a number of players on their loan list who appear to be hidden gems.
Bertrand Traore, currently on loan at Ajax, has proven he can score both for Chelsea (in the few appearances he’s been given) and in Holland. Furthermore, whilst representing Burkina Faso at the African Cup of Nations he was named in the team of the tournament aged only 21! Similarly they have 20-year old Tammy Abraham on loan at Bristol City who I have mentioned in previous articles who has wracked up a staggering 22 goals in the slug fest of the Championship for one of its worst teams! Lewis Baker [Vitesse] and Isaiah Brown [Huddlesfield] also appear to be young players with huge potential and paired with Ruben Loftus-Cheek who’s already at the club, if Chelsea can find a place in the squad to mature/develop even half these players they can potentially save themselves a lot of money!
Sign a replacement of Diego Costa – Trying to find ways to improve a team that – until the last few weeks – has been running away with the League title is not an altogether easy task; only Mourinho really seems to be able to find the flaws in this team and he knows it better than anyone other than Conte.
However, as always with successful teams, the summer rumours have began circling over Chelsea’s best players like vultures with those most targeted being Eden Hazard, Thibaut Courtois (both Real Madrid) and Diego Costa (Possibly Atletico but more likely China). All three have been star players but in this next window I can see the most likely rumour to come to fruition being Diego Costa to leave during the off-season. He’s controversial, disliked by all but Chelsea fans, liable to suspension and has twice threatened to leave the club for ventures new. I’d also point out he’s not that great a footballer – how he scores so many goals is beyond me – and by far easily the most replaceable of the trinity.
Clearly Michy Batshuayi and Loic Remy aren’t held in high regard and so they are unlikely to be leading the line next year. Similarly, whilst I think Abraham looks like a fantastic prospect, Conte and Chelsea don’t have great history giving youth a chance. As a result, they will need to dip their hands into Roman Abramovich’s deep pockets for a replacement.
I personally think the best striker to be ‘available’ is Romelu Lukaku as I have mentioned in the Arsenal edition of this series. He’s strong, incredibly fast for his size and deadly infront of goal; more importantly he’s a proven goalscorer in the Premier League. Chelsea would definitely be in the Champions League and so meet his requirements there and I can certainly see him viewing his time at the club as unfinished business given the lack of opportunities he experienced. Also worth noting that his footballing idol is Didier Drogba. It, to my mind, is the ideal scenario and one that would fill me with dread as a Manchester United fan!
Fortunately I can see Chelsea going a different way; I’m convinced Antonio Conte will go for Alvaro Morata with whom he’s coached previously. He’ll be cheaper than Lukaku (for obvious reasons!), he’ll be readily available and I believe he’d be more than interested in a move given he’s already behind Benzema in the team and Ronaldo appears to be transitioning towards a number 9 role.
Increase squad depth – Antonio Conte made the comments, prior to their FA Cup game against United, that Manchester United had the much stronger depth in their squad. In terms of depth he was absolutely right and there is a clear reason as to why; before their second leg against Anderlecht tonight, United have played 53 games to Chelsea’s 39.
United players have had to contend with European games – the Europa League notably has an extra round to the UCL and plays closer to the weekend fixtures – and two long domestic cup runs having won the League Cup and reached the quarter finals of the FA Cup (ironically knocked out by Chelsea). United players have potentially another 4 games left in the Europa League if they get to the final compared to a maximum of 2 for Chelsea in the FA Cup. If this becomes reality, United’s players will have played 16 more games than Chelsea not including any Internationals! I’d also point out that Chelsea went out in the League Cup in October and so effectively only played league games until January.
With a top four finish all but guranteed, Chelsea can expect to play in significantly more games next season and so it is very unlikely that Conte will be able to field the same 11 throughout the season and with the departure of John Terry confirmed and Costa potentially to follow their squad is looking barer still. Only takes another knee injury to Kurt Zouma or for Hazard/Kante to sustain a long term injury and they would face difficulty competing on multiple fronts. Certainly they have a strong starting 11, and some good youngsters to pad the squad but they need more options if they are to push on from the success of this season.