Chelsea remain two quality players from winning another title
When Chelsea won the league last season it was somewhat unexpected. The Blues had lost twice in the opening six matches under new manager Antonio Conte. Not a herald for success. The Italian had arrived at Stamford Bridge with a reputation of being a master tactician and passionate man on the touchline. The latter was evident. The former not so much. Then a tactical change sent Chelsea on a 13-consecutive-match winning streak. The Blues won the league in devastatingly stunning fashion with a record 30 wins and 93 points.
Many expected them to build on the success of last season. It hasn't occurred. The club has gone a little backwards this term. Third and 16 points adrift Manchester City, Conte has moaned about the need for more quality players.
Yet after spending more than £300 million in 18 months, he shouldn’t complain he is not backed by the board even though this season is already a foregone conclusion. That said, the upcoming transfer window is crucial to Chelsea making a statement next season. Happily two players might do the trick.
Letting Nemanja Matic go now looks like bad business. The 29-year-old was sold to Manchester United for £40 million as Conte sought a more mobile, younger player to fill the void.
Timeoue Bakayoko impressed for Monaco last season. He was the player to take the Serb's place despite being a whlly different player. Consequently Conte has often had to use a 3-5-2 to fit an extra midfielder into the team to compensate for Bakayoko's shortcomings. Cesc Fabregas has been that player but the shape has hindered his creativity. The 3-4-3 from last season was far more effective going forward.
Matic offered balance to the middle of the park. Calm in possession and equally adept at stopping opponents, he was ideal to play alongside the ever-impressive N’Golo Kante.
Selling Diego Costa was also a bad decision. Chelsea need another striker desperately. Alvaro Morata has only impressed in spurts. The 25-year-old arrived from Real Madrid in the summer. He looked the part in the early doors but has struggled in recent weeks. The height (or depth) of his folly came in successive matches against Stoke and Arsenal, when he spurned six gilt-edged chances. Against the Gunners one chance taken would have killed the game off.
Costa had the profile to lead from the front. He constantly threatened opposition defenders with his physicality and application. He specialised in getting under their skins when the official was looking elsewhere.
Morata needs support even if he develops greater consistency. Michy Batshuayi is expected to leave this winter in search of first team football. The young Belgian has failed to convince Conte of his abilities.
Chelsea must strengthen adequately to stand any chance of competing with the best teams in England and Europe. Facing Barcelona next month will show reveal far they have come, or fallen. The Blues always seem to take one step forward then two back. The self-destructive habit must stop. A big outlay in the transfer market would be the start.