Chelsea’s title defence has gotten under way in mixed fashion. After suffering a shock home defeat to Burnley, the Blues have come back strong finding last season’s form and winning their next two games, first against Tottenham, and then against new look Everton.
You can’t blame Chelsea fans for worrying about how this season would pan out following on from what happened to Jose Mourinho the year after he won the title in 2015. Adding to how badly recent title defences have gone, Chelsea so far have had a somewhat mixed and controversial transfer window. They’ve lost out on a lot of squad depth, particularly with losing promising young prospects such as Nathan Ake and Nathaniel Chalobah. The main headlines though have again been centered around the controversy of Diego Costa, who’s refusing to return for training, following claims he’s being treated ‘like a criminal’.
Many pundits have not given much hope for Chelsea to back up last season’s title, with Conte astonishingly the favourite manager to be sacked first. Pre-season didn’t turn out the way many of the Chelsea faithful had hoped, with defeat to Arsenal on penalties in the community shield standing out. Along with this, it seems that Antonio Conte doesn’t quite have the make up of the squad he’s hoping for despite strong signings in Alvaro Morata and Antonio Rudiger. With the transfer window closing on Thursday 31 August, Conte though will no doubt be hoping to add to his squad, especially with the challenge of a difficult Champions League group to come.
Chelsea have already loaned out youngsters Kurt Zouma and Ruben Loftus-Cheek leaving them looking slightly empty on the bench, but if recent rumours are to gone by, they look to be addressing this. The English pairing of Danny Drinkwater and Ross Barkley have been of interest to Chelsea all summer, and now both look to be heading to the blues. Both players are eager to move away from their current clubs, and will provide a huge boost to Chelsea’s squad.
Chelsea would seem a perfect fit for Drinkwater in particualar, competing with Cesc Fabregas and Tiemouê Bakayoko to start alongside his former title winning teammate N’golo Kante. With Eden Hazard currently on the sidelines, the addition of Ross Barkley would add serious competition to Chelsea’s attack, but with Barkley having his own fitness issues, this deal may have to wait. If Chelsea do sign a fully fit Barkley, this would provide the depth they need to compete with Europe’s elite in the Champions League.
Chelsea have always been renowned as having a strong defence, and this season shouldn’t be any different if the players can keep fit and maintain their form from last season. However, if there are injuries, or players under performing, the lack of depth could be Chelsea’s undoing, after losing the experienced Chelsea legend John Terry. If Chelsea want to not only claim back to back Premier League titles, besides being competitive in the Champions League, the addition of another defender is crucial for Antonio Conte. Players such as Virgil Van Dijk and Alex Sandro have been linked, but it seems both their clubs have no desire to sell. This could leave Conte with huge problems in defence, with no real back ups available to use.
Chelsea’s midfield had been an area of great concern after the strange decision to sell Nemanja Matic to Man Utd, probably Chelsea’s biggest threat to their title this season. The purchase of Bakayoko from Monoco was a smart purchase, a player who could link strongly with Kante, and offer great control in the central midfield. Out wide, if Hazard stays fully fit for the season, Chelsea are always going to be strong contenders for the title. They seem a different team when he plays, they play with much more confidence when Hazard’s on the pitch. Hazard, now entering his fifth season, has said how he wants to emulate Terry as a leader of the club. If Hazard can supply the experience along with the talent he already has, Chelsea will have a strong attacking squad with Pedro and Willian both competing to start on the right side of midfield.
Consistent strikers have been difficult to come by for Chelsea, with the exception of Didier Drogba of course. After Drogba left, Chelsea struggled to find a main man up front after deciding to sell Lukaku to Everton. Most Chelsea fans thought this issue had finally been resolved when Chelsea signed Diego Costa. He has provided the goals over his three year stint at Chelsea, but unfortunately has brought an equal amount of controversy in his time in West London. Now, it appears Costa will never play again for Chelsea, after refusing to even return to England, following from the infamous Conte text, saying he was no longer needed at the club. While this saga becomes more and more unpleasant, Chelsea signed Spanish striker Alvaro Morata. Morata is no doubt a goal-scorer; he already has two goals for Chelsea, in the first three games. There are worries about his consistency however, and with back up striker Michy Batshuayi failing in England so far, many Chelsea fans will be concerned they lack a genuine consistent goal-scorer.
There is never any doubt that Chelsea will be a tough team to defeat, and they will be right up there competing for their title. However, you just get the feeling that with this Chelsea team they will struggle a lot more than last year, with teams perhaps adapting to their style of play, and with more games to be played. Both Manchester clubs will be stronger, so you get the feeling it could be them competing strongest for the title, but never count Chelsea out.