ARE CHELSEA WEAKER THIS SEASON?
Chelsea lost the Community Shield to Arsenal amid shoddy pre-season preparations and transfer market issues, but there are bigger concerns for the Premier League champs. The Gunners might have stolen the title through a penalty shootout (after a red card to Pedro handed them the advantage in the closing minutes), but the game exposed loopholes in the Blues setup.
After a poor start last season, the 3-4-2-1 masterpiece switch helped Chelsea leap forward. Two creative forces played behind the striker, with the wing backs excellent in support. The lack of distractions helped the regular team focus on the league and they bonded. Now there is the added factor of the Champions League which will force rotation, and create tension in the team.
Diego Costa has been axed from the team; Nemanja Matic has been sold to rival side Manchester United, and Eden Hazard will miss a considerable number of games due to ankle injury. Alvaro Morata has so much promise but he does not have Premier League experience. Tiemoue Bakayoko will add impact in defensive midfield but is also lacking Premier League experience and he is even injured. John Terry, Nathan Ake and Kurt Zouma that could have supported the first 11 are no more. Antonio Rudiger joined from AS Roma but Chelsea hope he hits the ground running at best. It's no wonder they are at odds of 8/1 on sport.netbet.co.uk to recapture the league title.
Against Arsenal in the Community Shield ‘friendly’ (making Pedro eligible for the next game despite the red card) none of the three new singings started. Morata came from the bench 17 minutes to the end of regular time but it was enough to blow a chance and throw away his penalty kick.
Coach Antonio Conte, while addressing links to Kylian Mbappe and Gareth Bale, dismissed the addition of a mega signing this summer. The Italian prefers to add several players that can improve the squad. “I think now is not the right moment for Chelsea to spend so much money on one player because we need many players. It’s important to divide this amount of money to buy many players,” he said.
Chelsea faced a similar scenario after lifting their last title under Jose Mourinho. Some Chelsea fans are likely lowering their expectations already, with the usual cold comfort: ‘you can’t win every time.’ When the 2012 Champions League winners lost to Arsenal two years ago, it was an indication of impending trouble. Conte will add more pressure to the Chelsea board in chasing his targets after the game, with the club management knowing his stance that they should free up more funds.
“I think the best way also is to speak about the club and to try to find the right solution, it’s important for me that the club knows my opinion about the number [of players] we need……the most important thing is the club knows my opinions, that they are trying to do the best for our team, for our squad, now we have to wait, we must have patience, to try to improve our team, our squad.”
Following the performance of Morata, there have been pleas from some quarters that Chelsea and Conte beg Costa to remain. The Spaniard is awaiting a move to Atletico Madrid after rejecting a purported move to AC Milan.
He fell out with Conte but he could add some power to the front and strengthen the attack if convinced to play. That would be a bitter pill to swallow for Conte. However there is not denying the impact that he could have, at least in the first half of the season, before he finally moves in January when the transfer ban of the La Liga side is lifted.