The 17/18 season is just over 10 days away and last season’s runaway leaders Chelsea have not hesitated to bolster the squad which dominated England’s top flight and won their 5th title in just over a decade.
Chelsea, who have seen their fair share of Italian managers at the Bridge over the years, had certainly hit the nail on the head in terms of bringing Antonio Conte to the club. However, Conte who had the initial task to fill Jose Mourinho’s boots at Chelsea after a second tenure at the club had a start to last season which left Chelsea fans sceptical.
Despite all this, the Italian produced a tactical spectacle within his first team squad which at times looked unbeatable. But with a number of uninspired performances such as at White Hart Lane in January, a 2-0 drubbing to a lacklustre Manchester United side at Old Trafford and infamously not rising to the occasion at Wembley vs Arsenal, it is not all that clear whether this Chelsea team can live up to the feet of their previous campaign and defend their title.
Improvements to the squad
With Roman Abramovich so far pumping a staggering £135m into four Chelsea signings in this transfer window, it is clear that the champions’ new acquisitions are set to replace big names in the already developed first team. Rudiger, who was the key to Germany’s success in this summers Confederations Cup in Russia, is a natural ball playing centre-back and has had past experience playing in a three at the back formation last year under Eusebio Di Francesco, which helped goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny pick up and impressive 14 clean sheets.
At age 24, Rudiger is an ideal signing for Antonio Conte despite the Blues pursuit for Senegalese international Kalidou Koulibaly going cold. Rudiger made a total of 45 tackles in Serie A last year (per whoscored.com) is right footed and due to his blistering pace, he is able to play on either side of Conte’s back three. Chelsea unveiled their new signing earlier this month and has since met up with his new teammates and has had immediate effects by filling in for the now departed Nathan Ake, who has since moved to Bournemouth where he spent half of last season on loan for the understanding fee of £20m.
“This will definitely help his development. “It’s huge for the national team as well because he’s got talent, and he’s got all the skills. “He just maybe needs a bit of time to make the next step but he can be very valuable for the German national team.” ~ Miroslav Klose.
22-year-old, Bakayoko, Bernardo Silva and countryman Benjamin Mendy are the latest members of Leonardo Jardim’s squad to have succumbed to Premier League power, large contracts and opportunities. Chelsea snapped up the defensive midfielder for a hefty sum of £40m on the 15th July. The mobile midfielder who played a key role in Monaco’s surge in Ligue 1 as well as Europe last season is set to play alongside N’Golo Kante in front of the defence as Nemanja Matic looks to force a move out of west London this summer.
The Ivorian born averaged a strong 1.8 interceptions per game last campaign (per whoscored.com) and has been on Conte’s wish list ever since he’s been in charge at Bridge. Bakayoko’s power and determination whilst on the pitch will allow him to thrive alongside PFA player of the season, Kante and has a similar resemblance to former Juventus and Manchester United player Paul Pogba, who was sensational under the former Italian boss during his time in Turin.
After playing second fiddle to Karim Benzema at Real Madrid, Morata has finally got the chance to prove what he’s worth by signing a five-year-contract with the Premier League champions. Morata, who had a desire to play under the Chelsea boss, netted 15 goals in La Liga last season despite not starting the majority of games as Zinedine Zidane’s Los Blancos triumphed in a thriller of a season.
“I’m going to the team managed by the coach who has placed the most faith in me, and that’s great for me.” ~ Alvaro Morata
The Spaniard who is set to replace talisman Diego Costa, who has been vocal on a move back to Madrid, will spearhead the Chelsea attack next season.
“It’s too early to speak about the impact of Morata. He has not been with us long and he needs time to work and find his feet and to understand our way of playing.” ~ Antonio Conte
Despite reports of Chelsea ‘breaking the bank’ in order to clinch the striker’s signature, there is no doubt the Madrid born poacher is a sensational acquisition to this Chelsea side.
Change in formation
After using the 3-4-3 for the majority of last season which aided Chelsea to go on a 13-game winning streak, as well as, conceding the least goals in the whole division, it appears that the Blues may opt to switch to Conte’s native 3-5-2 which helped the Old Lady win three straight Scudetto’s between 2011 and 2014. The 3-5-2 will enable Chelsea to field a centre attacking midfielder which will ultimately take Chelsea’s French midfield duo who will not have to venture forward as much into the final third.
As displayed in the image, the centre attacking midfielder sits in the pocket behind the striker. The CAM who is predominantly played by a versatile attacking player supplies balls to the men up front as well as frees up space for the wingback pairing on either side of the pitch. Conte, who is spoiled for choice when it comes to squad selection would most likely pick either Cesc Fabregas who completed 11 assists in 29 appearances last year or Eden Hazard, who is expected to return to training after a fractured ankle which undoubtedly will supply the Chelsea camp with a boost before the opening game of the season.
A new formation would also allow Morata’s transition to English football to be much smoother as he would have two people providing solely for him. This potentially could include prolific Belgian hitman Michy Batshuayi, who is finally showing his worth this pre season with 3 goals in 3 games for the Blues. Batshuayi could shadow Morata and play off just off the Spaniard enabling him to finish off pieces of play and run through gaps created by the former Marseille man.
Inclusion of Academy graduates
Chelsea have already loaned out 12 players this window and with the likes of homegrown talent Nathaniel Chalobah leaving for next to nothing and Ake moving down south only a small number of graduates remain fighting it out for a place in next seasons squad.
Fan Favourite Lewis Baker is among the list of hopefuls trying their luck this season after the England U21 international scored an impressive 10 goals and completed more passes than Everton signing Davy Klaasen in the Eredivisie last season. At the age of 22, however, it appears that now is the ‘make or break’ time in Baker’s career and needs to make an impact in the coming weeks in order to get the chance to play for his boyhood team.
“I think if he’d done it five years ago (leave Chelsea) he may well have been another Dele Alli or Harry Kane but unfortunately, his development has been blocked by staying at Chelsea so long.” ~ Sam Allardyce
After making comments regarding Ruben Loftus-Cheek it is very clear that Chelsea need to give their youngsters more of a chance in order to showcase their talents and skills on the pitch. It is also integral for the Blues to include more of these youngsters who could propel them to back to back titles, an achievements which Chelsea haven’t had since 2007.
Chelsea overall have had a very productive summer so far and have used their extended budget to their advantage as they look to improve the current squad for next season’s ambitions. However, Antonio Conte and his backroom staff may not need to venture far in order to look for reinforcements and further inclusions in this ever talented Chelsea team.
This article is written by Reuben Rosso, you can follow him on Twitter at @Talk2RossoSport. What are your thoughts? Let us know by dropping a comment via our comments box below. Make sure you follow us on Twitter, Google+, Instagram and like us on Facebook.