After a humiliating 3-0 defeat at the hands of Man City on Saturday evening, major questions have been raised about the size of the job that new manager Antonio Conte faces when he takes over at Chelsea this summer.
Plenty has been made of the incumbent champion’s season with large section of the media as well as some fans suggesting a summer of clear out is needed after a lacklustre campaign.
Many thought Jose Mourinho was the problem and whilst fans were angry at his dismissal, an upturn in the club’s fortunes under interim manager Guus Hiddink soon quelled any dissension in the camp but with the season reaching its climax, you can now see that results haven’t dramatically improved; Hiddink has picking up less points at home than Mourinho before his sacking but on the road Chelsea look better.
What the Dutchman has done is somewhat revitalise the likes of Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas, although with how bad they were playing the only way was up.
It’s evident that there is work to do, with a number of issues that hindered the Blues this season remaining unresolved but the question is what exactly is Conte getting himself into?
This current Chelsea side lack natural leaders; it’s all well and good getting rid of the so called ‘old guard’ but those were the players that maintained the standards that had been set to make the club a top side.
Getting rid of the core of a successful side with players like Frank Lampard, Petr Cech, Didier Drogba and Ashley Cole being allowed to leave was a huge mistake and has ultimately come back to bite them. Things will likely get worse too if Terry is allowed to leave. We’ve had a brief glimpse of life without the captain in his absence this season and frankly it doesn’t look good for the West London club. Jason Cundy stated that handing Terry a new deal should be Conte’s priority, I think it is something the Italian may want to consider.
Trusting this current batch of players as the future of the club is a dangerous game, some blamed Jose, he left and things didn’t suddenly become rosey under Hiddink meaning that they players must now be questioned. If they simply aren’t up for it, Conte has a bigger task on his hands than he thought.
There has also been suggestions that the club needs a major overhaul in players? I’ll be very surprised to see the exodus many media outlets are reporting. It is more likely that despite their underachieving, the club will retain the players it has and add to that. As stated there is the fear that these players have lost interest, but with a permanent manager coming in, it could revitalise a number of these players who appear to have downed tools this season.
Chelsea didn’t buy last summer and the club paid the price this term with a dressing room seemingly lacking motivation and desire to compete in another title race, ultimately that attitude has remained throughout.
Things need freshening up; with John Terry likely to leave the club in the summer a commanding centre half will certainly be required, as Gary Cahill and Branislav Ivanovic have struggled to impose themselves as a partnership in Terry’s absence.
Midfield has been a growing concern for sometime at the club and despite Cesc Fabregas and John Obi Mikel become a more solid pair you would question whether that is a pairing that a manager can build a title winning side on? PSG nullified the pair in the second leg of the Champions League round of 16, with Matuidi, Motta and Rabiot combining and rotating, the duo simply didn’t have the legs.
Rumours suggest the club are looking at Roma midfielder Radja Nainggolan who has impressed in Italy, no doubt Conte will be aware of his progress especially as Juventus looked at the Belgian in the winter 2013, prior to him joining Roma the following January.
Hazard? Will he go or will he stay? I am certain the club will do all they can to retain their most lucrative player, despite him having an abysmal campaign. He is still without doubt Chelsea’s main star when on form and no doubt the club and Conte will hope he can recapture his form of last season.
If there’s one player whose future may be in doubt, it will be Oscar who has failed to stamp his authority on his preferred role behind the striker. One good game in ten isn’t enough, with supporters starting to get restless with inconsistent performances. It’s a huge role for any team and with the Brazilian flattering to deceive there, it’s a position that Conte should be looking to strengthen.
Another Roma star in Miralem Pjanic had been suggested for the role, with Chelsea keen to activate the Bosnian international’s respectable £30m buyout clause. Pjanic has been a target for the likes of United and Liverpool before, with neither side achieving any success, so it remains to be seen if Chelsea can wrestle him away especially considering the quality of the player who has become a huge part of the Italian side’s plans.
In terms of strikers I expect Pato to return to Brazil whilst Falcao should be shipped first class back to Monaco. Whilst Pato has had little time to show his undoubted quality, Falcao looks the same player that stumbled around Old Trafford last season and is sadly a shell of his former self. Sergio Aguero showed what a world class striker is with a performance to be admired on Saturday, picking up a hat-trick while Diego Costa failed to make an impact. Aguero is the standard for any team with title aspirations and at the moment our current crop aren’t up to it.
A man who has earned huge respect and built an impressive reputation in the game faces his toughest test in becoming Chelsea manager. We have seen others fail before, leaving with their reputation in tatters. Can Conte avoid a similar fate? He will have had time to assess the situation and figure who and what he needs to improve Chelsea’s fortunes, but as AVB and Phil Scolari will tell you – theory and application are two completely different things.