I’ve tried to keep my mouth shut, but as a fan I keep thinking: They didn’t make the Champions League. And I should just stop there.
Let me say it again if the gravity of that didn’t hit you: Chelsea FC will not be in the Champions League next season.
That’s not even the worst part. The worst part is that they absolutely, positively, do not deserve it. They were not amongst the four best teams this past year.
Could they have been? Absolutely, no question.
But just how unsuccessful was their season? I mean, they have the FA Cup final on Saturday against Man U, doesn’t that count for something? They put together a decent UCL campaign this year, getting out of a really tough group, with eventual Euro League winners Atletico Madrid and Barca stunners, Roma. Maybe I’ll change my mind if they beat Manchester this weekend…
But there’s a strong chance this team comes out of this season with nothing of note.
I’ve tried to understand if my anger is acceptable, where and how it’s gone wrong, and what that means for the upcoming off-season.
Hazard Puts his Foot Down
The Real Madrid rumors have been ongoing pretty much since Eden Hazard came to the team back in the 2012-2013 season.
“Hazard is unhappy with Chelsea team, considers move.” “Real Madrid interested in Chelsea’s Eden Hazard, asking price would be around $200 million.” The media hype is always real, and of course I buy into it for a little while.
First of all, no shit. If you’re one of the better players in the world, you’d love these rumors. All they do is drive your price up if any were to come to fruition.
But at the end of every year, Hazard will make a statement saying that he is behind the team and the management, and that he has no intention on leaving. He basically settles down the media hype. He’s a beast. He’s the star of the team, why move when you’ve had consistent Champions League action, potential league titles and more?
Funny thing, is his statement this year was a little different:
“I’m waiting for new players next season…I want good players because I want to win next season the Premier League.” – Hazard to Bleacher Report, on the fact that he has not yet signed a new contract with the team.
To be fair, he has iterated that he is happy at Chelsea. He just seems to be more under the mindset that if they’re stagnant and not improving that he should begin to explore other options. Hearing that, Real Madrid must be excited.
Up to this point he’s been a team player, rolling with the punches and disappointments. He’s kept his mouth shut and let his playing do the talking (other than those few games he’ll disappear for).
Obviously, Madrid is the rumored destination if he’s to leave. And honestly? Good. It’s about time for Hazard to start speaking up and saying, “Look I know that I’m the best player on this team, and that I can play anywhere. If you don’t start doing something more for me, then I’ll find somewhere else that can get me trophies.”
I’m definitely not saying he is an agitator for the pressure that Chelsea will be seeing this season. I’m honestly saying the opposite, and he is well within his rights to cut the political bullshit at this point. Miguel Delaney, for the Independent, summed it up beautifully:
It could mean this ends up being a genuine juncture summer for the club, since any failure to bring in elite signings now could mean losing their main elite player in a year or two, with all the potential consequences that entails.
It should also be remembered that Hazard is by no means an agitator.
At the same time he said all this, he was all too willing to point out that he is happy at Chelsea. That is no caveat of a line. It’s true. It’s just that he’s equally open to exploring new opportunities and – above anything else – wants any team he’s with, at this prime point in his career, to be capable of closing out the major competitions.
Although this might not prove to be the most important news, it does add to the pressure that, if Chelsea doesn’t sign a couple elite talents, that they will most likely be losing a couple elite talents within the next year or two…
CC’ing: Courtois, Morata
This is a weird sphere to roam. For context on if Antonio Conte should leave, check out my article detailing that opinion. I say “yes.”
As much as I respect what Conte did for the Blues in last year’s campaign when they were EPL champions, it takes a special kind of manager to maintain the locker room. That showed very much so after Sir Alex Ferguson left with the incredible turnover rate that Manchester United saw. We’re seeing it now with Everton since Roberto Martinez’s departure.
There’s a level where these top teams (Lol at calling Everton “top”) are expected to be, albeit with some wiggle room. Chelsea should be anywhere from 1-5, always. But that doesn’t mean it’s a successful season for either of those finishes. Obviously European football deals a heavy workload, as do domestic competitions.
But in my opinion, there is a level of play that is maintained by those teams. That comes from summer and winter signings, where Manchester City put out all the stops. But it raises the expected level of play; at least it should.
And when a team can’t compete with that raised level, then it will fall behind. Sure, Chelsea stole some points this season to be competitive – like I said, they’re a world class team. But there’s a difference between being a world class team, and being one of the top teams in the world.
And a lot of that comes down to the ability of the coach to control the team, from the Administration, down to its youth players.
As I said already, you can read my analysis of Conte and whether or not he should step down, but the question now remains: Who is the best man for the job, if Conte is on his way out?
Napoli’s manager Maurizio Sarri has been rumored to be an option, with talks of potentially swapping the two at the end of the season.
Napoli, who finished second in Serie A and were challengers in the UCL, have yet to break into the discussion of “top teams.” They had a fantastic campaign, after being ousted as the #1 spot in their group by Manchester City.
This is an interesting idea to me. In the winter we were rumored to be trying to get Insigne from the Italian team, though nothing significant came of it. Jorginho has also become a highly sought-after player, and will undoubtedly be getting offers once the season ends.
I wonder if this would be a good opportunity for some moves. Sarri has apparently been a beloved manager at Napoli, and done well in his tenure there. He would definitely have some pull with bringing two of his former players to a fledgling Chelsea team looking for an opposite to Hazard, and a stronger spine.
Just a thought. I don’t hate that.
I also heard that Chelsea might be trying to woo Mauricio Pochettino from Spurs. That is laughable. This man has finally started to produce and show the world that Tottenham is one of thee teams to beat in the world, after years of building.
Why would he ever leave that? Sad, to be honest!
Potential Players to get/Positions to Fill
Given all of the aforementioned, I’ve come to the conclusion that this summer could be one of the more pivotal summers for Chelsea in recent history. Others agree.
To make this quicker, I’ll just break down what I think Chelsea needs.
Defenders: (both a full-back and a Center back) I know that’s not what you first think of, because Chelsea is very organized. But I can never tell what David Luiz’s status is going to be game-to-game, Cahill is getting old, and Victor Moses is hit or miss. Bright spots are that Kurt Zuoma is coming back, after a great loan spell at Stoke, and Andreas Christensen has proved himself after a breakout year.
Azpilicueta was their best defender this year.
Finding quality defenders is hard nowadays, and I know they tried to get him before, but I do think a player like Alex Sandro would really sure up that back line.
Midfielders: We’re okay here on the wings, if Hazard and Willian stay. Pedro’s replacement needs to be coming on the horizon, I’d say.
For the middle, Bakayoko has disappointed for sure as Matic’s replacement. In my opinion, Watford’s Doucoure would be a fantastic fit into the system, as he can play more defensive or a box-to-box. Would be a bit pricey though. Jorginho might be a good fit, but I feel a bidding war imminent.
I’ve had two other thoughts of players: William Carvalho, and Adrien Rabiot. Carvalho embodies that “stopper” position, as Matic could, with height and strength. But also connects well with forwards.
Rabiot is just a fantastic midfielder whom i’d love to be able to watch weekly.
Lastly, I’ve heard Jean Michael Seri of AC Milan might be enticed to join the Blues. He has had a great season in Italy, and has proven he can play at a high enough level. Might be worth it.
Also, Morata has been rumored to leave for Juve for only ~$50 mil after one season, which would just make everything change for Forward transfers.
Also, Hazard: please stay.
Conclusions and Takeaways
Chelsea are in charge of this off-season, though it has become increasingly more important over the past few months.
They’ll really need to buckle down on what they need, what the market is dictating, and understand just how much could change if they don’t make big moves.
I think that Chelsea, even if the do nothing, will still have a decent campaign next year because no UCL stress. But to conclude, I believe Chelsea’s season was pretty disappointing, with some bright spots to be highlighted.
They are a team who may have a number of problems very soon, and I think that can be seen as a positive in the wake of a less-than-stellar year. Because it wasn’t a whopping success, fans and pundits alike can sit back and see the “why” and the “how,” so that Chelsea can start to fix and improve.
Thanks for sticking around, more on the World Cup to come soon.