By, Ayodeji Itasanmi (Twitter: @aryhorblueblood)
When Sean Dyche’s Burnley side raced to a 3-0 lead at Stamford Bridge in the opening match of this season’s Premier League action, our minds raced back to that infamous 2015/2016 season especially with the Chelsea board finding it hard to get in the players needed to strengthen the squad after the departure of Nemanja Matic and the impending departure of Diego Costa. We did bring in a young French midfielder in Tiemoue Bakayoko from Monaco but he came in injured hence needed time to bed in. One of our stand out performers in our title-winning campaign, Eden Hazard, was also nursing an ankle injury he picked up while on international duty. And so all the pains of Jose Mourinho’s last season with Chelsea came rushing back like a bad whirlwind as we watched Burnley, who was comfortably dispatched just a season prior 3-0, take control of the match at Stamford Bridge, a facthelped with Gary Cahill’s early red card. Antonio Conte seem to have finally been able to turn the tide of bad results thereby sending the ghost of that ridiculously silly season back to where it belongs; the past. Even though there have been performances over the course of this season that we’re not proud of, none more so than that poor performance at Carrow Road on Saturday evening, but Antonio Conte has been able to rally the troops and get our season back on track. We now sit in third position on the Premier League table, just one point off second spot, and haven’t lost a game since a 1-0 reverse against West Ham stretching back eight matches. With our UCL second round match against Barcelona fast approaching there are reasons for optimism especially as the duo of Eden Hazard and Thibaut Courtois are on the road to extending their stays at SW6.
There have been some low points along the way, top of which is the team losing to a Crystal Palace team without a goal in their first seven fixtures, prior to facing Chelsea and somehow Palace came out from that game with all three points. The losses to Burnley and West Ham will always go down as low points in any Chelsea season. It’s certainly not a shame to lose to Man City with the way they have started this season, and they have continued to grow from strength to strength, but the manner we lost to them, with them out playing all over the pitch, is what will make that loss one of my low points of this season so far. The two matches against AS Roma in the Champions’ League also deserve a place on this list with us letting a two-goal lead slip in the first leg and then fighting back late on to salvage a point after the Italians score three second half goals. How we managed to lose 3-0 to Roma at the Stadio Olimpico, with the way we played, still gives me sleepless nights to this day. But while there have been matches we wouldn’t want to see again there have equally been games where we’ve churned out some huge team performances to carry the day. The game at Wembley against Spurs readily comes to mind with the team carrying the day with what was an all-round team performance including two goals from Marcos Alonso. That game also goes down in my book as the best performance of Tiemoue Bakayoko in a Blues shirt since his move from Monaco in the summer. The win against Atletico Madrid at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium in Madrid in the Champions’ League also deserves a mention. To fall behind against an Atletico Madrid team that had lost just once in 21 home Champions’ League matches and then to come back to win the game scoring the winner with virtually the last kick of the game while also out playing them in every area of the pitch said a lot about our potentials in the competition before it all started going awry. The win over Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United team was my personal favourite. What Mourinho said after the game notwithstanding his team was thoroughly and flawlessly beaten. With the performance that day and the chances that were created we wouldn’t have been flattered by another 4-0 score line yet ‘The Special One’ called the game even in his post-match press conference.
To Be or Not to Be?
With the transfer window now in full flow and with Chelsea having one of the thinnest squads in the top half of the Premier League we expect to see some activities from the Chelsea board in the transfer market even though Antonio Conte did say he’s okay with his team the way it is. Liverpool have already made a statement of intent with the seventy-five million pound acquisition of Virgil van Dirk, whom they’ve coveted since the summer, from Southampton in what was a world record deal for a defender. While a lot of pundits have come out to condemn the price paid for the Dutchman, what the deal shows is the ambition on the part of Liverpool to remain competitive in the face of the stiff competition that abounds in the Premier League both on the pitch and off it. A large portion of what was paid to Southampton will of course be recovered when the Phillipe Coutinho to Barcelona deal became official.
Contrary to the opinion of many a Chelsea fans I think we bought well in the summer and strengthened in the right places, we were just a wingback short from a ‘perfect summer’ and the impact that those we brought in have made only points to the fact that we didn’t do too badly in the summer transfer window. While a lot of our fans is of the opinion that Antonio Conte doesn’t get enough support from the Chelsea board in terms of getting the players he want I do think the problem goes beyond that as the two seem to have different ideologies when it comes to transfers and until that’s resolved we may continue to miss out on the top players. Personally I think we just need a couple of players that are eligible to play in the Champions’ League – as that seem to be our only route to a major trophy what with Man City running away with the Premier League title – and then we’ll be good to go but the pool to choose from is very small with the top players already in the top teams who are all in the Champions’ League, but there are a few who I think may just be a perfect match for our need. With the Ross Barkley deal over the line, he seems to be up for the challenge of rubbing shoulders with some of the best players in the league but I think we still need a couple more new faces to bolster the squad ahead of the rest of the season. Personally I think if we’re able to get deals done for any of these players before the window slams shut then we’ll be in with a good chance of going far in the remaining three competitions, and should City slip up we’ll be there to take advantage
I believe the Arsenal management is open to losing the Chilean this transfer window as long as the price is right and I’m a little bit surprised, to the point of being shocked if I’m being totally honest, that we’re not in the running to sign such a ready-made talent who will be able to play for us in the Champions’ League having only played in the Europa League for his current club. Man City has been touted to be the favourites to land the Chilean but I believe we’ll give the Etihad outfit, and possibly PSG, a run for their money should we decide to enter the race to sign him. And personally I think we should!
I’ll be the first to admit this isn’t the most popular name on my list but popularity matters very little as long as he gets the job done and he surely is getting the job done for AS Lazio in the Seria A. We’re short of numbers in the striking position and we certainly need to add numbers in that position even if Michy Batshuayi decides to stay and fight for his place. It’s not going to be easy prizing him away from Lazio but the fact he’s a player that’s worked under Antonio Conte before should help persuade him to pack his bags and head to London. He knows the system, he’s fast and he’s a proven goal-scorer.
When it’s a goal-poacher that you need in your team then Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is one of the first names that will come to mind. His name was mentioned in the summer as a possible Chelsea target but no bid was tendered and the rest, as they say, is history. With the player and his current club, Borussia Dortmund, not having the best of times in their relationship the German club may be willing to listen to offers if only we’d be bold enough to make it because the Gabonese is too good to waste away in the Chinese Super League. The only reason why I think Chelsea might be put off is the fact he won’t be eligible to represent us in the UCL having already played for Dortmund in the competition but that didn’t stop Barcelona going after Coutinho so you can never say never.
Source: AC Milan
I believe one of our biggest priorities going into this transfer window would have been getting in a wingback to create some sort of competition for Marcos Alonso in the LWB position and I know Juventus’ Alex Sandro is the first option just as he was in the summer and nothing materialized. Ricardo Rodriguez may not be the best in that position but he certainly is worth a mention and if we’re not sure we could bring him in on a loan with an option to make it permanent if he meets our standard or just to hold the fort until Sandro arrives. I don’t care how we do it but this window must not end without us bringing in some cover in the LWB position.
I don’t think we need too many additions to the team but we just need to strengthen in the right places to remain competitive at least until the end of the season when we can again dip massively into the transfer market if we so desire. We already have a bargain in Ross Barkley switching Merseyside for London for just 15million pounds but we still need at least two more additions before the end of this window to be sure we’re ready to take on the challenge of remaining competitive in the remaining competitions, starting with the imminent Carabao Cup semi-final match against Arsenal and the upcoming UCL second round match against Barcelona.
Thumbnail image courtesy of: Chelsea FC Twitter Account
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