Even with the FA Cup trophy in the bag, Chelsea FC have some serious issues to face this summer. Where do they go from here? What players need to go? What players need to come in? A majority of these questions stem from one outstanding question: what does Chelsea need to do with Antonio Conte?
With Chelsea seemingly the only European powerhouse abiding by the Financial Fair Play regulations, not to mention Abramovich’s visas trouble and whisperings of financial loss from US sanctions, Chelsea are trying to swap, sell, and purchase players while saving where they can in other areas. The most popular rumour going around at the moment is that Conte won’t leave and Chelsea don’t want to pay his severance package. Many other pieces of the club cannot be put into motion until this issue is resolved.
There is, perhaps, an even larger cloud looming over Chelsea’s head these days – the rebuilding of Stamford Bridge. Possibly the biggest reason for the Blues trying to abide by financial regulations is the £500M+ project to redesign the Bridge. This could be a massive factor in the future of the club’s managerial position. After all, any manager appointed this summer will surely be leading Chelsea through a very important part of the Abramovich tenure.
My suggestion and any Twitter followers of mine will know this – keep Conte. He has come out and stated he intends to fulfil his contract, but the biggest problem here is not many players are willing to come to a club with a manager crisis. So how could the board meet the best of both worlds by challenging for titles while saving a bit of money? Easy.
First – Cull the Squad
Chelsea have spent the last few years filling out the entire squad with rotational players while the mainstays in the squad have aged and seen their legs leave them. Injuries seem to plague a few others. While some of these men have been around long enough to create a cult following, their on-field contributions have not made them worth their wages. It’s a sad truth, but that’s football. Releasing a few ageing and underperforming players will see enough funds come in to purchase one or two of Conte’s target.
Pedro, Cahill, Fabregas, David Luiz, Drinkwater, Willian, and perhaps Batshuayi (I don’t want them to leave, but things happen) could all be looking for new opportunities this upcoming season.
Second – Sign Big Players
Hazard’s future with the club has been compromised, and this seems to be a solution to that problem. He has even come out and stated it himself. However, who can the Blues look to sign in the summer transfer window with the World Cup also trying to take headlines and attention away from the global stars?
Chelsea have been rewarded with a stellar year by Marcos Alonso and also purchased Emerson Palmieri as back-up. The line-up could look different with a preseason under Emerson’s belt, but the position has adequate competition and talent to prevent any further necessity of that Alex Sandro link.
The central midfield could use a bit of reformation. Drinkwater has been in and out of the side with injuries while Fabregas cannot stand alone in a midfield two. Ruben Loftus-Cheek can easily return and start or even Mason Mount, but I still stand by the statement that David Alaba must be one of the top priorities for a midfield option. He wants to play there, and he has one of the most lethal left-footed shots in all of Europe, not to mention an eye for the creative pass or two. Mix this with his defensive capabilities, and Chelsea will have a prime candidate to line up beside N’Golo Kante for years to come.
Further up the field, Leon Bailey could be a good option to slide in for a departing Willian. I rate Willian, but either he or Pedro (or both) could depart. Bailey could compete for starting positions on the right side of a front three or wide attacking midfielder. Ross Barkley could also be an option after building a bit of chemistry with teammates.
Up top, links with Robert Lewandowski are mouth-watering. Should Chelsea land the Polish talisman, then the board could refocus elsewhere to spend their extra coins.
Third – Play the Youth
It’s not fair to say Conte, or any other Chelsea manager since 2004, hates playing the youth. I hear this a lot from disgruntled Chelsea fans, and it’s simply not fair. When Andreas splendidly deputized for Cahill and David Luiz at different stages this year, he was handed many opportunities even after his few gaffes that led to wasted victories. The truth is most managers don’t have time to play the youth with the axe always hanging over their heads, but this upcoming season holds much more hope for the academy products than recent seasons.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Mason Mount, and Callum Hudson-Odoi are all capable young guns that are ready to don the Chelsea blue. As the season carries on, perhaps a few injuries and suspensions, mixed with substitute appearances, could see these young Blues get on their feet and begin to break into the first team. With the aforementioned culling of players, these academy players will have plenty of room to get into the matchday squad. And speaking of youth players…
Finally – Promote Jody Morris
To me, the best way to send Antonio Conte off would be with another trophy. The Europa League and League Cup would be ideal, but only if we finish top-four as well. The best part of this would be if we had a “True Blue” ready to take the helm after he departs. Jody Morris could, and should, be that man.
Promoting Jody Morris this upcoming season would allow him some first team experience with transfers of players and dealing with the board. While Morris has done fantastic with the U-18’s this season by winning FOUR trophies and making the final in UEFA Youth Champions League, there’s one drawback – he has no dealings with first-team management.
Having Morris on the sideline and in the first team dressing room would open him up to senior level management, even if it doesn’t put him directly in charge of first-team decision-making. As Antonio Conte’s tenure as the manager is coming to a close, overlapping management from Morris would also open up a bit of continuity for Chelsea’s first team. Something that has previously changed drastically from manager to manager.
In my opinion, Jody Morris, being a “True Blue”, is the man to guide the club through the rebuilding of Stamford Bridge. Through thick and thin, he’s got the fans’ approval, and he will always look out for the best interest of the crest.
Conclusion – Cull, Buy, Youth, Morris
By culling ageing squad players, buying elite talent, playing youth players, and promoting Jody Morris, Chelsea could be in a good position by keeping Antonio Conte for the remainder of his contract. Securing a trophy or two would also bolster the club’s chances of retaining and gaining future finances to guide us through the suspenseful years of rebuilding to come.
However, with Roman Abramovich having the final say on all things Chelsea – one can only pretend and wish to know what is going to happen next. All I know is the Chelsea fans will always keep the Blue flag flying high.
What are your thoughts? Let us know!
Written by Stephen Walker