2017/18 Premier League Preview: Chelsea

Photo: Rex Features

Player arrivals: Alvaro Morata (£55m from Real Madrid), Tiemoue Bakayoko (£34m from Monaco), Antonio Rudiger (£30m from Roma), Willy Caballero (free, unattached).

Player departures: Nemanja Matic (£40m to Manchester United), Nathan Ake (£20m to Bournemouth), Juan Cuadrado (£17m to Juventus), Asmir Begovic (£10m to Bournemouth), Bertrand Traore (£8.5m to Lyon), Christian Atsu (£6m to Newcastle), Nathaniel Chalobah (£5m to Watford), John Terry (released).

A key summer for Chelsea is set to end as they approach their title defense in the 2017/18 Premier League season. However, there is unease in the air around Stamford Bridge as similarities are beginning to emerge to the disastrous season of 2015/16 where the Blues finished in a lowly 10th place just a year after winning the title.

It is clear that passionate manager Antonio Conte is disappointed by the support given to him in the transfer market despite a number of high-profile signings including club record transfer Alvaro Morata.

The £120m spent this summer suggests that he is adequately backed, however, when analyzed deeper the squad lacks depth which could hinder Chelsea later on into the season.

The previous season Chelsea were helped along in their domestic success by the lack of European football, which enabled them to acclimate to a new tactic and a lack of injuries with 21 throughout the season, far fewer than the rest of the top 6.

The activity in the transfer market has not been disastrous with the signings of Alvaro Morata, Tiemoue Bakayoko, Antonio Rudiger, and the recalling of Andreas Christensen. But, these players replace key members of the title-winning squad in top goal scorer Diego Costa, defensive midfielder Nemanja Matic, captain John Terry, and youngster Kurt Zouma. The argument can be made that these signings were not really necessary.
The squad has adapted to playing Conte’s preferred 3-4-3 formation and Bakayoko should easily slot in alongside N’Golo Kante. There is a mild weakness in the wing-back area of the pitch with Victor Moses and Marcos Alonso. Conte has attempted to remedy this with the doomed attempt to buy Alex Sandro. There is also the problem of Gary Cahill, new club captain, but a player who returned to the starting lineup after a season on the bench under the guidance of Jose Mourinho. Rudiger, and perhaps Christensen could challenge him for the spot and thereby ensure that Chelsea do not remain dependent on the English international.

Other additions to the squad include youngsters Charly Musonda and Jeremie Boga, included to provide cover for Willian and Pedro in the absence of star Eden Hazard. This would also provide the injection of youth Chelsea fans have so clamored for.

If these weaknesses are addressed (and for a club with Chelsea’s means they should not be a problem) there is no reason why Chelsea could not retain the title. Tottenham are playing in a new stadium for the season and have not improved, while Manchester City and Manchester United continue to perform below expectations and Arsenal and Liverpool are known to falter. The race for the title is extremely competitive this year and Chelsea will have to rely on Conte to make sure the club remains steady throughout the season.

Prediction: 1st

Chelsea have a squad capable of retaining the title and a manager, used to pressure, who is known for having a steady grip on club affairs.

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