At a time when the competition for the top places in the Premier League has reached new levels of intensity, Chelsea are conspicuously treading water. The Blues largely disappointed last term, failing to defend their league title in a season which saw problems behind the scenes bleed onto the pitch.
Although the club’s fans were ultimately compensated with an FA Cup, Chelsea’s consolation prize was not nearly enough. In the league and Champions League, the damage had already been done. Failing to not only defend the league title, but also falling short of qualifying for the Champions League has put the club in a disadvantaged position heading into next season. The question then becomes whether Chelsea can dig themselves out their current malaise.
A litany of setbacks
First, there is the small matter of missing out on the UEFA Champions League largesse. Then, there is also the club’s pride to protect. Failure to compete in the UCL means the Blues cannot rub shoulders with the continent’s best – something with which fans have grown accustomed in the Ambramovic era. Under normal circumstances, such a state of affairs should inspire a renewed effort to get things right this time around. But Chelsea’s problems seem to be increasing rather than receding.
Antonio Conte was expected to leave his post at the end of the season, but the Italian is still in charge even when the club is rumoured to be in search of a new manager. He has refused to resign which suggests he could stay on for the remaining year of his contract.
Moreover, things have taken a turn for the worse as owner Roman Abramovich’s commitment to the club is now questionable following recent events. The billionaire businessman has experienced significant visa complications courtesy of a UK Home Office that is presently less than sympathetic to Russian oligarchs. The tycoon’s struggles have fueled speculation he may want to sell the club. He has, however, denied such reports.
While UK-Russian diplomatic relations will continue to play out, the Stanford Bridge will likely continue to suffer from the situation. Instability is the last thing the club currently needs. Chelsea now cut the figure of an organisation lacking leadership and direction. Transfer activity has been unusually low key at the club at the same time that other top four hopefuls are doing brisk business.
The odd ones out
Like Chelsea, Arsenal also missed out on a top-four finish last season. The Gunners said farewell to their long-serving manager to make way for a new era of competition. Unai Emery replaced Arsenal Wenger and has set about strengthening the side to challenge for honours next term.
Manchester United have brought in a top class midfielder in Fred and defender Diogo Dalot with more signings in cards as Jose Mourinho will do everything necessary to unseat his nemesis Pep Guardiola and his Manchester City side as Premier League Champions.
City, on the other hand, are not resting on their laurels as Guardiola still has the Champions League to conquer with the Etihad Stadium outfit.
Tottenham are busy making sure their best players stay in the club. Starman, Harry Kane, has just signed a new long-term contract reported to be worth over two hundred thousand pounds a week. That’s about double his previous wages. The reason for this is simply to deter off any competition. Other key players like Dele Alli and Christian Erikson are also due to have their contracts renewed. But Chelsea’s Eden Hazard is considering his future and is thus stalling on a new deal.
Liverpool are not left out in the race to the top. Inspired by their UCL final appearance last time, Jurgen Klopp is hoping to go one better this time around. There is a genuine belief around Anfield that the Reds can conquer England and even Europe next season. To that effect, new signings are being added to the squad. Naby Keita and Fabinho have already arrived, more are expected.
That leaves Chelsea as the odd one out. It is certain the competition is going to be fierce next season. Any weakness will be brutally punished. Chelsea seem set for even more disappointment unless they put their house in order, and fast too.