Why Chelsea Need To Act Fast If They Are To Keep Antonio Conte At Stamford Bridge

Why Chelsea Need To Act Fast If They Are To Keep Antonio Conte At Stamford Bridge
Jul 9, 2017

Chelsea Featured

“The trick is to buy when you’re strong”. These were the words spoken by ex-Liverpool defender, later turned pundit Alan Hansen years ago when describing how the top teams stay at the top and continue to fight for club honours. The buying of better players to continually improve the squad is something top teams have done this summer.

Manchester City have addressed the goalkeeper situation and bought in Ederson Moraes for £34.7, making him the most expensive goalkeeper of all time. Arsenal have bought Alexandre Lacazette in order to improve on Frenchman Olivier Giroud and to allow Alexis Sánchez, provided he stays, the freedom of playing on the left-hand side.

Liverpool knew that when Sadio Mané was injured, they struggled without the Senegalese’s pace, so Egyptian winger Mohammed Salah has been purchased, providing Klopp with another option. Manchester United also continued their rebuilding project under José Mourinho with Victor Lindelöf, bought to give Eric Bailly a more solid figure beside him, rather than Chris Smalling or Phil Jones. Everton have gone big, buying Dutch international Davy Klaasen for £23.6, Jordan Pickford for £30 million and Michael Keane for a hefty £30 million, with Wayne Rooney still to arrive on a free transfer.

Yet, it is the current Premier League champions who have gone amiss this transfer window. With only Willy Caballero being bought in as Asmir Begović’s replacement as second choice goalkeeper behind Thibaut Courtois, Chelsea have been abysmal.

The transfer targets Conte has identified such as Romelu Lukaku, who was open to a return at Stamford Bridge, have gone stale with the Belgian poised to join Manchester United instead. Chelsea had been the favourites for the 6 foot, 3 inches striker who currently has 85 goals in his Premier League career yet, the club have messed this up, with United and Ed Woodward swooping in under their noses. Conte will be furious and just like the 2015/16 summer transfer window, this lack of activity could spell bad news for the blues.

In the 2014/15 season, when Chelsea were worthy title winners under José Mourinho, everyone expected an era of dominance from the West London club to occur. Mourinho, back at the club in his second spell as manager had built a formidable machine with Hazard and Costa running riot upfront, Cesc Fàbregas pulling the midfield strings and the defence of César Azpilicueta, Gary Cahill, John Terry and Branislav Ivanović unbreakable. So why did Chelsea flounder during the 2015/16 campaign in which José got the sack in December and the club finishing in 10th spot, their lowest finish in the Premiership era? Although a culmination of reasons such as the Eva Carneiro issue, the summer transfer window was what put Chelsea behind their rivals and caused the squad to turn sour towards “the Special One”.

Off the back of the club’s fifth Premiership title, Michael Emenalo (Technical Director of Football at Chelsea) set about recruiting new players for the upcoming season. Who arrived through the doors? Baba Rahman, a young left-back who had only just broken through as a professional with FC Augsburg, Radamel Falcao who was on the back of a shambolic season on loan at Manchester United, scoring a measly 4 goals in 26 games and then Papy Djilobodji, the Senegalese centre-back who only managed one minute of game time away to Walsall in the Capital One Cup before being shipped out to Werder Bremen in the following January window, only 6 months after joining the club.

This lack of spending on top named players meant the squad never improved from the 2014/15 crop of players and ultimately led to a stagnation within the squad, with José bearing the brunt for the senior figures failings on securing world class players. This season seems no different.

With all other clubs making big name signings and improving the squad, how is the signing of a second choice goalkeeper in Willy Caballero going to freshen up the squad or improve it? Lukaku joining Manchester United is a clear failure from the Chelsea hierarchy and with Álvaro Morata and Andrea Bellotti now the rumoured targets set to replace Diego Costa, Chelsea could be splashing the cash on a poor replacement and ultimately just panic buying.

Morata has played for world giants Juventus and Real Madrid but his goal scoring record isn’t worthy of a £75 million price tag. Having played second fiddle at Real this season, will Morata hit the ground running and be the man to replace Costa effectively? Even Andrea Belotti the Torino striker is a gamble. Although finishing this season with 26 goals for a team who finished 9th in Serie A, Belotti might not even cost Chelsea £75 million, with journalist David Amayol tweeting that clubs may have to stump up £88 million for the Italian forward in order to activate the 23-year-old’s buy-out clause. 

The lack of ambition from the Chelsea board is worrying. They know the issues that can arise if the squad isn’t developed and with experienced players such as John Terry and Asmir Begović leaving, along with young talent such asNathan Aké departing for Bournemouth, this Chelsea team is going to need some signings fairly soon otherwise a repeat of the 2015/116 season could be around the corner, whilst Antonio Conte could also head for the exit door.

Conte isn’t a man who accepts mediocrity. At Juventus, Conte left the club with Italian journalist Alessandro Alciato, one of Italy’s most famous writers who wrote “Metodo Conte” (Conte’s Method) revealing that Conte had become furious that Juan Cuadrado wasn’t signed from Fiorentina plus the long-term futures of Arturo Vidal and Paul Pogba weren’t secured. So it won’t be a surprise if the ex-Italian national team manager was to resign and look for a job elsewhere. With Inter Milan rumoured to have wanted him, Italian clubs and most of Europe will be monitoring Conte’s situation if the relationship between him and the Chelsea board was to break down.

Conte has lived in London by himself for the past year, with his wife and children deciding to stay in Italy rather than make the move to London. Thus, it would be no shock if Italy’s top clubs try to unsettle Conte and offer him a pathway out of Chelsea, should the clubs season go sour or transfer targets continued to be missed out on.

The Chelsea board need to act fast. Panic buys will not do Chelsea or Conte who has to deal with the added pressure of Champions League football this season. Unless top players are brought in to replace Diego Costa and Nemanja Matić, who is also a target for Mourinho at United, Chelsea could have one bumpy season ahead. Expect more fiery displays from Conte again this season, but not just on the pitch this season.

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