Antonio Conte has often stated that he won the title with 13 players — their starting XI Cesc Fabregas and Willian — but, like all managers plotting a European campaign, he longs for two first-teamers for each position.
Chief among Conte’s concerns has been a transfer window which leaves him with a dearth of realistic first-team options. Eden Hazard and Tiemoue Bakayoko are injured and will miss the start of the season. Pedro is recovering from facial fractures suffered in the Beijing friendly against Arsenal. Diego Costa has been exiled and Nemanja Matic is heading towards the Red part of Manchester. Nathan Ake, Asmir Begovic, Bertrand Traore, Christian Atsu and Nathaniel Chalobah have all been sold. John Terry was released to and youngster Dominic Solanke left for Liverpool after the expiration his contract.
Conte’s reign has seen 16 players leave to play football elsewhere. If Costa leaves and the Matic deal gets confirmed, the tally could rise to 18. This self-inflicted shortage has been enhanced with Conte farming out young talent; Kurt Zouma, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Izzy Brown, Kasey Palmer and Tammy Abraham (all aged between 19 and 22) have been loaned to Premier League clubs. They may not be Chelsea-ready and competitive game time is vital to their development.
There are four new signings: Alvaro Morata, Antonio Rudiger, Willy Caballero and Bakayoko. And Andreas Christensen has rejoined after two years on loan at Borussia Monchengladbach.
Overall, Conte needs recruitments, which explains his public pleas for reinforcements. It also raises the question: how on earth have the Premier League champions got into this pickle with the season days from starting?
Chelsea’s start to the season is tough, with four of last season’s top seven to face in the first seven games and with Bakoyako, Hazard and Pedro injured. Playing in 4 competitions including the Champions League, their season hinges on strong cover to play across those competitions without losing momentum. They definitely cannot get through with 13 players as they did last season.
Article By: Folaremi, @folaremi