Here’s something you might not have realised as we approach the start of a new season. Chelsea have sold 12 players this summer and have let an additional 14 out on loan. That’s 26 footballers, a whole squad-worth of players.
Nine have come in, but arguably only four of them will be in the first team squad in the coming season; Alvaro Morata, Antonio Rudiger, Tiemoue Bakayoko and Willy Caballero.
They have Champions League football to deal with too this season, making it possible they’ll be playing 50-55 games, and even up to 65 depending on domestic cup competitions! A deep squad is necessary, something that Chelsea don’t seem to have.
Relying on last season’s fortune
Last season, Chelsea got lucky with injuries. Antonio Conte was able to field more or less the same side every week, especially as they didn’t have any European commitments to deal with.
This not only allowed his players to get used to each other’s habits and way of playing, but also, more importantly, gave Conte the time to work with the players on the training field.
That time ensured he could drill his players tactically in what he wanted, meaning that a defence that contained Victor Moses, David Luiz and Marcos Alonso went on to win the league.
A smaller squad
This season though, they’re not going to have that time in midweek and who’s to say that they will be as lucky with injuries this year.
Last season, there were only 14 players who made more than 20 appearances in any competition. To expect that they’ll be able to get such consistency of selection this year is the height of optimism and already they’re going to have Eden Hazard and Bakayoko out for the start of the year, while Pedro is also still out with injury at the moment.
He needs more players, and this year he only has about 20 to choose from (if we don’t include Diego Costa, who is seemingly persona non grata) as it stands, just about enough to make up a match-day squad.
Those players include Kenedy and Charly Musonda, two young players who Conte gave a combined number of one appearance too last year, as well as Michy Batshuayi, who was brought in for big money, but was only trusted with one start in the Premier League.
Conte has not exactly appeared ecstatic with his club’s dealings over the summer. Speaking after their defeat in a friendly against Bayern Munich he said:
“We are trying to rebuild a situation and it’s not easy. You need a bit of time to create a structure and to build every season and then to go to fight.
We started this season with only 11 players and we bought Bakayoko, Rudiger, Morata and Caballero”
Is Conte to blame?
To some extent, the manager has brought this upon himself, since he has not only ostracised players such as Costa, but has also sold or loaned out quite a few who could have been useful squad members, such as Nathan Ake (Bournemouth), Nathaniel Chalobah (Watford) and Ruben Loftus-Cheek (Crystal Palace).
Conte’s reluctance to use different players has also meant that a number have moved on, in particular those who have come up through the youth team, since they’re tired of waiting to get a game.
There is still time to bring in a few more players, but questions will be asked about their summer transfer dealings if results don’t pick up where they left off last season over the first few weeks of the campaign.
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