There is no doubt Chelsea have struggled in pre-season and do not look the dominant force they were last campaign.
The Blues have had a turbulent summer after claiming the Premier League trophy in May, perhaps disrupting their pre-season preparations.
A turbulent pre-season
First, a 2-1 loss to Arsenal in the FA Cup at Wembley put a dampener on the end of the season celebrations after many had expected Antonio Conte’s side to claim a domestic double.
After the loss to Arsenal, there has also been the Diego Costa issue with Conte making it clear that the Spaniard is not part of his plans after the striker had shown an interest in leaving the club earlier on in the season.
The champions also lost out on the signing of Romelu Lukaku to Manchester United, which the club’s hierarchy expressed as a big loss. Then when their manager, Conte, did agree to sign a new contract, the contract length was no different, his wage was simply increased.
However, Conte’s side did get off to a confident start in pre-season against their London rivals, Arsenal, with Chelsea beating the Gunners 3-0 during their tour of Asia. However, from there, the Blues went on to lose to both Bayern Munich and Inter.
Chelsea looked tired and lacked creativity on the pitch. The Blues then experienced yet another loss at the hands of Arsenal at Wembley in the FA Community Shield.
Conte’s men did go 1-0 up, but then had Pedro sent off for a tackle from behind on Mohamed Elneny, which swung the game back in Arsenal’s favour, who went on to win 4-1 on penalties.
Conte remains positive
The club’s Italian manager has remained positive throughout this shaky period, pointing to the Blues’ first Premier League fixture against Burnley as the one they must focus on.
Conte knows his team must now channel their attention, not only into defending their title, but also the added challenge of Champions League football.
“I repeat, we are a great club but we are in a moment where we can’t make a mistake because it’s very dangerous,” he said during their tour in Asia.
“We don’t have a lot of space to make mistakes. We need to improve and increase our squad to be something important for the present, and also for our future.”
A stronger squad?
Chelsea have made three big signings this transfer window that should certainly strengthen their squad for the coming season.
Former Real Madrid striker Álvaro Morata is the high profile signing of the summer so far for Chelsea. The forward has a lot of pressure on his shoulders to fit into to the side and replicate Diego Costa’s goal-scoring ability.
Tiemoué Bakayoko is a great buy for the Blues and alongside N’Golo Kante, he should help to form a solid centre midfield pair. However, the midfielder is coming back from surgery and has not yet made his debut.
Their third big signing is Antonio Rüdiger who looks to be a very promising new defender for Conte. With Rüdiger in the side, the Italian could push César Azpilicueta to wing-back to strengthen in that key position for his 3-4-3 formation.
Despite bringing in these key players, Conte has also seen a load of players leave the bridge, including a host of young academy graduates, meaning his squad does lack strength in depth.
Chelsea have seen John Terry depart for Aston Villa on a free transfer, Nathan Ake was sold to Bournemouth for £20m, Nathaniel Chalobah has signed for Watford for £6m, Kurt Zouma was loaned out to Stoke and Ruben Loftus-Cheek has joined Crystal Palace on loan.
Let the hard work continue
Conte now has his work cut out to get his players up to standard to compete with the best teams in the Premier League and in Europe.
Yet, it is not an impossible task for the Blues, who still have a very good squad with some superstar talent, including Eden Hazard who is yet to come back from injury.
The former Juventus and Italy manager is known for his dedication and hard work on the training ground and that’s what it will take to get his team prepared for another long season.
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