The change in managerial powers for the blues was accompanied by different expectations from different quarters. Antonio Conte had an all but reasonably successful two year spell with the blues, winning the English Premier League in his debut season and in style; setting a record for the most clean sheets in a row for an EPL side.
He went on to qualify for the FA cup finals which he lost to Arsenal with a very narrow margin. The following season came with a mixture of failure and success, finishing in a disappointing fifth position and bowing out of the UEFA Champions League in the second round in the hands of a far better FC Barcelona. The team however went on to have a happy ending as they came out victorious in the FA cup courtesy of a lone goal by Eden Hazard from the spot.

The Blue’s hierarchy already started having issues with Conte’s negative style of football as the goal fountains dried up and the backline kept leaking. Embarrassing defeats in the hands of Bournemouth and Watford were enough to convince anyone that all was far from well and a drop from the Champions League places became imminent. Speculations smeared the Coach’s future as there was an informal romance with Mauricio Sarri which eventually came to reality. Sarri is a former bank staff who has a reputation of a free flowing fluid football everywhere he worked. His immediate past managerial reign at Napoli- his native town earned him a phenomenal reputation of an attack minded manager, handing him a Manager of the year award in the Serie A and the Enzo Bearzot Award.

Antonio Conte was having the ride of his life until things fell apart between himself and his trusted pointsman, Diego Costa. The striker lost his sharpness and bite In the latter part of the 2016/2017 season which saw the gaffer fire him with an SMS. Costa went on to sign for Athletico Madrid his boyhood club and paved way for the arrival of £69M Alvaro Morata from Real Madrid. The “new year curse” continued as Morata had a stellar start to the season notching nine times before the turn of the new year and later had a downsurge in performance, managing only 2 goals in the EPL from January till May. As much as the sloppy defending and major midfield errors from culprits like Timoue Bakayoko and captain Gary Cahill should be blamed for a poor season, the lack of a sharp goal poacher is a major reason why things didn’t go so well. The attaching duo of Eden Hazard and Willian had a reasonably good season but a top striker figure was obviously lacking.

So far, the pre-season under Sarri’s leadership has witnessed the presence of four top strikers- Morata, Mitchy Batshuayi, January signing Oliver Giroud and loan returnee Tammy Abraham. All of them have had some game time in the course the pre-season  (save for Batshuayi) and unfortunately, none of them has so far looked like a potent finisher. Conte was able to achieve a high level performance with Napoli without an out and out striker as he improvised with Dries Mertens playing the role, flanked by Lorenzo Insigne and Jose Callejon. This however will most likely be a different case as the shape and style of English football demands otherwise. Major successes in the past years have all had a reliable goal merchant, at least in their year of reign. Robin Van Persie, Diego Costa, Jamie Vardy and Sergio Aguero have all been the most recent EPL title winning strikers and they all were difference makers in their various years.

Chelsea courted Gonzalo Higuain for a while before the former Juventus and Argentine forward opted for a move to local rivals, AC Milan. This leaves Chelsea in a position without an in form striker which poses a major threat to any chance of being crowned champions this year. Sarri may have to opt for his improvisation system with Eden Hazard and Pedro all suitable for up front roles.

With the arrival of Kepa Arrizabalaga imminent, the goalkeeping headache created by the impending departure of Thibaut Courtois has been solved, the Eden Hazard real Madrid pursuit has been taken care of and all is almost set for a new dispensation. However, lack of a sharp shooter up front is a major factor that may turn things against Chelsea FC this year. Whether it turns out that way or not, we have to wait and see.

Written by Olufemi Abodunrin(@alagbafemi1)

Be like Olufemi Abodunrin, be a guest writer. It's going to be fun. Call or chat the editor on +2347069597664

No comments