They always say in football that it is hard to win a trophy but even harder to defend it, the statement could not ring more true when in regards to the Premier League. After a fantastic debut season at the helm of Chelsea, Antonio Conte’s biggest test right now is trying to find players that will further improve a title winning line up.
In the last few days it would have been topsy turvy emotions for the former Juventus and Italy manager as first he missed out on a attempt to bring Romelu Lukaku to Stamford Bridge but that was placated somewhat by the capture of Antonio Rudiger to Stamford Bridge.
For Conte it signifies the first positive piece of transfer business this summer and he will obviously hope that it is not the last as he has identified a couple of areas that still need improving as plans to mastermind successive Premier League titles.
So with that in mind lets take a look at how Chelsea could line up next season should all their transfer business come to fruition (I’ll add the caveat that this with the more solid transfer targets, otherwise I could end up with twenty odd players in the starting eleven)
As you can see that is a pretty ominous starting eleven should Conte get his way but of course the capture of the two new faces in this team are by no means a foregone conclusion. What I’m going to do now is dissect the starting eleven and weigh up just how likely it is that this time will run out in Chelsea colours on the opening weekend
In goal, it is pretty much a given that Thibault Courtois will start as although he has been linked with a move to Madrid – be that either Real or Atletico I cannot see that being a move that would get out of the starting blocks this summer, so although they have signed Willy Caballero as backup it will be the Belgian who starts on the opening day.
At the back on the assumption that Conte opts for the 3-4-3 then Rudiger will slot in to the right side of the back three with Cezar Azpilicueta then moving out to the right wing back slot. He will be in contention for the position with Victor Moses but could then also slot in to the back three if required.
You’ll have to allow for the positions of Gary Cahill and David Luiz possibly being the wrong way round on the graphic, you could probably make a case for Luiz being the left sided centre back due to the fact he can play with both feet. Anyway you get the idea.
It is at left wing back in which there could be one of the biggest changes but this will ultimately depend on whether Antonio Conte can once again be successful in the transfer market. After a poor showing in the F.A. Cup Final by Marcos Alonso, the Chelsea boss has identified this area of the pitch as one for improvement.
And it is improvement in the shape of Alex Sandro. If Chelsea can convince the player to swap Turin for London for a fee of £61m then the Brazilian will then the Juventus defender will nearly slot into the berth that is currently taken by the former Fiorentina defender Marcos Alonso.
Another which has been identified as one that needs enhancing is that of centre midfield, like Alonso there was also a poor performance by Nemanja Matic in the Cup Final against Arsenal and again it is an area that Antonio Conte will want to solidify.
The belief is that his main target is Tiemoue Bakayoko from Monaco, although there has been some elements of frustration that this deal has not been completed already. Should it finally get over the line then he will slot in next to N’Golo Kante with Matic then possibly moving on to Manchester United to link up once again with Jose Mourinho.
Which leaves us to the front three places – Eden Hazard is the starting eleven in the graphic but is injured for the first handful of games, we will assume that he will not depart over the course of the summer and for the opening few weeks will be replaced up top by Willian with Pedro operating on the other flank to good effect.
Which leaves us with who will spear head the attack line next season. At the moment could there be a surprise u-turn on the status of Diego Costa, he has already been told that he does not feature in the plans of the Chelsea boss but with slim pickings he may well be needed after all.
If Costa does leave though they could just as easily go with Michuy Batshuyai up top after he finished the season in such impressive form. As good as the Belgian’s performances were late on last season I would be incredibly surprised if he was their only front man in the squad.
So it looks like it will be Batshuyai plus one more but who will that other forward be. Will it be Diego Costa or could it be someone like Fernando Llorente who has again been recently linked with the club, they could do a lot worse then signing Alvaro Morata after his move to Manchester United has now been halted.
You get the feeling that Costa will not be allowed to leave until a replacement has been sourced otherwise they run the risk of being incredibly light come the opening day of the season. It will be interesting to see if the first team selection as champions resembles the one in the graphic above. We will have to wait until August 12th to find out.