While the 2015-16 Barclays Premier League season has been anything but predictable, one of the most glaring disappointments has been defending champion Chelsea.
The club’s performance following the sacking of manager Jose Mourinho seemed to be a positive sign, particularly their ability to remain unbeaten in the PL since interim coach Guus Hiddink took charge. All of that was forgotten though on Wednesday evening, following the Blues’ aggregate defeat in the UEFA Champions League to Paris Saint-Germain.
Through all of the disastrous moments that have struck Chelsea this season, the team has found its way into the top half of the league table, but one important question still remains.
Where do the Blues go from here?
Wednesday’s showing against PSG further depicted several of Chelsea’s biggest weaknesses, particularly after the exit of forward Diego Costa. The Spaniard managed to level the match before halftime, giving Hiddink’s men life in the match, however, once Costa pulled up limp with an apparent hamstring injury, Chelsea failed to mount consistent attacks when they needed them most.
The Blues simply lack quality options behind Costa up front, and that’s an area that the club certainly needs to examine moving forward. Other than his sometimes questionable reactions on the pitch, Costa is undoubtedly one of the world’s best strikers — when he can stay on the field. While Bertrand Traore has shown flashes of brilliance in his brief time with the club, Loic Remy has been extremely disappointing since joining Chelsea in 2014.
Willian has arguably been Chelsea’s go-to player this season, however, he has often lacked the requisite support in the midfield. Eden Hazard has been a shell of himself during the 2015-16 campaign, recording just two goals in all competitions. With the Belgian international being linked away from Stamford Bridge, the team might have to ask himself if it is worth bringing the 25-year old back to the team next year.
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In addition to Hazard, the additions of Pedro and Radamel Falcao have been unfounded for the most part. Falcao’s health has been a big concern, leaving him very few matches to even be afforded an opportunity to make an impact for Chelsea. The team’s recent acquisition on loan for Alexandre Pato has also left fans wondering the club’s state of mind. Pato has yet to see a minute on the pitch, while he battles his own injury woes, but his overall form had been far too sporadic with Corinthians to make the signing seem just.
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While finding support for Willian and Costa is critical, the attack isn’t the only worrisome piece of the puzzle for the Blues heading into next season.
After enjoying one of the greatest defensive careers in Premier League history, it appears that John Terry won’t be returning to Chelsea following the conclusion of the season. That absence will leave an even bigger long-term hole in the team than when Terry missed the PSG fixture. Currently, the squad lacks experience at centerback, featuring Gary Cahill, an injured Kurt Zouma, American Matt Miazga and Jake Clarke-Salter. The latter two players have never been seen time on the pitch for the Blues, which is why Branislav Ivanovic was forced into the center over recent weeks.
Despite only playing in a handful of matches this season, versatile Brazilian Kenedy appears to be the real deal. The 20-year old has filled various roles for Chelsea this season, most notably at left back and as a winger. He and Cezar Azpilicueta could be the team’s starting outside backs next season, but again, that’s an area the team needs to acquire depth.
It’s difficult to believe that we’re only one season removed from Chelsea hoisting the Premier League trophy, but owner Roman Abramovich and the team’s next manager must begin to plan for changes because lord knows they need it.