Antonio Conte has strengthened his new team but needs even more additions. Goal’s Chelsea correspondent Nizaar Kinsella previews their Premier League chances this season
Antonio Conte has given a great first impression to everyone at Chelsea, with Eden Hazard and the first-team squad quickly adapting to his way of football.
The former Italy coach, however, is relying on largely the same side which failed miserably last season, with only a few fresh names in the squad.
The 46-year-old has introduced heavy conditioning training and a new set of tactics to change the face of his team, which lifted the title under Jose Mourinho before falling well short as they recorded the worst-ever Premier League title defence last year.
The two biggest factors in the failure last season was the club’s transfer policy and poor preparation in a short pre-season under Mourinho, with Chelsea only managing to rectify only the latter so far.
Chelsea’s senior players have told Goal that Antonio Conte’s set up at the club is “very different” to anything they experienced, as they are worked extremely hard in double training sessions ahead of West Ham United on August 15.
Antonio Conte’s remit from the club’s high-profile owner, Roman Abramovich, is to return Chelsea to the Champions League. A fourth-placed finish and entry into the competition would be considered an adequate outcome for the coming season.
The lack of European football could have a positive effect on the The Blues’ chances of achieving that aim, but disappointing activity in the transfer market may be a hindrance.
The club have only made two signings in Michy Batshuayi and N’Golo Kante despite Conte wanting more movement, both in and out of Stamford Bridge, during this transfer window.
The fans remain frustrated from last season’s failed window where they signed Pedro, Falcao and Baba Rahman, who all flopped at the club.
An ageing defence stands out as a particular priority, as the club target Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly; while they also hope to add goals by signing Romelu Lukaku for £70m.
Closer to home, meanwhile, Chelsea’s two-time Uefa Youth League winning academy has produced some of England’s best youngsters. Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Ola Aina and Nathaniel Chalobah have all progressed from the academy but they have struggled to reach the next level in a very bloated squad.
Aina’s development in pre-season shows that some talent is ready to break into the first team next season, although it is debatable whether those young promises can take the place of established names at a critical point for the club.
Further inactivity on transfers would in any case look like a failure, as the renewal desperately needed in the Blues ranks has so far failed to materialise in the transfer window.
After missing out on Conte’s number one target, Roma’s Radja Nainggolan, the coach hopes to bring in at least one marquee signing, having seen both Manchester clubs once again spend heavily.
And after that forgettable 2015-16 campaign, there are still plenty of weaknesses to be addressed in the squad.
Neither the defence nor attack functioned for large swathes of the previous season, and while Eden Hazard’s return to top form is an encouraging sign it may not be enough to return Chelsea to the Premier League’s top table.
When Conte joined Juventus he took them from a seventh-placed finish to Scudetto winners in his first season, but despite his challenge at Chelsea holding some similarities, it will arguably be more difficult with six or seven teams competing for domestic glory.
Abramovich and his staff need to take inspiration from Antonio Conte’s touchline aggression and apply it to the transfer market, or their new manager’s work will eventually be undone due to a lack of quality compared to their rivals during the Premier League this season.