Today was the first step in Chelsea FC’s road to recovery. Beating West From in the manner that they did, with Hazard playing his best football, was a morale boost that the club was in desperate need of.
However, the past week has not been kind to Chelsea Football Club. It wasn’t just losing to Bournemouth and Watford, but the manner in which it all occurred was all the more disheartening.
Since then, chaos among supporters and media has erupted as it does and there is sense of desire for the Chelsea’s management to take action.
I believe that Chelsea’s board must take action. But not in sacking Conte.
The Blues management need to do whatever possible to tie Hazard to a new deal.
Announcing that the Belgian has signed will have a profoundly greater effect on the Blues going forward than sacking their head coach. The team is in need of a calming presence and this will help to offer such stability.
This would be step one in my plan moving forward.
Chelsea are in need of a short-term and long-term solutions. We will break down each of them as we go along.
Hazard signing a new deal represents a win for both the present and future. It shows that Chelsea’s best player is still dedicated to the cause, while also providing a positive outlook on Chelsea’s ability to retain and in the future continue to attract top talent.
As far as Chelsea are concerned with the present, there are several steps to minimize the damage of this slide. Obviously winning today’s match was vital. While issues have come to a head in the past few games, signs of Chelsea’s form sliding has been there all season.
First and foremost, the club should offer a statement of support for Conte. While often viewed as “the kiss of death”, it is important that everyone is on the same page with leadership. It would be foolish for Chelsea to sack their manger with matches against United, City, and Barcelona on the horizon.
No one is more prepared to lead Chelsea forward through these games than Conte. While his style of play is frustrating against teams resembling Watford and Bournemouth, his counter-attacking qualities are our best shot at nicking games against United and City, but more importantly Barcelona.
No manager that is available at this point in the season will prepare the Blues for these matches as well as Conte can. Issuing a statement is the club’s way of affirming this. After the stretch of these games, everyone can re-evaluate and go on from there.
The next important step in Chelsea’s short-term recovery is resting Bakayoko. They were forced to rest him against West Brom, given the Frenchman picked up a red card in the Watford match.
The former Monaco midfielder needs a break. He needs time to train, recover and gain some confidence back. Every time he plays, it’s easy to see his lack of confidence on the ball and this is attributing to his mistakes.
Going forward, Chelsea need to start on the front foot. They often find themselves starting quite the opposite and that has attributed to them giving away so many chances.
For me, Hazard needs to start outside, opposite of Willian/Pedro, with a striker up top. If Morata is healthy, work him into the side, if not Giroud. But Chelsea need a presence up top, a target man. This should allow for Hazard to be a bit less rigid in his style of play, drifting throughout the field, looking for gaps where he can pick up the ball and be effective. This was perfectly executed against West Brom.
Willian in my opinion has been excellent when he has been healthy this season. Hazard and Willian combine more frequently and more effectively than Pedro and the Belgian. Let those two offer creativity, with a target man present to hold up the play and play off of the two wingers. That being said, against the Baggies, Pedro’s work rate was excellent. Replicating this form would allow him to stay in the side.
From here, Fabregas should start next to Kante in the midfield pivot, allowing another opportunity for the Blues to be on the front foot, similar to how it worked against Pardew’s side.
I’m assuming that the Blues will continue to utilize a back three, meaning Rudiger and Azpilicueta should play alongside of either Luiz or Christensen, depending on who is healthy.
Chelsea need to turn around performances and they will do so by starting matches on the front foot. This is vital to their success and momentum entering a run of three challenging matches.
It would be interesting to see, based on the personnel available, if Conte would consider reverting to a back four against Hull. Unfortunately, an under-fire manager often isn’t inclined to take additional risks, though I think it would be interesting to see if the Blues have any sort of flexibility in them.
Chelsea’s number one objective must be to finish in the top four this season. They cannot afford to miss out. Even an FA Cup victory or a deep Champions League run can be sacrificed if it’s in favor of a top four finish.
From a long-term perspective there is much more work to be done.
First and foremost, the Blues must establish what type of club they want to be. Are they looking to spend with the high-spending clubs of Manchester, or are they looking to be self-sustainable while they fund their new stadium?
Either is okay, but there needs to be a corresponding plan. I’ve spoken about this in a previous article so I will not get into it in depth here.
From here, Chelsea need to establish what style of football they want to play and what type of personnel are they looking to utilize. Are they searching for young players, future stars, well-established professionals, world-class professionals, or people who only have a few good years left?
Conte seems comfortable working with established professionals. If this is not who Chelsea are seeking to target and utilize, then perhaps Conte isn’t the best man to move the team forward past this season.
Chelsea would also do well to tie down a few of their important players to new deals. Players like Azpilicueta, Fabregas, Kante, and Courtois are good examples of these players.
The most important thing that Chelsea have to deal with is a sense of leadership. Chelsea no longer have the spine consisting of Terry, Lampard, Drogba, Cole, and Cech.
These were guys that could galvanize the locker room. When the plot was beginning to sour, whatever manager was in charge of the Blues could rely on this spine of players to pick up the entire team and get them moving in the right direction.
Chelsea don’t have that leadership currently. This is something that the Blues need to fix. And there doesn’t seem to be any natural solutions among the team.
Hazard has too much speculation around him at all times to lead the dressing room. Though, I would encourage a Hazard captaincy if it were motivation for him to stay.
Gary Cahill has failed to impress as a captain both on the field and as a leader. He was an excellent foot soldier for Chelsea over his time with them, but expecting him to replace John Terry was unrealistic.
Chelsea need to address their spine. I believe they’ve done so with the purchase of Morata. I firmly believe that he will come good and be a prolific goalscorer in the West London.
Furthermore, Christensen I believe will grow into a defensive captain for the Blues. However, in the middle of the park, the Blues need work. Players like Fabregas that have been their before, need to step up and demand results from their team.
Finally, I also believe that Bakayoko will end up being an Essien-type player for the Blues. It will take time and confidence from a manager and in himself. But I do believe it will happen.
However, in the meantime, the Blues will need a solution that doesn’t pressure the Frenchman to realize his potential just yet.
Overall, there is much work to be done in both the short and long term. However, I do believe that their is a way forward for Chelsea Football Club.