To say that Chelsea’s 2015-16 season has been a disappointment would be to understate.
The Blues, champions of England just a year ago, have put up a title defence as weak as Louis van Gaal’s current stance at Manchester United.
They’re 13th in the table and have an embarrassing court case to look forward to in June after Jose Mourinho and Eva Carneiro's fallout last August. It will certainly be a campaign for Chelsea to brush under the carpet and never speak of again should they fail to lift either the FA Cup or Champions League.
SUBMIT AN ARTICLE
Apply to become a GMS writer by signing up and submitting a 250-word test article: http://gms.to/haveyoursay5
Nobody could have predicted their demise following last year’s double-winning triumph, and it’s difficult to forecast how they will fare next season. A new manager will be at the helm and periods of transition are rarely carried out without any hitches.
The one thing in Chelsea’s favour is the wealth of their owner, Roman Abramovich. The Russian has invested more than £1 billion into the west London club since arriving in 2003 and he’ll be forced to get the cheque book out once again in the summer to resurrect his club.
Here are five changes Abramovich and Chelsea should - no, must - make if they’re to contend next year.
1. Appoint Simeone
Atletico Madrid boss Diego Simeone has worked wonders since arriving in Spain in 2011.
The Argentine has won the La Liga, Copa del Rey and Europa League and came within seconds of adding a Champions League trophy to his collection.
All of this was achieved with a limited budget and while competing with the behemoths of Spanish football, Barcelona and Real Madrid.
It's fair to say Simeone has built an incredibly impressive résumé.
2. Sign Griezmann
On the same flight from Madrid to Chelsea should be Antoine Griezmann. The Frenchman is on Chelsea’s radar according to reports and would be an instant hit at the club.
The versatile winger can fill Eden Hazard’s boots on the left-hand side should the Belgian leave in the summer and can also play on the right and through the middle.
The 24-year-old has scored 19 goals for Atletico this season and Chelsea should invest in him regardless of whether Hazard stays or not.
3. Fix the defence
Chelsea have already conceded more league goals this season than they allowed in the entire 2014-15 campaign.
The defence, usually so stingy, has been a weak point all campaign and it’s surprising Abramovich allowed the situation to deteriorate to its current state.
Branislav Ivanovic struggled immensely early in the season and it will be a surprise if he is a Chelsea player after the next campaign. The emergence of Kurt Zouma has left Gary Cahill rooted to the bench and new signing Matt Miazga’s development cannot be helped by John Terry’s departure at the end of the season.
The signing of Papy Djilobodji was bizarre and the absence of a suitable left back is shown by Cesar Azpilicueta, more suited to the right, playing regularly on the left of defence.
If Miazga and young left back Baba Rahman can evolve into quality players, a lot of Chelsea’s defensive problems will be solved.
4. Buy a suitable backup to Costa
Chelsea’s list of strikers beyond Diego Costa reads: Loic Remy, Radamel Falcao and Alexandre Pato.
Three years ago, that trio would have provided the Spaniard with stiff competition. Not any more.
The Blues can get by with their current crop until the end of the season but in order to launch an assault on the title next year, Costa needs an adequate backup during times of need.
It could be that Pato is the guy. If the Brazilan, who joined on loan from Corinthians on Friday, can rediscover the form he showed in his early days at AC Milan, there’s every chance the Blues make his temporary stay a permanent one for £12 million.
But Chelsea fans shouldn’t get their hopes up. Corinthians director of football Edu claimed Pato lacks “guts”, while Harry Redknapp doesn’t understand the logic behind the signing.
Costa endured a run of four goals in 21 games earlier in the season and yet neither Remy or Falcao could dispose him from the starting line-up. He needs greater competition.
5. Bring through the youth
The whole world has heard that Chelsea’s youth teams are brimming with talent, but there’s little evidence to show for it in the first team.
The names of Izzy Brown, Lewis Baker, Tammy Abraham and Dominic Solanke are brandished about as if they’re the next Class of ’92 but the last player to come through the youth ranks to become a first team regular was John Terry.
Instead of signing Pato, couldn’t Hiddink have given Patrick Bamford an opportunity before farming him out on loan to Norwich?
The way things are headed, several of Chelsea’s young players are headed in the direction Josh McEachran, currently at Brentford, has taken. That needs to change.