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Antonio Conte.

How three changes in two weeks could transform Antonio Conte's Chelsea

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Antonio Conte's first competitive game as Chelsea manager may have ended with three points, but the 2-1 win over West Ham was further proof that changes to the squad are needed if the Stamford Bridge club are to challenge this season.

The arrivals of N'Golo Kante and Michy Batshuayi for a combined £33 million are solid additions, but there are still some glaring holes in the Chelsea squad that must be addressed.

Despite their lacklustre 2015/16 season, drastic changes aren't required. Nevertheless, Conte can put Chelsea right amongst the title favourites if he makes three more additions before the transfer window slams shut at the end of this month.

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Problem area

Adding new defensive options must be Conte's top priority.

The Italian has built his reputation on creating mean, stingy defences but the one he has inherited at Stamford Bridge needs addressing.

John Terry may have captained Chelsea to a win in their season opener but, at 35-years-old and his form and fitness dipping significantly last year, the club legend simply cannot be relied upon to start on a weekly basis.

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As things stand, though, with Gary Cahil the only other fit senior centre-back in the squad, Conte doesn't have much of a choice but to roll with the former England captain. Cahil himself didn't exactly cover himself in glory as Chelsea conceded over 50 goals in the league last season, either. 

Tasked with handling more mobile strikers than Andy Carroll moving forward, the pair could be a real liability. 

Moreover, with Kurt Zouma still several weeks away from regaining full fitness following his serious knee injury in February, should Cahil or Terry go down or suffer a slump in form, Branislav Ivanovic is essentially Chelsea's last line of defence at CB right now.

Chelsea v West Ham United - Premier League

If Conte wants to challenge for the Premier League title this season, that simply won't suffice. But, who can come in to boost Chelsea's depleted defensive ranks?

Target

Having seen former target John Stones sign for Manchester City, Chelsea have been widely linked with Napoli centre back Kalidou Koulibaly.

Standing at 6ft 5 inches tall, the Senegalese is a man mountain who would be an imposing figure in the heart of Chelsea's defence. At 25-years-old he would also add much-needed youth alongside the ageing Terry and Cahill.

The fact Chelsea are considering paying a club record £60 million to secure his services sums up the west London club's desperation to bring him in.

SSC Napoli v OGC Nice

Pricey alternative: Jose Gimenez (Atletico Madrid)
Cheaper alternative: Jose Fonte (Southampton)

Full Back Failings

Centre back isn't the only problem area in defence for Chelsea. Having opted for four at the back for much of the pre-season, and against West Ham, Conte needs to address his options at full back.

The previously mentioned Ivanovic has been a great servant to the club, but, like Terry, he regressed significantly last season and is no longer a top calibre right back.

Of course, Cesar Azpilicueta would be the ideal man to move across from left back and fill  that position. The Spaniard, workmanlike and resolute at the back but more than willing to overlap in the final third, is a pefect 'Conte defender'. 

FBL-ENG-PR-CHELSEA-WEST HAM

However, that simply isn't possible right now because of one simple fact - Chelsea have no out-and-out left back capable of starting after letting Baba Rahman leave on loan.

Target

One option that would solve the problem is Ricardo Rodriguez of Wolfsburg.   

With over 150 Bundesliga games and 41 Swiss caps to his name despite being just 23-years-old, Rodriguez has developed a reputation as a solid defender with an attacking edge.

He has scored 20 goals for his current club and, with an eye for a free kick, would become another option to take set pieces at Stamford Bridge too.

Rodriguez would likely cost around £20-22 million.

Switzerland v France - Group A: UEFA Euro 2016

Pricey alternative: Jonas Hector (F.C. Koln)
Cheaper alternative: Charlie Daniels (Bournemouth)

Supplement striker

Suring up the defence is key for Chelsea, but so is adding further options in the attacking third.

At present, the trio of Diego Costa, Michy Batshuayi and Loic Remy is all Conte has. Costa is a real talent when focussed and on the pitch. Unfortunately, as proven versus West Ham, that isn't always guaranteed.

Batshuayi will take some time to adjust to the Premier League, whilst Remy's Chelsea career appears dead in the water.

FBL-EUR-C1-CHELSEA-MACCABI TEL AVIV

Even if Conte opts for one up top, a fourth striker is a must to keep his options fresh.

Target

There has been much talk of Romelu Lukaku being the man to add firepower to the Chelsea front line and he'd certainly be a popular choice were he to turn to his former club.

However, if Conte wishes to find a man capable of finishing off chances created by the wealth of attacking midfielders in Chelsea's ranks, he should be setting his sights on Mauro Icardi.

The Inter Milan striker is as clinical as they come in the penalty area and, with 47 goals in 91 Serie A appearances to date, has the record to back it up.

Frosinone Calcio v FC Internazionale Milano - Serie A

Chelsea won the league in 14/15 thanks in large part to Costa finishing off chances in the box. If anything, Icardi would be an even sharper point to the west London club's attack.

He wouldn't come cheap though, with a £50 million price tag on his head.

Pricey alternative: Romelu Lukaku 
Cheap alternative: Playing Edin Hazard through the middle

If Chelsea were able to address the three above issues - recouping funds with the sale of Cesc Fabregas for instance - they would be a force to be reckoned with in the weeks and months to come.

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Topics:
Football
Premier League
Frank Lampard
Chelsea
UEFA Champions League
John Terry
Eden Hazard
Francesc Fabregas

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