After an extremely impressive Premier League title triumph last season the onus is most definitely now on the shoulders of boss Antonio Conte to ensure his side can replicate that success in 2018.
The Blues were rampant on their way to their first title in two seasons, narrowly missing out on the Double after losing to Arsenal in the FA Cup final, and they will no doubt be hoping for more of the same.
The return of Champions League football to Stamford Bridge will also set the juices flowing ahead of the new campaign and it’s fair to say that Chelsea will be striving to win silverware on all four fronts.
How has their summer been so far?
It perhaps hasn’t quite been the seamless post-title triumph summer that Chelsea supporters would have wanted, with troublesome forward Diego Costa immediately producing drama down at Stamford Bridge after allegedly being told – via text – by Antonio Conte that he’s no longer required.
Thus ensued a long and drawn-out ‘will he, won’t he’ saga with former striker Romelu Lukaku as Conte looked for a replacement – who eventually snubbed his old club to join rivals Manchester United – before they secured a club record £60 million signing of Alvaro Morata from Real Madrid.
Monaco’s talented midfielder Tiemoue Bakayoko and Roma’s versatile defender Antonio Rudiger have also arrived in London this summer as Conte looks to build a squad capable of challenging for both the Premier League and Champions League, with Willy Caballero also joined as a number two goalkeeper.
An awful lot has been said about the numbers of exits from Stamford Bridge this summer though, with academy players Nathan Ake and Nathaniel Chalobah both allowed to leave for Premier League rivals, Kurt Zouma sent out to Stoke City and influential midfield powerhouse Nemanja Matic sold to rivals United.
This, combined with numerous young players sent out on-loan again, leaves Chelsea’s squad appearing a little threadbare as the new season approaches and they need more arrivals before the window closes.
And this lack of personnel has perhaps shown during their pre-season preparations, winning just once in a friendly against Arsenal before losing to Bayern Munich and Inter Milan during their tour of Asia, whilst the season-opening Community Shield ended in penalty shoot-out misery against the Gunners on Sunday.
Manager: Antonio Conte
After coming across as a tactical mastermind during his debut Premier League season it has been tough going for Antonio Conte this summer, finding it hard to secure deals for his primary targets.
There were even rumours, as reported by the Daily Mail, circulating at the start of the summer of him facing the sack – rumours which proved futile after he signed new terms on his current two-year contract at the club – and it just seems like Conte is waiting for the season to begin so his side’s football can do the talking.
But in spite of this, the Italian almost single-handedly began the three-man defence revolution in England last season – a formation now utilised by a number of fellow top-flight sides – and once his new signings settle in it’s no doubt that he’ll make Chelsea a force to be reckoned with once again.
How could the Blues line-up this season?
With very few additions made at Stamford Bridge so far this summer, and with a vast number of squad players leaving for new clubs, Chelsea’s starting eleven almost writes itself at the moment.
The impregnable Thibaut Courtois will lead the line, with it expected that a back three of Cesar Azpilicueta, Gary Cahill and David Luiz will continue like last season – with new boy Antonio Rudiger not ready for first-team action yet – and that Marcos Alonso and Victor Moses will be wing-backs.
N’Golo Kante will take up his usual position protecting the defence and, although Cesc Fabregas is likely to start the season alongside him, it won’t be long until Monaco’s young prospect Tiemoue Bakayoko returns from his time on the side-lines and starts to make the defensive midfield position his own.
Eden Hazard and Pedro – both so influential in Chelsea’s title triumph – will resume their normal roles whilst new £60million record signing Alvaro Morata will eventually line-up as the lone striker once ready.
Who are Chelsea’s best fantasy football options?
Despite struggling on his brief competitive debut in the Community Shield, there’s little doubt that Alvaro Morata will settle in and be a regular scorer of points with his natural ability to find the net in his career.
Yet he’s likely to cost the big bucks, and if you’re looking for a slightly more economical pick then selecting either wing-back, Victor Moses or Marcos Alonso, could turn out to be a very smart coup.
Last season alone Alonso scored six goals and managed three assists, which is a pretty incredible return for a defender, whilst Moses scored three and earnt two assists courtesy of his lung-busting surges down the right-flank. Consider that they will regularly earn clean sheet points too and it is almost a no-brainer.
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Premier League Verdict
With Chelsea’s squad dwindling in numbers it’s clear that they need to sign more players before August 31, with strength in depth required to challenge for both the Premier League and the Champions League.
But the key thing is that the core of the title-winning squad remains – and most importantly so does manager Antonio Conte – so Chelsea will have the momentum of last season behind them ahead of 2017-18.
It certainly won’t be easy to retain their title, with fellow top-six sides making waves in the transfer market to date, but expect Conte’s men to be in and around the top three at the end of the campaign.