Though nothing is confirmed as of yet, Antonio Conte’s days at Stamford Bridge are numbered. With Chelsea also consigned to Europa League football for next season, this summer will be a crucial one in the Abramovich era as the identity of a new manager is ruminated.
Finding the right replacement for Conte is one issue but losing players to clubs that have qualified for the Champions League is quite another. Make no mistake, this season has been a disaster when set next to the 93-point haul that Conte’s side
managed en-route to last year’s title.
In addition to the mutual dressing room respect that is the cornerstone of success in this era, the other key element that has been absent is hunger. In recent years, the Premier League has become a poisoned chalice, with no side successfully defending the title since Manchester United in 2008/09.
To address this issue, Conte’s replacement may opt to use World Cup performances, rather than his knowledge of particular markets, as a topical way to justify his new signings. By extension, there should be an additional focus on players that perform strongly in their first World Cup, which would address the issue of hunger for success; so too would it help them get the numbers Chelsea need to win the Europa League in 2019 or secure a podium berth in the league.
In 2014, Juan Cuadrado was part of a Colombia squad that thrived after a sixteen-year World Cup absence. While he did not make it at Chelsea, he stands as an example of just how much a player’s value can rocket after just one good tournament.
Argentina – Ángel Correa
While Correa may not be on the pitch for every minute of Argentina’s World Cup campaign, there is every chance that Chelsea’s midfield will be tempted by the lure of teams that have sealed Champions League football. Due to Chelsea’s failure in that regard, Chelsea’s greatest midfield assets are at risk – particularly Hazard, Kante and Willian.
Fabregas is not getting any younger either, and signing at least two players full of pomp after (what should be) a strong debut World Cup is essential. If anyone is going first, it is Hazard, and, as an attacking midfielder with similar creative attributes, Correa provides a potential answer to the conundrum.
While convincing him to leave a club in the Champions League will be tough, he remains young and hungry to prove himself. With the Premier League still representing the ‘bar’ for all footballers, there is still an ever-present ‘pull factor’ that the new Stamford Bridge boss could use. Where the World Cup is concerned, Argentina have been drawn into what the Standard, amongst others, called the ‘group of death’.
Nonetheless, the two-time winners remain firm favourites to win it, which can only add to his market value in the long run. The Atletico Madrid midfielder faces a tough challenge in becoming a regular starter for Argentina, but his vision has developed in the four years since the last World Cup, at which time he was still playing at international junior level.
Denmark – Kasper Dolberg
According to multiple reports within the past two years, Dolberg has already been targeted by a number of Premier League clubs, and his first match comes against a Peru side that has shouldered the weight of generations. As noted on FIFA, the South American nation has been absent from the World Cup since 1982. Next, comes an Australia team that, if the latest odds are to be believed, should also prove short work for Denmark.
The Danes (as of 25 April 2018) are priced at 9/2 to win their group by the online betting website Betway and, with the Socceroos still in transition under Bert van Marwijk, this is another prime opportunity for the Ajax forward before he faces the seeded side of Group C, France.
While signing a man from the Dutch league would be a left-field move, expectations are high for Dolberg in a relatively easy group. While the current gulf in overall quality between the Eredivisie and the Premier League is vast, signing him as a long-term investment – while the Barcelona links survive – is essential.
Denmark are back after eight years, with Dolberg set to provide the youthful exuberance up front.
Germany – Leon Goretzka
For reasons already noted, the defensive section of the Chelsea midfield could be in dire need of bolstering come August. As noted on Whoscored, what Goretzka lacks in crossing ability from the switchover, he makes up for in good hold-up play and defensive contribution. Though there is solid enough opposition to bring out the best in Goretzka, World Cup Group F should not prove too taxing for Germany on the
Four years ago, Goretzka sustained an injury at exactly the wrong time and missed out on glory but, with current outright odds favouring Germany, this is the opportunity Goretzka must take. Whether or not he is considered suitable for Chelsea’s upcoming recovery exercise also depends much on the identity of Conte’s replacement and the in-game strategies within his wider vision.
However, his direct and robust playing style makes him a good foil to the speedster Kante, provided that the French midfield dynamo – as expected – opts to stay. Form is temporary…
It takes a man of charisma and charm to convince players to stay after a disastrous season. While a third spell for the ‘Special One’ seems near-impossible, the likelier names to replace Conte – headed by Luis Enrique – have all, in their own ways, shown the ability to galvanise a disillusioned squad. As the old adage goes; form is temporary but class is permanent, and Chelsea have the class to win many a pursuit for the emerging stars of this summer’s World Cup.