5 things Conte needs to do at Chelsea
15 July 2016, 08:47
Cape Town - Antonio Conte needs to breathe new life into Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, Sport24's Tashreeq Vardien writes.
Back in December 2015, Chelsea found themselves hanging on for dear life in the English Premiership title race.
The "Special One", Jose Mourinho, was causing a different kind of havoc during his third season of his second stint as the Blues' manager.
Chelsea were hanging on by a thread close to the relegation zone when Mourinho was given the sack by owner Roman Abramovich.
Guus Hiddink was then brought in to save The Pensioners campaign and did so with the club finishing 10th in the final league standings.
With safety secured many of the players can look forward to new life under Conte, who was announced as manager in April.
Here are FIVE things Conte needs to do ahead of the new season:
DEFENCE LINE NEEDS ATTENTION
Chelsea's goalkeeping department is sorted with Thibaut Courtois between the sticks, but it is the defensive line which Conte needs to focus on.
John Terry has agreed to remain at the club having extended his contract by a year. But the 34-year-old finds himself nearing the end of his career.
Gary Cahill has not been in the best of form with Kurt Zouma doing particularly well in his place before rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee against Manchester United in March. The injury will keep the France international out at least until the end of August.
The Italian manager is looking to bring in a centre-back with rumours of Antonio Rudiger being on his way to the club. Stephan Lichtsteiner was also linked with a move to the Blues, but rumours seem to have died out with the Juventus defender being touted as too old.
Branislav Ivanovic and Cesar Azpilicueta have starred for the club under Mourinho and Hiddink. Conte would probably look to bring in competition to keep the players on their toes.
LOOK AT THE ACADEMY BOYS
Chelsea have enjoyed two seasons of success in their youth structure of late. The London side has won back-to-back UEFA Under-19 Champions League titles - now known as UEFA Youth League - signaling the amount of talent the club has in their academy.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek has shown glimpses of what he is capable of in midfield with his energetic performances. The 20-year-old will be hoping to impress Conte and attempt to solidify his spot in the first XI.
Jake Clarke-Salter is highly-rated by everyone at the club and the 18-year-old was influential in their academy side's back-to-back Youth League triumphs in Europe.
There must be something in the waters at the club's academy and Conte should utilise the talent that is brewing in London.
HOLD ON TO HAZARD
Eden Hazard had an underwhelming 2015/16 season and only recently found his form while captaining Belgium in France at the European Championship. Conte will need to hold on to the 25-year-old as Paris Saint-Germain - along with Real Madrid - are said to be interested in the midfielder. With Zinedine Zidane guiding Madrid to Champions League glory, Hazard could be tempted to jump ship as the London side have to make do without any European football this season.
THEY NEED ANOTHER 'DROGBA'
Not necessarily another Didier Drogba, but the Ivorians scoring capabilities during the Mourinho era certainly stood out.
Diego Costa bagged 20 goals in his debut season at the Blues, but could not repeat the feat last year, notching a dozen. The forward has also been controversial on the pitch with several heated encounters. However, Costa might be on his way out with Atletico Madrid eager to lure the striker back to Spain.
Chelsea have already added a striker to their ranks with the signing of Michy Batshuayi and Conte will hope the Belgian can put the ball in the back of the net with regularity in the upcoming campaign.
GET FABREGAS TICKING AGAIN
Conte needs to get Cesc Fabregas ticking again - that is if Chelsea can fend off interest from Manchester United - as Mourinho looks to lure the Spaniard up north.
In the 2014/15 season the midfielder racked up the most assists in the Premier League, which helped guide the Stamford Bridge side to League glory. It would be strange to see the former Arsenal man jump ship to yet another Premier League club following the hostilities from Arsenal fans when he arrived in London.
Meanwhile, Conte's pursuit of Radja Nainggolan has fallen flat with the Belgian opting to remain at Roma for another season.
N'golo Kante is another target for Chelsea as they have recently tabled a £29m bid for the French sensation with Mourinho sniffing around the availability of Nemanja Matic.
With the transfer window still open for a 48-days, Conte will likely add a few fresh faces and let go of some dead weight as Chelsea look to make the right kind of noise next season.