The ability to learn from past mistakes seems to be a rare quality amongst those masterminding summer business at Stamford Bridge this year.
Chelsea’s last title defence was one of the worst recorded in Premier League history, as Jose Mourinho’s Champions slumped to the doorstep of the relegation zone before a revival under manager Guus Hiddink occupy a mid-table slot.
The catalyst for this poor start was a mismanagement of fitness ahead of the season – an incredibly short pre-season with a number of crushing defeats left the squad low on confidence and exhausted even before a ball had been kicked in the Premier League season.
Defeats to Internazionale and Bayern Munich did not set ‘the Blues’ in good stead ahead of their penalty shootout defeat to Arsenal in Sunday’s Community Shield – incidentally another game which they lost en route to their disastrous season as defending champions.
Another detail, included in football previews with expert tips, which seems to mirror past events is the apparent dissatisfaction amongst the Chelsea managers at the lack of sufficient transfer activity ahead of the new season.
It is understandable that Chelsea must operate within certain financial boundaries, and any manager under the employment of the club must have respect for that regardless of what they have achieved.
While reports of coach Antonio Conte’s frustration with the transfer activity seem like overblown paper-talk, he did leave Juventus over a lack of support in the transfer market.
Chelsea’s failed attempts to lure John Stones from Everton from two seasons ago don’t feel to dissimilar to their so-far unsuccessful pursuit of Juventus full-back Alex Sandro.
However the biggest mistake could still be avoided by the West London club, which would to once again overlook the waves of quality coming from their infamous youth academy.
Under Mourinho’s management, the club let go of youngsters such as Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku, Ryan Bertrand and Mohamed Salah without giving them a proper chance in the first team, and all of them have gone on to significantly strengthen the Blues’ premier league rivals.
Chelsea must avoid making the same mistake with the likes of Andreas Christensen, Kurt Zouma, Tammy Abraham and Lewis Baker.
Unfortunately, half of the names stated above have already been sent out on loan.
Kurt Zouma’s temporary move to Stoke can be seen as a chance to recover from the crushing injury he has been nursing for over a year now, and Abraham still has time on his hands before his age necessitates a breakthrough or departure ultimatum.
However, with Conte only having three senior central midfielders ahead of a season in which he will have to compete in four competitions next season, the fact that they are looking to loan out England U-21 star Lewis Baker could be one loan too far for Chelsea, and ultimately one they may regret.
The midfielder netted 15 goals and seven assists last season on loan at Vitesse Arnhem in the Dutch League, and would most certainly have the opportunity to play first team football in the domestic cups this season as a fourth-choice central midfielder behind Kante, Fabregas and Bakayoko.
Another player that could have filled this role is Croatian defensive midfielder Mario Pasalic, who has been loaned out to Russian outfit Spartak Moscow.
It would have been possible for Pasalic establish himself in the Chelsea first team from the fringes as Moses did last season, but unfortunately he simply isn’t being given the chance to.
With not long to go before the season kicks off, the reigning champions will be looking to kick on and build on last season’s success. But with a less-than-perfect preseason and tensions apparently mounting over transfer policy, the pressure will be mounting in West London.