The Blues find themselves a whopping 16 points behind Man City at Christmas, and they simply must delve into the market to close the widening gap.
Chelsea’s 0-0 draw at Everton on Saturday was yet another example of why Antonio Conte simply must splash the cash in the January transfer market if the club are to have any hope of closing the gap on Manchester City.
Eden Hazard led the line alongside Willian and Pedro after Alvaro Morata was suspended for his midweek goal celebration in the Carabao Cup. The trio were lively, producing tricks and flicks, but didn’t have the cutting edge or variation in attack to find a winning goal without Morata.
Chelsea are still a very strong team but they now have 10 points fewer than they did at this time last season, while they are a mammoth 16 points off leaders Man City.
Everton were stubborn and solid – if somewhat negative – and that seems to be a formula that lesser teams have successfully adopted against Conte’s side this season.
Where Chelsea have failed against such defensive tactics, Man City have succeeded and there is now a marked gap in quality between both clubs. City’s success this term isn’t by chance and Chelsea now must look into the transfer market for answers in order to add both quality and quantity to their squad.
Man City are ready to show their financial muscle again in January, with centre-back Virgil van Dijk at the top of their wishlist and Alexis Sanchez also likely to arrive on a Bosman in the summer.
Chelsea need to match that ambition with Van Dijk, Thomas Lemar, Leon Bailey, Ross Barkley and Alex Sandro among those being targeted.
Chelsea are still competing on three fronts – even if the league title looks almost impossible – but they must stick to their plan to “build something important for the future” as Conte has repeatedly been quoted as saying in press conferences.
This means signing players who are either already world class or can grow into champions in the future. Chelsea still have the pedigree to beat anyone on their day but they lack the depth to fight it out over a gruelling league season given their other exertions.
Last season Chelsea didn’t have to worry about the Champions League, which also helped ensure they suffered less injuries, and this gave them an edge on local rivals. The impact that European football would have on the squad physically was perhaps underestimated at Stamford Bridge during their summer transfer business.
Morata has performed well after moving for £55 million from Real Madrid but Tiemoue Bakayoko has struggled, Davide Zappacosta hasn’t made an impact and Antonio Rudiger has been merely adequate.
Michy Batshuayi came off the bench versus Everton for the last 20 minutes but he still doesn’t seem to be trusted by Conte. The Belgian is barely making any league starts, even in Morata’s absence, and is the third choice striker at Stamford Bridge. While Pep Guardiola is doing a magnificent job with his coaching, Man City are outdoing Chelsea on the pitch this season because of their superior work in the transfer market.
The Blues must find a way to compete with City for signings again in January, with the worry being that top players will soon start thinking that it is better to move to Manchester than London. Chelsea are still a good team, but that is not enough if they are to compete with a world class side like Man City.
And it isn’t only Pep’s men that Chelsea should be worrying about as we head into the New Year. On Saturday, Barcelona sent out a frightening message ahead of their Champions League last 16 meeting by thrashing Real Madrid 3-0 in the Clasico at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Lionel Messi was, unsurprisingly, the star of the show in that game and if Chelsea want to compete against him come February then they must strengthen in January.