Sunday 11 December 2016

Roman Abramovich is to splash the cash and overall Chelsea if results don't improve

Matt Law

Published 27/09/2016 | 10:53

David Luiz is back at Chelsea
David Luiz is back at Chelsea

Roman Abramovich is prepared to bankroll an overhaul of the Chelsea squad if the players cannot convince head coach Antonio Conte that they can compete for major honours once again.

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Chelsea owner Abramovich has largely backed his playing staff through Chelsea’s tumultuous 12 months in which he sacked Jose Mourinho and appointed Conte during the summer.

Rather than dumping the players who made the worst-ever defence of the Premier League title and failed to qualify for Europe, Abramovich and Conte agreed to give them another chance to prove their worth.

Chelsea signed four players, N’Golo Kante, Michy Batshuayi, David Luiz and Marcos Alonso, but the team has so far remained strikingly similar to last season.

Just six games into the new campaign, it appears increasingly unlikely that Conte will need to make more changes to his squad if Chelsea are to realistically challenge for the title and the Champions League again.

Despite splashing out £115million on Kante, Batshuayi, Luiz and Alonso, Abramovich is ready to spend big if the situation requires it.

The manner of the defeats to Liverpool and Arsenal have underlined the fact that Conte faces a huge task to return Chelsea to the top, and has also highlighted the need for change.

Conte is likely to tell Abramovich that he needs a full-back, another central defender, a midfielder and a new forward to compete with Manchester City, United and Arsenal.

Branislav Ivanovic faces an uncertain future, with his Chelsea contract due to expire at the end of the season, as does Cesc Fabregas, who was substituted just 55 minutes into his first Premier League start under Conte.

Neither Oscar nor Nemanja Matic have made convincing cases that they will return to their best, while it seems Conte largely sees Batshuayi as a back-up option to Costa, rather than a natural partner.

Chelsea tried to sign Alvaro Morata and Romelu Lukaku to partner Costa during the summer, and are one of the clubs ready to try to tempt Antoine Griezmann out of Atletico Madrid at the end of the season.

Roma defender Antonio Rudiger was an early target of Conte, but the German international suffered damage to his knee ligaments which prevented any transfer from taking place. Should Rudiger return from injury and prove his fitness before January and Chelsea’s defensive problems continue, then Conte could make a bid for the 23-year-old in the next transfer window.

Any big changes that will be funded by Abramovich are most likely to have to wait until next summer, however, which means Conte must plot how to get his current squad back into the top four. One option available to Conte, which he looked at in the 3-0 defeat to Arsenal, is to switch to three at the back in an attempt to stop leaking goals.

Summer signing Alonso replaced Fabregas at the Emirates and took up a position as a left wing-back with Cesar Azpilicueta switching to the right. Ivanovic slotted into a back three, but his and Gary Cahill’s place will come under threat when John Terry returns from injury.

Should Conte move to a back three, then it would appear to be a straight fight between Cahill and Ivanovic for the spot on the right with captain Terry taking the central position and Luiz lining up on the left.

Telegraph.co.uk

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