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What Must Chelsea Improve Upon in Order to win the Premier League Next Season?

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What Must Chelsea Improve Upon in Order to win the Premier League Next Season?

The injury to Ben Chilwell during the 4 - 0 Champions League win over Juventus in November and the injury to his fellow full-back Reece James in the Brighton clash only a month later seem to be the catalyst for the fading title challenge the Blues had mounted at the start of the season.

Fresh off of their Champions League triumph over Manchester City, Chelsea spent big in the summer transfer window, keen to show their intent on returning to the precipice of English football.

Romelu Lukaku was brought back to the club for a staggering £101.7 million, the Inter Milan man breaking Chelsea’s transfer record previously held by fellow forward Kai Havertz. Saul Niguez was also brought in from Spanish champions Atletico Madrid on a season-long loan.

Centre back Trevoh Calobah was recalled for the season by Thomas Tuchel after a promising preseason. The youngster played his 2020/21 season in France with Lorient where he impressed in both centre back and midfield.

With all this incoming talent and a squad that had already won the biggest honour in European club football - what went wrong and what can they do to make sure they’re in the fight next season?

FA Cup Outright Odds

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Chelsea to win the 2021/22 FA Cup @ 5/2

The Injuries

A big what if for many Chelsea fans is what could’ve happened this season if the injuries to Ben Chilwell and Reece James could’ve been prevented.

There’s no doubt that Chilwell and James were a crucial part of the team. Thomas Tuchel’s favoured five at the back formation brought a lot of success since he joined the Blues and featured both of them heavily.

Tuchel himself admitted to The Fifth Stand that the injuries had an effect on their season. Before both full-backs sustained their injuries, they were producing impressive numbers, especially in the attacking portion of their game. James contributed five goals and six assists in his 17 appearances in the Premier League, Chilwell scoring three and assisting one in his six Premier League appearances.

However, the biggest issue with the injuries to Chilwell and James and Chelsea’s ability to mount a meaningful title challenge is the bench. With both first-choice full-backs out, Tuchel has mainly had to turn to Marcos Alonso and Cesar Azpilicueta. The Chelsea boss has also resorted to playing wingers in these positions, with Christian Pulisic and Callum Hudson-Odoi filling the vacant positions.

Despite spending big in the summer, Chelsea failed to recruit adequate backups for such important positions. Alonso and Azpilicueta have filled the boots as best as they can, but both have frailties in their game.

This lack of cover needs to be addressed before next season and then a title charge can start, with focus on recruiting a range of positions instead of one big-money marquee signing.

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Chelsea to win the 2021/22 Champions League @ 11/1

The Striker Problem

Timo Werner and Romelu Lukaku seemed like a dream come true for Chelsea fans at the start of the season. Werner had been admittedly inconsistent in his first season with The Blues, but his impressive stats in the Bundesliga promised more from the German.

Lukaku had a more than impressive season with Serie A winners Inter Milan, where he scored 24 goals and assisted a further 10 for the Italian giants.

However, both have failed to set the Premier League alight this season. Lukaku looked worth the investment as he scored on his Premier League debut, but an injury and an ill-timed interview with Sky in Italy all but sunk his season.

Lukaku has five goals and a single assist to his name in his 19 Premier League appearances, but has fared a bit better in the cup competitions. The Belgian has two goals and an assist in the Champions League, two goals in the Club World Cup and three goals in the FA Cup.

Werner’s statistics also leave much to be desired, with only one goal and one assist in 14 appearances in the league. Like his fellow frontman, Werner has had better showings in the cup competitions. In the Champions League, the German has three goals and an assist, two goals and two assists in the FA Cup and a goal in the Carabao Cup.

The weakness in the frontline is most apparent when compared directly to title rivals Manchester City and Liverpool. Chelsea have scored 57 goals in the Premier League this season, with an average of 2.04 goals per match, 397 shots and 55 big chances created.

Whereas league leaders City have 68 goals for the season, 2.34 goals per match, 536 shots and 65 big chances created. Liverpool have even more, 75 goals, 2.59 goals per match, 555 shots and 81 big chances created.

The gap in quality of the various front lines show what clearly needs to change for The Blues next season in order to compete.

Though a problem in the current Chelsea set-up, the striker position has always caused problems for The Blues in the Premier League era.

This is especially egregious with the amount spent on strikers who failed to make the position their own. Big money signings like Andrey Shevchenko, Fernando Torres, Romelu Lukaku in his first stint with the club, Michy Batshuayi and Alvaro Morata embody this sentiment.

A title charge next season could depend on a competent, goal-scoring striker. If the form of Lukaku or Werner doesn’t pick up, Chelsea could turn to the academy. Especially with loanee, Armando Broja tearing it up with Southampton, the Albanian scoring six and assisting one so far this season.

Vacant Roles

The end of the season also sees the end of some important players' contracts. Antonio Rudiger, Andreas Christensen and Cesar Azpilicueta are all out of contract at the close of the season.

If they don’t secure these renewals, The Blues must be smart in their investments. The defence has been a highlight of Tuchel’s tenure at the club, so finding potential adequate replacements will be crucial for the title charge next season.