Despite a top-four finish, making the Carabao Cup final and winning the Europa League this season there has still been a bit of a sour taste left by the season as a whole. It has felt like Sarri has been under pressure almost the entire season, this came to a head when Kepa undermined his authority in the Carabao Cup.
From there the speculation has been rife for months about whether Sarri would remain in charge next season. As of this moment we still don’t know whether he will or not. This has lead to an uncertain feeling about the whole season. But despite this a third place finish behind two of the best Premier League sides ever and a European cup win during what should have been a transitional season is not a failure. So, can Chelsea beat the odds and improve next season? What challenges will we be facing and what do we have in our favour?
Transfer ban could be offset by youth
The transfer ban is arguably the biggest obstacle in our path for next season. With the inability to improve the squad through transfer dealings then it is important that we bring through or bring back our best youth prospects. The performance of Abraham at Villa and Mount at Derby, combined with Loftus-Cheek and Hudson-Odoi this season shows that we do have quality in the youth. If we are unable to overturn the ban, then our youth could be the key to building on this season.
Add to this that it is likely that younger players are more inclined to take on board Sarri’s ideas and we could see a much improved Chelsea next season. It is important to remember that we managed to complete the Pulisic deal before the ban so we will be bringing in at least one established player of quality no matter what happens with the transfer ban.
Hazard is looking likely to leave
Eden Hazard is without a doubt the best player in the Premier League. It could even be argued that if he had the quality that Messi and Ronaldo had around them, he would be on a par with them. He has dragged this Chelsea side to more success than we should have got sometimes and losing him would be incredibly hard. His interview after the Europa League final showed signs that he is likely to leave during this transfer window.
Most wagers this season were around Hazard being our first goalscorer, which was a sensible bet as he scored 25% of our goals in the league. He also created 25% of our goals, which means that we lost 50% of our goals scored if he leaves. This makes a Hazard first scorer and Chelsea to win wager a highly successful bet last season. If Hazard leaving happens and we were unable to replace him with two or three top class players then it would be worth searching for a quality bookmaker and placing a bet on us not finishing in the top four this season. It might even be worth looking at the odds for us to finish outside of the top six if we start the season without Hazard, or a quality replacement. While other squad members like Willian and Luiz could be replaced by our youth team players without damaging the side too much, Hazard is a player that cannot be replaced by youth. Even with the loss of Hazard and a transfer ban the odds on Chelsea finishing outside of the top six would be excellent and provide a great return. It would be almost impossible to replace him with just one player, which is why the signing of Pulisic is unlikely to fill the gap of Hazard leaving.
The ability to bring in two players to offset the loss of Eden Hazard will define our season next season. If we don’t manage to replace him properly then we could even see someone like Wolves or Everton overtake us until we can make our mark in the transfer market again.