February is slowly turning into a horror month for Chelsea. First, the Londoners were victim to Manchester City’s occasional hammering where the score-line resembled that of a tennis game between a professional and an amateur – 6-0. A week later, Maurizio Sarri’s side were knocked out of the FA Cup by a Manchester United that had Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard side-lined due to injury.
To cap off a forgettable month, the Blues were handed a transfer ban for the next two windows for illegal registration of under-18 players.
We take a look at what this means for the English club and what they must prioritise.
Secure Eden Hazard and Callum Hudson-Odoi
One of the best players and the best prospects in the league have been linked to a move out for quite a while now. While Real Madrid emerged as suitors for Eden Hazard, Bayern Munich are said to be close to sealing Hudson-Odoi’s signature.
In no scenario would letting go of either player bode well for Chelsea. Renewing the contracts of both these players must be made priority. The fact that the Belgian is Chelsea’s best player by far doesn’t need a second telling. The club must give in to Hazard’s demands and tie him up for the next few years.
If the winger does not renew with the club, he will be allowed to move to a club of his choice on a free transfer in the summer of 2020. The least Chelsea must achieve with Hazard is a three-year deal such that they can extort a hefty fee if he does have to leave when their transfer ban comes to an end. Of course, a departure before the completion of the ban should be out of question.
At the same time, Hudson-Odoi must be treated to a long-term contract by giving in to his demands of more playing time. Willian’s decline is very much visible and Pedro Rodriguez’s decline is an inevitable. This and the fact that the transfer ban prevents Chelsea from signing any player should convince the 18-year-old who had handed in a transfer request a few weeks ago.
Come to a conclusion over Maurizio Sarri’s future
Opting for a new manager at the time of a transfer ban is rather risky move, given the new manager will be forced to work with an existing set of players without having the liberty to choose from the market. However, with Sarri and Chelsea, the issue is rather complicated.
It is clear that the Italian is tactically too proficient for the players to grasp his philosophy. It does not come as a surprise that a tactical genius would find it hard to get his point across to the players who have been playing in a league dominated by physicality and high work-rate.
For instance, Sarri has not been able to bring the best out of Ngolo Kante simply because he is not the type of player that would fit in the system.
Simply put, Sarri does not have the right type of players to implement his philosophy and in a situation like this, there is very little scope for any progress.
The Londoners could choose to take a leap of faith and stick with Sarri or decide to give him the sack. But whatever they do, they must do immediately and not have any second thoughts. The latter comes off as the better alternative in this case.
Unleash the loan brigade
Chelsea have 41 players on loan. Yes, 41. They have often been criticised for poor management of youth products and loanees. It’s no wonder that Hudson-Odoi wants a move away before he joins the loan brigade and is shipped to Shiffield Wednesday.
The ban can prove to be most opportune for the loanees and eventually the club if it’s used well. The fact that Mateo Kovacic and Gonzalo Higuain won’t be able to have their loan deal converted into a permanent transfer also comes as a boon to these youngsters.
In fact, Chelsea can have their transfer ban postponed by a window through an appeal and seal both the players. But as things stand, the pair are on their way out in the summer and if Atletico Madrid exercise their option to buy Alvaro Morata, the scarcity of quality in the Chelsea squad will be out in the open.
Players like Michy Batshuayi and Christian Pulisic who are out on loan at Crystal Palace and Borussia Dortmund will be presented with an opportunity to assert their position in the squad. Tiemoue Bakayoko – who had a forgettable start to his career at Chelsea – is having a good season with AC Milan. The Frenchman can be handed a second chance and hence an opportunity to build on his good run in the Serie A.
Simply put, Chelsea have ignored their academy players and loanees for too long and now they have no choice but to dig deep and come out with a bunch that can help them ease past the ban.
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