Chelsea have been hit with a transfer ban from FIFA after alleged illegal transfer of youth players. In the recent past, many clubs have had to deal with similar sanctions. The list includes Atlético Madrid, Barcelona, Real Madrid, and others.
Considering Eden Hazard’s comments after the Blues’ Europa League win, there was reason to be concerned if you’re a Chelsea supporter.
"I think it's a goodbye"
Eden Hazard at Chelsea
Premier League: 🏆🏆
Europa League: 🏆🏆
FA Cup: 🏆
League Cup: 🏆
PFA POTY: 🏆
FWA POTY: 🏆 pic.twitter.com/nwRXiidg5K
— B/R Football (@brfootball) May 30, 2019
In January, Chelsea announced the signing of American Christian Pulisic. Since Hazard made these comments, his move to Real Madrid has been confirmed. Pulisic is currently considered to be his direct replacement. Despite Pulisic being eight years younger than the Belgiam with huge potential to grow, he does represent a loss in quality for the club.
With a two-window transfer ban hanging over the Chelsea, the team has a huge issue on their hands.
Assessing the current squad
Former Chelsea manager, Maurizio Sarri
Starting off with the former manager, Maurizio Sarri has left the club to join Juventus.
Earlier in the season, Sarri was rumored to be sacked having not won over the fans or the board. Despite winning the Europa League against London rivals Arsenal and finishing in third place in the English Premier League, Sarri’s time in charge of the Blues has been labeled as a failure by some.
Chelsea are now tasked with finding a replacement. The challenge here is finding a manager who can handle the club’s transfer ban, assuming it doesn’t get reduced.
Frank Lampard has been heavily linked to the job should it become available. However, a concern would be if this move comes too soon in the Englishman’s managerial career.
Starting goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga has done well since his move from Athletic Bilbao last season. However, the Spaniard faced huge criticism when he refused to come off during the EFL Cup Final.
😳 – Have you EVER seen anything like it!?
Maurizio Sarri tries to substitute Kepa Arrizabalaga for Willy Caballero, but Kepa refuses to come off and Sarri is absolutely FURIOUS! 😡 pic.twitter.com/Q81v6ry3Kk
— Sky Sports Football (@SkyFootball) February 24, 2019
Aside from this moment of defiance, there is no reason to believe he shouldn’t start for the team next season.
Willy Caballero has one more season left on his contract and is a more than capable deputy to number one Kepa.
Robert Green is retiring, but young 19-year-old Polish goalkeeper Marcin Bulka can take his position as the third-choice between the sticks. There are reports, however, that Bulka is on his way to Paris Saint-Germain.
The backline doesn’t look likely to change too much with the exception of the departure of Gary Cahill.
Chelsea defender, Gary Cahill
The club’s captain will be leaving after serving Chelsea for seven years.
There are rumors Marcos Alonso may be a transfer target for Atlético Madrid. Los Colchoneros are undergoing a defensive rebuild, which Quibbl discussed here, with the impending departures of four defenders. Alonso would be a huge signing for them, but Chelsea will want to keep the Spaniard.
Zappacosta, who featured sparingly throughout the season, is also rumored to be on his way out.
Danny Drinkwater may be seen as expendable considering his limited appearances this season. The midfielder, who won the league with Leicester City, is currently recovering from an Achilles tendon injury.
Chelsea midfielder, Danny Drinkwater (bottom right)
How he recovers may prove critical for any club deciding whether or not to invest in him.
Mateo Kovačić was on loan from Real Madrid. According to Goal, despite the transfer ban the Blues should be able to sign the Croatian.
The main question for the Chelsea attack is what happens with Gonzalo Higuaín and Álvaro Morata. Higuaín came in on loan from Juventus, but it remains to be seen whether or not Chelsea will make the signing a permeant one. Likewise, Morata went out on loan to Atlético Madrid and it’s unclear if the Spaniard will be purchased by the club.
Callum Hudson-Odoi is suspected to still be a transfer target for Bayern Munich.
Chelsea winger, Callum Hudson-Odoi
Considering Hazard’s departure, this may be critical as it could lead to more minutes for the English winger and mean he decides to stay.
Another question appears in the form of on-loan striker Tammy Abraham. The 21-year-old Englishman scored 25 goals in the Championship for Aston Villa. Now promoted into the Premier League, the Villains could make this a permanent signing.
Using the club’s extensive loan system
With all this being taken into account, there is a way Chelsea can cope with all these possible departures – their loanees.
Chelsea have a huge number of players they have sent out on loan. The club website lists 36 players out on loan from last season. Of the 36 loanees, several could potentially play a role for the Blues.
Alonso and Zappacosta are fullbacks that could leave, but Chelsea have Baba Rahman and Ola Aina who can come in. Rahman has experience playing for the club a few seasons ago and has since played for Schalke and Reims. This season, Aina has been a consistent starter for Torino who finished in seventh place in the Serie A, six points away from a UEFA Champions League spot.
While Cahill will be leaving, young centerbacks Kurt Zouma and Matt Miazga must surely be given the opportunity to prove their worth during the upcoming preseason.
Chelsea loanee, Kurt Zouma
Zouma has extensive Premier League experience, including last season where he started a majority of Everton’s league matches.
Another option is Matt Miazga. The American center back has had loan stints in the Championship, Ligue 1, and the Eredivisie. However, Zouma would be the obvious choice to replace the outgoing Cahill.
Should Drinkwater and Kovačić leave, players like Mario Pašalić and Tiemoue Bakayoko can come back into the squad.
Pašalić featured 33 times for Atalanta who qualified for the UEFA Champions League for the first time in their history.
Chelsea loanee, Mario Pašalić playing for Spartak Moscow (right)
The Croatian vast experience playing around Europe and can do a job for Chelsea in the midfield.
However, reports suggest Atalanta will be extending his loan spell at the club.
— Gianluca Di Marzio (@DiMarzio) June 17, 2019
Despite his troubled first season at the club, Bakayoko remains an interesting choice in the center of the park. Having gone on loan to A.C. Milan, it remains to be seen in\f the Rossoneri will pursue the Frenchman on a permanent basis.
Michy Batshuayi is striker who can step in should need be. Higuaín only managed to score five goals in 17 games. It’s not the best record by any means, so why shouldn’t Batshuayi be given a chance to do better?
A similar argument can be made from Abraham if Aston Villa don’t sign him on a permanent deal.
As mentioned before Pulisic would be the direct replacement for Hazard, but Victor Moses can also be considered. Although used mostly as a wingback under Conte before being loaned out by Sarri, Moses is comfortable playing the role of a winger. The Nigerian has plenty of Premier League experience and wouldn’t be the worst option at all.
A difficult season for Chelsea ahead?
Transfer bans are clearly a huge hit to any club who suffered from them. Chelsea, despite their vast number of loanees to call upon, are no different. The departures of Hazard, Cahill and potentially from Alonso among others, could make next season more uncomfortable than first anticipated.
The Blues will hope to keep as many of their usual starting eleven and frequent rotation players as possible.
Their loanees can certainly soften the blow of the club’s impending transfer ban, but the question is will it be enough?
Chelsea will be aiming to once again finish in the top four as well as challenge for some silverware in one of the domestic cups. In addition, the Blues would obviously value a deep run in the UEFA Champions League.
These goals may end up being largely dependent on how well their current players on loan can perform for the team when called upon.
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