Antonio Conte has made his displeasure over Chelsea’s decision to sell Nemanja Matic public.
The Blues had appeared to be amassing a formidable squad ahead of their title defence this season, but much of this good work appears to have come undone. Conte had understandably placed great emphasis on getting more strength in-depth in the squad, while the powers that be have appeared intent on cashing in on players at regular intervals.
Even in light of the departure of Kurt Zouma, Nathan Aké et al. it is the selling of Matic that has provoked Conte’s ire most. Given new signing Tiemoue Bakayoko remains injured, it leaves Chelsea with just two central midfielders as the new season begins this weekend. Needless to say, such a paucity of options was not part of Conte’s plan.
The Italian is quoted in the Evening Standard recently as saying:
“Bakayoko is a good signing for us. He is very young. My idea was to give Bakayoko the right time to adapt in this league behind Matic. But now after the sale of Matic, we need to try to accelerate this process for Bakayoko after his injury.
“We have Cesc Fabregas and we are trying to find another midfielder. Because now we have only three midfielders and we need another midfielder.”
Allied to their midfield woes is the ongoing Diego Costa situation. Having notified the world as to his manager’s displeasure with him, his transfer value has plummeted and he now appears obsolete to the Italian’s plans. Bereft of his services, the club are similarly equipped with strikers as with midfielders, boating just two players willing and able to play for the club in each position.
With less than three weeks left in the transfer window, Chelsea now face an uphill struggle to get their squad back to the strength it was at last year, yet alone improve upon it. Against that back-drop the recent rumours linking the club with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are hardly surprising, although they are perhaps too little too late.
With time ticking down on the transfer deadline, one suspects that more than just speculation surrounding ‘The Ox’ will be needed to see them defend their title this year.
Colm Egan, Pundit Arena