Winning the Premier League is sometimes a dangerous phenomenon.
It’s approaching nearly a decade since the last side – Sir Alex Ferguson’s all-conquering Manchester United – successfully defended their crown.
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Chelsea definitely aren’t going to end that run this season and were outplayed by Arsenal as their League Cup dream died at the semi-final stage on Wednesday night.
Title-winning sides regularly struggle to guard against complacency the season after becoming champions, particularly when it comes to the transfer window.
Last term Chelsea had the best manager, the best squad and the best player in N’Golo Kante as the Blues romped home with weeks to spare.
But last summer they failed to consolidate their position at the top.
There’s no doubt both Manchester clubs have blown the rest of the field away with their financial muscle, especially when you consider City spent £130m on new full backs alone last summer.
But this isn’t ‘little old’ Chelsea we’re talking about – this is Roman Abrahmovich’s oil-rich club who have themselves been accused of ‘buying the title’ in the past.
This is Chelsea. Five-time Premier League title winners and champions of Europe in 2012. This kind of uninspiring campaign isn’t acceptable.
So let’s break down exactly what they spent the best part of £200m on before the start of the current season:
- Alvaro Morata – £58m
- Tiemoue Bakayoko – £36m
- Danny Drinkwater – £34m
- Antonio Rudiger – £31m
- Davide Zappacosta – £23m
In hindsight that spending spree has been a shambles.
Antonio Conte has made no attempt to hide that Morata, who started his Chelsea career brilliantly, wasn’t his first choice striker as Romelu Lukaku escaped through his fingers.
The Spaniard is young and a fine footballer but at the moment he looks a huge downgrade on the relentless talents of Diego Costa.
The others, it’s fair to say, have improved the Blues’ squad depth but have failed to make any lasting impression on the first team.
Rudiger has been outshone by Andreas Christensen at the back whilst Bakayoko has looked clueless at times, with Conte losing faith in the erratic Frenchman.
Drinkwater has barely featured and Zappacosta is an expensive back up to Victor Moses when you consider Chelsea’s youth sides are littered with young talent waiting for an opportunity.
Despite forking out £200m Chelsea have gone backwards – and may fall even further behind if Conte leaves at the end of the season as expected.
And how have they responded? With links to the likes of Peter Crouch, Andy Carroll and Ashley Barnes.
They’ve become way too reliant on individual brilliance from Eden Hazard or Cesar Azpilicueta to overcome teams, with the rest of the squad’s inconsistencies ultimately the reason they’re so far off the title pace.
Hazard must be questioning Chelsea’s direction, particularly given constant interest from Real Madrid and an ongoing stand off over his new contract.
This won’t be a project a player of his pedigree will want to be a part if he knows the board can’t be trusted with that kind of budget.
Chelsea have stagnated while their rivals have both caught up… and then surpassed them.
If they make the same mistake again this summer the Blues’ side has a distinctly average feel about it.
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