How Chelsea fortunes can be turned around for the 2023/24 season

It’s been a disappointing campaign for all connected at Stamford Bridge. Thomas Tuchel has been and gone, and Blues legend Frank Lampard is now steering the ship to the close of the season. The best betting sites have as good as closed the book on who will take over the reins for next season – ex-Bayern Munich boss Julian Nagelsmann is the overwhelming favourite – but it feels like more than a change in coach is needed.

As the team limps home – out of all cup competitions and European contention in the Premier League – focus now turns to the players required to turn around the fortunes of a squad that is still packed with star quality. There is no doubt that newish signings such as Enzo Fernández, Wesley Fofana, Mykhaylo Mudryk, Marc Cucurella and Benoît Badiashile have a big part to play in any Chelsea revival. The oldest of that quintet is Cucurella at just 24.

When you factor in other recent signings including Noni Madueke, Malo Gusto, Carney Chukwuemeka, Andrey Santos and David Datro Fofano (all of whom are 20 years of age or younger), then the Blues are well stocked for the future. However, the 2022/23 season may be too soon to see any of that latter group of players make the impact needed to win the Premier League.

With all that in mind, we assess what the Blues (and probably Nagelsmann) need to do.

Clear out the deadwood

Chelsea, with all their expenditure, have a bloated squad. And there are a few players who we can say with some confidence will not be at Stamford Bridge next season. One such player is Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, whose underwhelming loan spell has produced just 3 goals in 19 appearances. Loanee Denis Zakaria will be shipped back to Juventus, while João Félix should return to Atletico Madrid. Surprisingly there have been rumours linking the Portuguese with a permanent move to London, but Nagelsmann (or whoever is in charge) should surely nip that in the bud. A return of two goals and no assists is just not good enough. Loanees set to return include Tiemoué Bakayoko and Romelu Lukaku, who also clearly have no future at the club.

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Phase out some of the ageing legs

Players of the quality of N’Golo Kanté have been crucial to Chelsea success in recent years, but the Frenchman’s body no longer seems up to the task. Brazil’s Thiago Silva is another example of a player who should really not be a linchpin of the side at the age of 38. 33-year-old Cesar Azpilicueta and 30-year-old Hakim Ziyech are also players whose careers at the Bridge should probably be phased out.

Move on academy products and other long overdue prospects

Much has been made of the success of the Chelsea academy, with players of the quality of Reece James and Mason Mount catching the eye in recent times. But while the former will be critical to any future success, it may be time to set the latter adrift. Not all will agree. Mount has had plenty of good games for the Blues, and is also an established England international, but the argument could be made that he is not of the requisite quality – or is at least not quite consistent enough –  to take the Blues back to the very top. Conor Gallagher is another such player. Mount and Gallagher are 24 and 23 respectively, and will no doubt have successful careers elsewhere, but it’s time to get ruthless at the Bridge. Other players who have made their way through the academy, such as Ruben Loftus-Cheek and even Trevor Chalobah could also be moved on, although the latter could be useful as a squad player. At 27, Loftus-Cheek surely needs a crack elsewhere. The same can be said for current loanees Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ethan Ampadu.

And although not an academy product, how long does Christian Pulisic’s career stall in west London? Although an undoubted talent, four years is surely enough time to establish oneself, and Pulisic has quite simply failed to do that. Time for a move.

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Build around established quality

As well as those recent impressive signings, Chelsea still have plenty of established quality in the squad. These players are much too good to see the team languishing in mid-table, and will surely help fire the Blues up the table under the guidance of an established coach and settled side. English full-backs Reece James and Ben Chilwell will be forces to be reckoned with on either flank, Kepa Arrizabalaga has finally proved his worth in goal (with Edouard Mendy as a more-than-capable back-up), while Mateo Kovacic, Kai Havertz and Raheem Sterling surely all have important roles to play in any future Chelsea success.

New signings

Finally a striker! Although Lukaku will always score goals, it’s clear it won’t be at Chelsea. One player heavily linked to the Blues is RB Leipzig’s Christopher Nkunku. Another stellar campaign for the Frenchman has firmly secured his reputation as one of the most prolific strikers in Europe. Another in that bracket is Napoli’s Victor Osimhen, whose goals seem set to fire the Italian side to their first Scudetto in more than 20 years. Another potential target is Benfica’s Goncalo Ramos. A cheeky move for Tottenham’s Harry Kane, who looks set to leave Spurs this summer, would surely be fruitless, however.

As well as a striker, the Blues need a dynamic presence in midfield. The number one target is young England star Jude Bellingham, but with no Champions League football to offer next season, securing his signature over the likes of Manchester City and Real Madrid will be a tough ask. But with goals having been such an issue for Chelsea all season, securing both a striker and a dynamic presence in midfield to create chances look like the top priorities for Nagelsmann or whoever finds themself in the hotseat come the 2023/24 season.

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