WARNING: This post is filled with questionably hot takes made with minimal research. Proceed with caution.
In a vacuum, consider the following.
Your team has just:
● Finished third in the Premier League (essentially by default)
● Is back in the Champions League next year
● Made it to the final of the Carabao Cup (where our manager Kepa Arrizabalaga almost brought it home for us)
● Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ruben Loftus-Cheek emerged as future Chelsea stars
● Won the Europa League (it’s a real trophy, ok?)
● Chelsea signed Christian Pulisic (for a questionable amount of money, but don’t rain on my parade, I’ll do that myself thank you)
● Maurizio Sarri is out as manager (kidding not kidding)
Alas, we do not live in a vacuum, and at some point reality must set in:
● Chelsea are banned from making any transfers in the next two transfer windows
● Eden Hazard is going to Real Madrid (along with apparently everyone else)
● Maurizio Sarri is gone (still kidding not kidding)
● Both Callum and Ruben have suffered long-term injuries
● Willian and Pedro, really our only viable attackers outside of Pulisic, are on the wrong side of thirty (though whenever Willian retires he’ll have a second career waiting for him. The man can drum)
Alright, so first let’s address the smokestack in the room: our beloved Maurizio Sarri. When the season first started, I was all about it. Sarri was an exciting, relatively unknown Italian manager that had worked his way up all the way from Serie D to challenge Juventus for the Scudetto as the manager of Napoli. And for the first few months, it looked like this hire was gonna pan out. Chelsea were a dynamic side, and with an early season win against Manchester City, optimism was at an all time high.
And then, cue, well, honestly I don’t know what happened. What probably happened is that teams figured out how to stop the not-so-elusive “Sarriball” (which, let’s face it, is really nothing more than an Italian knock-off of tiki taka). And how did they do it? Just stop the limp noodle in the midfield aka Jorginho. Before I go any further, let me just say this: Jorginho is not a bad player. In fact, if you look at his stats compared to, let’s say in honor of the UCL final, Fabinho, he actually stacks up fairly well.
While he didn’t have any assists this year, I would argue that that wasn’t necessarily what he was brought in to do. According to the Premier League website (sorry, I’m not a big enough stats nerd to go much deeper than that), Jorginho has 6 “Big Chances” created to Fabinho’s 2, 1,508 more passes (and a better completion percentage, 89.22% to 85.34%) 1,106 forward passes to 449, with only 363 backward passes (this is interesting, because one of the big knocks on Jorginho throughout the season was that he didn’t move the ball forward much at all. Take that, stats nerds). I could go on, but moral of the story is that while Jorginho definitely doesn’t pass the eye test, his stats tell a bit of a different story. And in full transparency, here are some less flattering stats: Dispossessed 31 times to 16 for Fabinho, 37 goals conceded to 14, and less assists on the season than Phil Jones. Again, I could go on, but this isn’t supposed to be about Jorginho.
What kills me about Sarri is that he is SO DAMN STUBBORN. Like good lord. For far too long, it was the same lineup every week, despite the squad’s performance the previous week. Sarri finally gave in and started playing Hudson-Odoi and Loftus-Cheek more, but at that point it was too late. To add to the stubbornness, Sarri pops a cannoli for the WEIRDEST people. For example, despite my unexpected defense above, Jorginho is not exactly someone you want to hang your hat on through thick and thin, and yet Sarri insisted on Jorginho coming in from Napoli, and then displacing the best defensive midfielder in the world in N’golo Kante.
The other, even more inexplicable attachment is to the potato formerly known as Gonzalo Higuain. Higs was on the outs at Juventus, couldn’t cut it at AC Milan, and Sarri was still like, “this one. I want this one.” What’s even more incredible, is that with Sarri more or less confirmed as the next manager of Juventus, he’s earmarked GONZALO HIGUAIN TO COME WITH HIM TO JUVENTUS. Like Jesus Christ. Higuain will literally have to drop dead before Sarri falls in love with someone else. Not that I don’t want Higuain gone, but I mean come on. He’s also tagged Emerson to come with him, which is not good, but luckily Emerson doesn’t seem too keen on the idea.
In closing, to explain why Sarri was on the good list and the bad list: It’s good because if he stayed another season I was more than likely going to have an aneurysm, but bad because continuity is important, and if Chelsea continue to cycle through managers, we’re (yes I’m part of the team) never going to reach our full potential. Further, with a transfer ban, we’re not gonna be able to attract top tier managers. Which brings me to my next point.
Chelsea have long been criticized for loaning out basically the whole of west London. But now, it looks like that strategy might pay off. With the transfer ban, Chelsea are gonna have to get creative in how they craft their team for the upcoming season, especially with Hazard and (hopefully) Higuain gone, and Marcos Alonso off the Athleti. But unlike most people, I’m actually not too worried. Maybe it’s misplaced, but I think this is a great opportunity to bring back some loanees and give them a chance to shine. Here are a few of my top picks:
James is currently on loan at Wigan, and I think Chelsea would do well to bring the youngster back and give him some playing time. Unfortunately, his natural position is at right back, but with Cesar Azpilicueta in front of you, don’t expect to get much playing time. A more probable fit would be at CB or LB, sharing time with Emerson and/or David Luiz. James averages a little over two tackles a game, along with 2.3 clearances a game, and with 1.6 key passes a game as well as being a strong crosser, James could offer some great energy. Oh, he’s also only 19.
Ok quick side note here: Chelsea’s back line needs to get a bit more love. Azpi is top 3 if not the top RB in the Prem, Toni Rudiger was fantastic all season, Andreas Christensen deserved a lot more playing time than he got, David Luiz, for all the flack he gets, plays some BEAUTIFUL through balls, and Emerson is showing a lot of potential.
Despite being a year older than James, Mount is a bit more of a raw talent, but as an attacking midfielder could add some creativity up front that has been lacking. Mount scored or assisted in over a third of the matches he played for Derby in all competitions, and averaging about 2.5 shots a game would be welcome for a Chelsea side that at times seems afraid to shoot the ball. Like James, not an instant starter, but has some great potential if we allow him to get some first team playing time.
A more defensive-minded midfielder, Bakayoko would be a fantastic compliment to Kante. Bakayoko has had a bit of a renaissance at AC Milan this year, and with 2.3 tackles a game and a high percentage of successful passes, you wouldn’t really be giving up much by sacrificing Jorginho (seriously, where did that Jorginho defense come from earlier?). Additionally, with 2.4 arial battles won and an extra 4 inches on our French prince N’golo Kante, adds some great size.
This is the guy I’m most excited about. This dude went on an absolute TEAR at Aston Villa this season, with 26 goals and 3 assists in 41 appearances for Villa. That means he was involved in a THIRD of all of Villa’s goals. That’s approaching Eden Hazard level. Abraham is also a striker that can make his own luck, with 3.1 aerial battles won per game. That’s insane. Just imagine what a Pulisic, Abraham, and Hudson-Odoi top three could do. I’m popping a cannoli just thinking about it.
So this post went on WAY longer than I expected it to, and for all of those who have suffered through it to this point, thank you. And to everyone else: kick rocks. I jumped around a lot here, but what I think I’m trying to say is that I’m actually not too terribly worried about this next season. We have loads of young talent, and if we just utilize it, with a good manager, I think we’ll be in pretty good shape. We won’t be winning the league anytime soon, but I genuinely believe we can stay in the top 6 until we can make transfers again.
Thanks for reading, fam. Until next time.
Also, here’s a picture of N’golo Kante because he is the most pure human being on this planet:
HE IS FACETIMING HIS FAMILY SHOWING THEM THE MEDAL HE JUST WON. I cant even rn.
Stats provided by the Premier League website and whoscored.com
Author: Brian Angelino, “Originally from The Great State of North Carolina, I’ve just started following the premier league again after a traumatic experience as a child where I wore a Chelsea jacket in the wrong part of London. For more questionably hot takes, follow him on Twitter @BrianAngelino