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Realistic targets for Chelsea next season
During a rather erratic, albeit unsurprising season at Chelsea Football Club, Rafael Benitez and his side have booked a trip to Wembley in the FA Cup semi final, have the opportunity to finish third in the Barclays Premier League and have one foot in the semi-final in Europe's lesser competition, the Europa League.
What has been a season of unwanted media unrest and managerial chaos, Chelsea have the opportunity to win two trophies come the end of the season and create history in European football.
An FA Cup semi-final against Manchester City is a daunting task, but after knocking out Manchester United in the previous round the London club will be confident of their chances come Sunday 14th May. The Blues currently sit third in the Premier League with a game in hand over fourth, Tottenham Hotspur. Chelsea players will be confident of a third place finish and will see Champions League qualification on the horizon. No doubt every player, fan, member of staff and of course, Roman Abramovich, would rather see their club in the UEFA Champions League. But with the possibility of winning successive European titles after their Champions League crown - and join the likes of Ajax and Juventus to win every European competition - Benitez's men will be rallied up for the competition.
So after a season full of wax and wane, what do Chelsea do next season? Below I have what I believe are the top realistic targets Chelsea should aim to achieve for next season.
Hire a long-term manager to replace Rafael Benitez.
Upon his appointment, I was one of very few people [who I know] who believed Rafael Benitez would in fact be a success at Chelsea. With Champions League qualification for the following season a strong possibility, a potential FA Cup and Europa League medal could soon follow. However, it is clear that Rafael Benitez remains a number one public enemy at Chelsea. Sacking a club legend in 'Robbie' Di Matteo for Benitez may not have been Abramovich's smartest decision, but if the Spaniard can bring home two trophies this season as well as Champions League qualification – both parties will be happy.
Rafael Benitez has confirmed he is only at Chelsea till the end of the season – which begs the question as to just who will replace the Spaniard? Former Chelsea coach Jose Mourinho has been tipped for a sensational return to the club. Whilst all the top, young managers around the world - such as Jurgen Klopp and Antonio Conte - have been linked with a move to Stamford Bridge. Personally, all three names seem incredibly unlikely – but Chelsea will need a manager next season, this time for the long run.
Sign a striker who can work with the midfield.
'Here we go, another Fernando Torres hater', I hear you cry. Yes, I know Fernando Torres has 18 goals in all competitions this season. Yes, I know he has more goals than Wayne Rooney [for those of you who don't know I am a Manchester United fan]
Thing is, it is not only Fernando Torres who is struggling in the current Chelsea set up. Despite his debut appearance and wonder-goal against Manchester United, Demba Ba has looked far from dangerous since his arrival at Stamford Bridge. I know the former Newcastle man only signed in January, and for just £7million is a good bit of business.
The problem is both players are much more effective as the main attacking threat of the side. Fernando Torres was one of the world's hottest strikers as the fulcrum of the Liverpool attack, whilst Demba Ba would score goals for fun as the leading striker at Newcastle. Unfortunately for the pair, the main attacking threat at Chelsea is in fact the midfield.
Juan Mata and Eden Hazard could get in to any team in the world, and at the ages of 24 and 22, will remain the primary attacking force of Chelsea Football Club for years.
According to ESPNfc.com, - in all competitions Juan Mata has 18 goals and 23 assists this season, whilst Eden Hazard has 13 goals and 17 assists. The duo are two incredibly talented midfielder's who will get your side goals.
Chelsea need to sign a striker on a similar wave-length to Hazard and Mata, a more technical forward who can link up with the duo and have a more direct influence of the build up. Borussia Dortmund's Marco Reus and Firoentia's Stevan Jovetic are two players I'd like to see at Chelsea. The duo have a lower centre of gravity, and possess the talent and skill to flourish in this Chelsea squad.
Improve League form.
In recent years – the domestic crown has always been a bout between Manchester United and Chelsea. Since the turn of the century, the two clubs have won the trophy 9 times out of the possible 12, with Manchester United look increasingly likely to be crowned champions this season.
Chelsea have somewhat slipped off the radar recently, finishing sixth and 25 points off eventual champions last year, whilst this season they find themselves third. This current Chelsea squad is full of world class talent and with a few minor tweaks and a sense of stability, this team could be on the verge of great things.
Whoever comes in to replace Rafael Benitez at the end of the season will have a tough task. The expectations of Roman Abramovich will be as fierce as ever after two fairly inconsistent seasons.
Replace Frank Lampard.
Despite just recently scoring his 200th goal for Chelsea Football Club, it appears the Chelsea stalwart is on his way out of Stamford Bridge. At 34 years of age, Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich sees no logic in offering Frank a new contract.
Truth is, eventually there will be life without Frank Lampard and John Terry at Chelsea. Personally, I'm a believer in age is just a number. If you have the ability at either 17 years old or 37 years old, you should be valued and counted.
With 14 goals in all competitions this season, Frank Lampard has proved that despite being the wrong side of 30, he still has the ability to play top level football. Now, before I harp on about how great Frank Lampard is, it is time to talk about the future.
Chelsea have a wealth of talent to replace the creative threat and goal-scoring ability Lampard brings to the team. But something that is invaluable in professional football is experience. The likes of Didier Drogba, Florent Malouda, Alex, Salomon Kalou, Michael Essien, Frank Lampard and John Terry – what used to be the core of Chelsea – have all left or are on the verge of leaving. This current crop of Chelsea stars have the ability to match, perhaps surpass the achievements of the past Chelsea stars - but experience is crucial.
Promote the youth.
Romelu Lukaku, Kevin de Bruyne and Thibait Courtois should all be called back to the Chelsea first squad. Lukaku has had a stellar campaign at West Brom, with 13 goals in all competitions. Courtois has admitted his future is 'unclear' but has looked impressive in his two seasons in Spain – which will only improve his technique. Finally, Kevin de Bruyne has been labelled 'amazing' this season. The Belgian midfielder's been one of the stand out players in the Bundesliga and just nine months after failing to impress Roberto di Matteo, the 21-year-old is looking for all the world like he's ready to make an impact at Chelsea.
Josh Mceachran impressed on his Champions League debut under Carlo Ancelotti – but has seen his development hamper under two unsuccessful loan deals.
Chelsea also reached the NextGen final – the U19 equivalent of the Champions League. The Blues beat Arsenal in the semi-final, and the next crop of Chelsea stars look strong.
The Chelsea job is and will always remain an attractive proposition. The job in itself is a tough task, but one that has potential for great reward and prestige.
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