How do Chelsea avoid following Arsenal into the mire?

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The Blues have a number of big issues to address as an abject 2018 put them out of the Champions League and into the crosshairs of their critics

  1. #1 Find new leadership

    Antonio Conte remains on the brink of leaving Chelsea but will almost certainly stay on in his position until the end of the season.

    The Chelsea head coach has been at loggerheads with the board all season and, perhaps tellingly, only agreed to a pay rise last summer rather than extending his deal beyond 2019.

    Conte has publicly complained about transfers and the departure of Michael Emenalo has left the club lacking a link between their head coach and the board.

    It looks more and more like Conte and Chelsea's marriage should have been ended last summer, despite the adulation the Italian earned from winning the title - reconciliation, at this stage, looks tough.

    The next head coach will need to accept Chelsea have their limitations, including the capabilities of the current squad, the net spend on transfers and the history of a trigger-happy owner that has seen managers come and go at a rapid rate.

    The Blues also need to find a technical director who can bring additional leadership to the operations side. This role is huge at Chelsea with 35 players out on loan, while the club have one of the best-performing academies in the world, and that needs utilising.

    Arsenal already moved to sign Sven Mislintat as their head of recruitment and a similar position is currently lacking at Stamford Bridge. 

  2. #2 Keep Eden Hazard or Thibaut Courtois

    Chelsea could afford to lose one major player this summer and adequately replace them, but seeing two depart would be an acceptance that the club are losing their ambition.

    The squad has seen much upheaval this season, with eight transfers in replacing as many outgoing stars, but at some point the club need to stick with what they've got and minimise further disruption.

    Eden Hazard and Thibaut Courtois have both been told they will get new contracts as they remain important figures at Chelsea.

    Courtois's deal expires in June 2019 and Chelsea could face losing him for nothing. The Belgium No.1 goalkeeper is hoping to return to Madrid one day, where his family lives, but Paris Saint-Germain are also interested.

    Meanwhile, Hazard is settled in west London but the club's struggles have seen him lose form, and a lack of Champions League football could give him a reason to move away.

    Chelsea need to convince the pair that the club have a plan for getting back to the top, but with everything up in the air once again, that may have to wait until the summer.

  3. #3 Make sure unsung heroes Willian & Kante don't leave

    N'Golo Kante is Chelsea's Player of the Season once again, while Willian has blossomed in 2018 when others have struggled.

    The pair are rarely in the headlines compared to the likes of Eden Hazard and Alvaro Morata, but it is pivotal that Chelsea don't let any unrest spread.

    Willian has been a target for Manchester United ever since Jose Mourinho took over and the club need to avoid him being in a position where he feels he needs to push for an exit.

    The Brazilian's love of Chelsea should keep him at the club but the Blues need to reward their players' goodwill by making them dressing-room leaders.

  4. #4 Get Morata firing again

    Alvaro Morata's poor form has been a huge issue for Chelsea, with the club having banked on him being their main man.

    Olivier Giroud, a player who was deemed surplus to requirements by Arsenal, started the Champions League knockout tie at Barcelona, while Eden Hazard featured in the first leg up front and thus out of position.

    Morata's 2018 goal drought was due in part to a back problem, but he has also seen his mentality questioned as his frustrations on the pitch led to a spate of bookings and even a sending-off.

    The 25-year-old clearly has talent but he needs to be far more consistent to be one of the world's best strikers.

  5. #5 Save Bakayoko's Chelsea career

    Tiemoue Bakayoko was signed to be a key player for Chelsea this season but he has epitomised his team's struggles in 2017-18 and been something of a disappointment in his debut campaign in England.

    After his calamitous display against Watford, he was hauled off in his next start against Leicester City, with fears he would repeat his Vicarage Road display by earning a red card.

    The 23-year-old was earmarked to play in Conte's three-man midfield alongside Kante and Cesc Fabregas, but the Blues boss has since abandoned the system to play the 3-4-3 that won the title last season.

    Chelsea haven't been able to adapt and, having moved on Nemanja Matic to make room for Bakayoko, they have lost a great deal of quality in midfield. It isn't over for Bakayoko yet at Chelsea, but he will need to show next season that this was just a one-off.

  6. #6 Splash out on a world-class player

    Chelsea's last two or three transfer windows have been poor but there is still an element of rebuilding going on from their 10th-placed finish in 2016.

    The club have missed out on world-class players as they are no longer at the top of the transfer market, with Manchester City, Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain in a position to outbid them.

    That rebuilding process has seen many of the older champions leave the club to be replaced by a squad of younger players. They are currently way off the pace to be challengers in England and Europe, and they could do with one or two marquee signings to provide that injection of class.

    While the signings of the likes of Danny Drinkwater, Olivier Giroud and Davide Zappacosta added to the options available and bolstered the squad, they need a genuine superstar in the next transfer window.

  7. #7 Promote the club's youth-team stars

    Antonio Conte has handed debuts to Ethan Ampadu, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Dujon Sterling, but more can be done by the next manager at Stamford Bridge to bring through the club's talented youngsters.

    Chelsea's academy is arguably the highest-performing in Europe, having won an unprecedented domestic quadruple last season and back-to-back UEFA Youth League titles.

    Ruben Loftus-Cheek is an example of a player who has stagnated by remaining at the club, but if the Blues continue their plans to curb their spending, then a strategy of promoting youth-team stars is one to seriously consider.

    A better integration of the top young talent at the club is something they had long hoped to achieve, where the appointment of a committed, long-term manager would surely help matters.