By Blair Newman, Football Whispers
Romelu Lukaku’s move to Manchester United was a transfer of various repercussions for many different Premier League parties.
Everton banked a cool initial fee of £75million, a fee that offset their hefty summer spending thus far and perhaps financially refuelled them for further additions as they aim to break into the league’s top six next term.
Manchester United, meanwhile, brought in one of the most consistent goalscorers in the English game in their pursuit of a return to title contention.
The deal didn’t just affect the teams directly involved, however; Chelsea were impacted, too.
The English champions, hoping to become the first side to retain their title since Sir Alex Ferguson’s United achieved the feat in 2009, were left bruised and undermined by the transfer, having themselves battled for Lukaku’s signature. The fact they previously squandered the Belgian’s talents probably only added to the frustration of a key target choosing to go elsewhere.
On a purely tactical level, Chelsea missed out on a strong frontman to lead the line in the short- and long-term, someone to spearhead their attack should Diego Costa go off the rails or out the exit door.
They were also relegated in terms of status, with United once more demonstrating superior financial capacity and allure. But, arguably most importantly, the deal jeopardised Chelsea’s shared future with incumbent manager Antonio Conte.
Here, our friends at Football Whispers explain why it is so important that Chelsea rebound from the failure to sign Lukaku and bring in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to ensure Conte stays at Stamford Bridge.
Around one month ago, rumours of “mutual tension” between Conte and the Chelsea board were bandied around. Several Italian outlets reported the manager’s discontent; English outlets retorted by suggesting the manager’s future with the Premier League champions was secure. The rumours were not entirely without precedent, however.
On 15 July 2014, Conte resigned from his post as Juventus head coach. He had led the club to three consecutive Serie A titles, but, rather than build on the success, the Italian decided to leave while the going was still good.
His departure was surprising, but his legacy remained untarnished. He then took charge of the Italian national team, and having led his country on a wonderful run to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, he moved on for Chelsea. Again, supporters wanted Conte to stay put; again, Conte left while happy memories were still fresh.
So when reports of “mutual tension” did appear in the press, Chelsea fans would have had a right to be worried. Apparently, the source of the manager’s annoyance was a lack of transfer activity. Within the month, three new signings had been confirmed. Coincidence? Perhaps. But the new arrivals were nonetheless a necessity to ensure the club did not fall behind ambitious domestic rivals.
July hadn’t even reached its midpoint by the time Willy Caballero, Antonio Rudiger and Tiemoue Bakayoko were on board. All three were astute purchases: an experienced back-up goalkeeper on a free, a powerful centre-back comfortable within a back three, and a forceful central midfield ball-winner ready-made for the team’s style. But a striker was auspiciously absent from the trident.
This is important, because Conte has once again chosen not to mince his words. Andrea Pirlo once wrote that when the coach speaks, “his words assault you.” Diego Costa has certainly felt the brunt of this, having been on the receiving end of a devastatingly succinct text message from his boss last month.
The message supposedly read thusly: “Hi Diego, I hope you are well. Thanks for the season we spent together. Good luck for the next year but you are not in my plan.”
With that, Costa looked on his way out, with a return to Atletico Madrid widely reported. And the need to replace the Spaniard’s goal threat is an absolute must, especially seeing as Tammy Abraham will spend the 2017/18 campaign on loan at Swansea City and Michy Batshuayi has yet to show the quality required to lead the line effectively on a weekly basis.
As if to seal his own fate, Costa was recently seen on Instagram posing in an Atletico shirt. Replying to a Cesc Fabregas comment on the video, he said: “Give Conte a hug.”
Soon, it is likely that Chelsea will have to replace the 28-year-old, who hit 20 league goals last term. And Aubameyang is seemingly the latest target, following rumours of a move for either Real Madrid’s Alvaro Morata or Torino hitman Andrea Belotti.
Not only does the Borussia Dortmund striker provide the sort of movement that could enhance the possibilities for the inside-forwards – namely Eden Hazard and Pedro – within Conte’s 3-4-3 system, but he has the pace to stretch Premier League defences and the clinical touch needed to provide crucial goals – last season, the Gabonese star made 31 Bundesliga starts. He scored 31 Bundesliga goals.
It is believed that Dortmund would be willing to sell should a bid of £70million come in, but suitors must act quickly. “We will wait a few more days but not long anymore,” said the German club’s chief executive, Hans-Joachim Watzke, of a possible deal for the striker.
Evidently, Chelsea cannot afford to continue dithering in the hunt for a Costa successor.
Failing to bring in Aubameyang could leave their attack looking threadbare going into the new season.
This could in turn lead to Conte feeling, at best, disgruntled. Such a scenario mustn’t be allowed to play itself out. The player would be a nice addition to the champions’ squad; keeping the manager is absolutely fundamental to the club’s future.