With Chelsea now out of both the FA Cup and the Champions League, attention has surely turned to a major examination of the club’s nightmare campaign.
While the Blues are not renowned for their long-term planning, the manner in which they have been usurped as champions of English football suggests there are a number of deep-rooted issues within their squad.
In many ways, this summer will represent the end of an era. Though their title win last season is clearly not an achievement to be sniffed at, many of the players in this side are those who have failed to capitalise on their Champions League win in 2012.
Having won the top prize in the club game after so many years of yearning for it, they have been unable to truly challenge ever since.
Not to mention the fact it is looking increasingly likely that club legend John Terry will be calling time on his glittering career at Stamford Bridge.
Clearly, Antonio Conte (the man widely tipped to succeed Guus Hiddink as manager in the summer) is still taking over a squad packed to the rafters with top quality players. However, the Italian will have his work cut out for him to turn even names of this ilk back into title challengers. That statement is hard to believe after last season, though it’s one that rings true when judging them now.
As he looks to stamp his authority in west London, there are a number of ways he can improve his options in the summer.
So, here are FIVE stars to turn Chelsea back into title challengers.
Too often this season, the previously rock solid Chelsea rearguard has been brutally exposed. Gary Cahill has dipped in form, while even prior to his injury, Kurt Zouma looked well of the pace.
Branislav Ivanovic has been handed a new deal, despite a relatively awful season by the Serb’s exceptional standards, though Terry’s likely departure completely changes the complexion of the backline.
So without their skipper, the Blues will soon lack a defensive lynchpin, an aspect of their team that has proved to be so crucial over the years.
With Conte expected to arrive, a move for a player who excelled under his stewardship has been mooted.
Juventus defender Leonardo Bonucci won three Serie A titles with the current Italy boss, as well as captaining the Azzurri during Conte’s reign.
The 28-year old central defender is everything you’d expect from an imposing Italian enforcer. He’s as no nonsense as they come, though he boasts a masterful reading of the game and is rarely ever beaten.
Attributes you would associate with the man he could potentially replace.
Naturally, with the arrival of a manager so well versed in the arts of Serie A expected, there are a number of links with players who are based in Italy.
However, Roma’s Radja Nainggolan is not simply linked with a move to Stamford Bridge due to his history in Serie A. The Belgian midfield dynamo is an excellent player in his own right and would energise a department that has often looked flat this season.
He’s combative, making around 1.9 tackles per 90 mins of action this season, as well as roughly 1.5 interceptions. Conversely Nemanja Matic has seemingly lost all remanence of the stoic form he showed during his first 18 months as a Blues player, the 27-year old Belgian international would be a huge upgrade.
Matic, at this worst, has looked immobile and weak, so moving for Nainggolan would truly liven up proceedings in the middle of the park, as the Roma ace tracks and harries the opposition, which could allow Cesc Fabregas to pull the strings as best he can.
A left field suggestion perhaps, considering the Blues let him go initially, but Ryan Bertrand has established himself as one of the best defenders in the league since moving to Southampton.
On the South Coast, the 26-year old has emerged as a truly top quality left-back and a genuine contender for a starting berth during this summer’s European Championships.
Summer signing Abdul Baba Rahman has not shone at all, with Hiddink even preferring to field Kenedy, naturally a winger, in the role.
Strengthening at left-back is always a tricky task, such is the dearth in quality options, however, the England international largely bucks the trend of modern day operators by approaching his defensive duties with just as much vigour as his attacking ones.
Even without the prospect of Champions League football, the former Blues youngster is a realistic option to bring back to West London.
Despite playing at one of the best club’s in the world, constantly running away with league titles, Edinson Cavani has been linked with a move away from Paris Saint-Germain.
The fact Chelsea are all but certain to not be playing in the Champions League has not quelled suggestions he could move to Stamford Bridge this summer.
Though the Uruguayan striker is regarded as one of the elite strikers plying his trade on the continent, it’s fair to say he’s not found life as easy in the French capital as his impressive trophy haul would suggest.
Unable to fully step out of the shadow of a certain Swede, the former Napoli man could be on the move this summer.
Diego Costa has been linked with a move away from West London and despite his flaws, the Spaniard would be very hard to replace. When on form, he’s one of the best centre-forwards in the world.
So moving for Cavani, a lethal marksman with an exceptional pedigree, in order to replace Costa could be an avenue Conte is forced to go down.
Eden Hazard, Pedro, Willian and Oscar are all capable ‘No.10s’, giving the new man plenty of options in that particular role.
However, other than Willian, doubts remain over the futures of the other trio. Hazard, clearly, is an exceptional talent but his struggles this term have been well documented.
The Belgian has been linked with a move to Real Madrid this summer, but it is a Los Blancos star that the Blues themselves should be targeting.
Amid the circus in the Spanish capital, Spanish playmaker Isco has seen his stock drop a little and is reportedly up for sale.
Acquiring top class playmaker is never an easy feat, though it’s very rare talents as classy as the 23-year-old become available. Chelsea should capitalise.