Almost predictably, the departure of Jose Mourinho has seen a breath of fresh air lift Chelsea, who remain unbeaten since their controversial former boss faced the axe.
Guus Hiddink has once again returned to lift the shackles on the fallen Premier League champions, who looked like an entirely new team in their win over an impressive Crystal Palace.
It’s clear that the Blues can only get better. What is not so clear, however, is just how good they can get. Surely now they must go for broke and commit themselves in every game left. Which is a scary prospect for their opponents, considering their obvious quality.
While it’s far too early to comment on whether Hiddink can lean on his vast experience to steer the side to Champions League qualification or not, if any club is capable of pulling off such a feat, the West London giants certainly have the tools to do so.
With that in mind, here are FIVE signings to help Hiddink harness a place in the top four…
The Portuguese teenage sensation has an incredible track record for a player who is not yet 20 years of age. He’s already captained his side in a Champions League tie, the youngest ever to do so, and appeared at international level. Feel suitably depressed yet? Good, let’s carry on waxing poetic about the marvellous midfielder.
He’s emerging as the perfect hybrid of the Nemanja Matic and Cesc Fabregas partnership that served the Blues so well last term, and so badly this time around. Able to read the game, the 18-year old is perfect in the anchor man role to either nip attacks in the bud, or battle for possession.
He’s perhaps unlikely to push up as far as Fabregas, but possesses a fantastic passing range beyond his years. Unlike most deep-lying playmakers, Neves is tenacious enough to take his defensive duties seriously.
John Stones is clearly a prime target in West London, though it’s incredibly unlikely Everton will decide to sell up mid-season after such resistance in the summer. PSG defender Marquinhos is thought to be under consideration, amid his frustration in the French capital.
The Brazilian is a wonderfully gifted centre-half, athletic and comfortable on the ball, as you might expect from a Selecao international. While not quite as ‘Roll-Royce’ as Stones, he is a defender of extremely high quality and versatile both in central positions and a right-back.
As the club look to build for the future, the former Roma youngster would pair nicely next to Stones and Kurt Zouma in a new age without John Terry and Branislav Ivanovic.
Shakhtar Donetsk playmaker Alex Teixeira has long been linked with a move to Stamford Bridge, and the Brazilian star would be a fine addition to spice up the ranks mid-season. The 25-year old has been a revelation in front of goal this term for the Ukrainian giants, notching 26 goals in 25 games to date.
The former Vasco Da Gama is clearly a threat in attacking areas, offering a viable alternative to kind-of-compatriot Diego Costa. However, he is far more likely do the ‘dirty work’, having previously been deployed as a deep-lying playmaker when ex-teammate Fernandinho left for Man City.
Lining up next to Oscar and Willian, he could be an answer to the largely ineffective Eden Hazard, who seems to have his mind entirely elsewhere amid links with Real Madrid.
Despite his recent return to goals, doubts still remain over Diego Costa
So, the Blues need another striker as both Loic Remy and Radamel Falcao have struggled to convince at all. Atletico Madrid’s Jackson Martinez hasn’t had the best of times over in the Spanish capital, but his form for Porto over recent seasons surely affords him another chance at a top club.
The Colombian is an athletic option up front, able to operate as a lone forward and lead the line. He has many of the same attributes Costa brings without all the, well shall we say, tenacity.
Granted, his record hasn’t been much to shout about in Spain, with only three goals this term, but is a fine athlete and could be a straight swap with the misfiring Costa.
Aymeric Laporte could be a fine alternative to John Stones, who will be hard to get amid interest from both Manchester United and Barcelona.
The Frenchman is as comfortable in possession as the England international, while arguably a better organiser of his defence. At just 21 years of age, the Athletic Bilbao star has proven to be a true leader during his time there.
He wins around 2.4 aerial duels per 90 mins of La Liga action, as well as 2.9 interceptions. Couple this with this his 78.3% passing accuracy and you start to get a picture of the cultured centre-half.
Though Stones perhaps offers the romantic successor to John Terry, being English and all, Laporte is up there with likes of Raphael Varane in terms of class and stature at such a young age.