Chelsea have a number of problems to fix with the new Premier League season looming.
Blues manager Thomas Tuchel recently delivered an astonishing rant about his team’s lack of readiness for the upcoming campaign after a damning 4-0 pre-season defeat to rivals Arsenal.
“I cannot guarantee we will be ready (for the start of the season) in two weeks,” he said.
“It’s the same players, so why should anything change?
“We will see hopefully development but at the moment we have the same issues because we have the same players.”
Tuchel is not one to sugar-coat his feelings and the situation at Chelsea is never usually as bleak as the German makes out in the immediate aftermath of a defeat.
Their dodgy pre-season was to be expected with only three games and a fully-rotated squad of 22 players, some of whom will not be part of Tuchel’s plans.
Even with club-record signing Romelu Lukaku misfiring last season, and sanctions placed on ex-owner Roman Abramovich, the Blues still managed to finish third.
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With new ownership now in place, American billionaire Todd Boehly has helped to fund big-money moves for Raheem Sterling and Kalidou Koulibaly – who undoubtedly improve Tuchel’s side.
Full-backs Ben Chilwell and Reece James missed a large chunk of last season through injury, all-but ending Chelsea’s title hopes, and Tuchel can field a stronger starting XI on the opening day with everyone available.
However, the departures of Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen leave them thin at the back, while the loan return of Lukaku to Inter Milan means their search for a lethal striker continues.
There are problems at the club with one week remaining until the new season – but they are not unfixable and Boehly has tried.
The Blues lost out in races to sign defender Matthijs de Ligt and forward Raphinha, while centre-back Jules Kounde snubbed Chelsea for Barca.
Now the club are left needing at least three players in one week.
Despite landing Koulibaly, Tuchel’s defence is looking light and the club now have decisions to make on ageing full-backs Cesar Azpilicueta and Marcos Alonso.
Both Spaniards have deals which expire in 2023 and it is no secret they want to follow Christensen to Barca this summer.
With Emerson Palmeri set to join Lazio, Tuchel could be left with Chilwell as his only left-back before too long.
Tuchel has spoken about the damage of wantaway players in his squad creating negative vibes – but right now the Blues cannot afford to sell defenders, particularly Azpilicueta, who can fill in at centre-back.
One injury to Trevoh Chalobah, Koulibaly, or 37-year-old Thiago Silva – and the club are in deep trouble.
One player who looks set to solve two problems is Brighton full-back Marc Cucurella, who can also fill-in on the left side of a back three.
talkSPORT understands Chelsea are ready to meet the Seagulls’ £50million asking price for the highly-rated Spain defender after Man City refused to go above £33m.
Meanwhile, Leicester defender Wesley Fofana has emerged as the club’s No.1 target following the Kounde disappointment, and talkSPORT understands Chelsea are considering an £80m bid.
The Frenchman, 21, is a ready-made Premier League star and emerged as one of English football’s brightest talents before suffering a serious injury before the beginning of last season.
A couple of Inter Milan defenders also continue to be mentioned in connection with Chelsea: Denzel Dumfries and Milan Skriniar.
In midfield, the same decisions need to be made over Jorginho and N’Golo Kante, who are also out of contract in 2023.
Both players are now in their 30s and Chelsea could do with an injection of youth into their midfield, especially with the possibility of Jorginho and Kante leaving.
Conor Gallagher could be the answer, returning from an impressive loan spell at Crystal Palace, while the Blues have also been linked with Barca’s Frenkie de Jong.
Up top, Tuchel will hope Sterling can be the goalscorer he so desperately craves amid disappointing returns from his army of forwards last season.
The ex-Man City man can play through the middle as a No.9 and bagged 20 Premier League goals in the 2019/20 campaign.
Last time a Chelsea player achieved that feat – Diego Costa in 2016/17 – they won the title – and it was the same story with the Spain striker in 2014/15.
But like with Gallagher, Armando Broja could provide the answers to Tuchel’s problems up top after returning from an impressive loan spell at Southampton.
Cente-back Levi Colwill, who spent last season on-loan at Huddersfield, is another possible plug for the gaps in Tuchel’s squad.
So are there issues at Chelsea? Yes. Do they need to sign more players? Absolutely. Cucurella, Fofana and De Jong would go a long way to making things look a little more optimistic.
But it is not quite as bad as Tuchel suggests – and with three players required, there are three right under his nose.
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