During the 2016/2017 Premier League season, only one team scored more goals than Chelsea and that was Tottenham. Had Spurs not been such Hotspurs in front of goal, Chelsea would been the top scoring team with five goals more than Manchester City and seven more than fourth place Liverpool.
Thanks to 85 goals scored and 33 against, Chelsea racked up 30 wins, three draws and just five losses to clinch the Premier League title. Naturally, if Antonio Conte’s men can repeat that sort of form during the 2017/2018, there’s a strong chance the league title could stay at Stamford Bridge. However, and this is the rub, there’s one man that won’t be part of “Conte’s men” next season.
Despite tasting Premier League success with Chelsea, Diego Costa looks set to swap Chelsea for Atletico Madrid ASAP. Following an internal dissatisfaction, Costa has made numerous social media posts hinting that he’s bound for Spain. Indeed, during a recent Instagram Live post, Costa told his followers to “give Conte a hug” while wearing a Madrid shirt. This, in reality, is the death knell for Costa’s Chelsea career, which means the man in charge now needs a replacement if he wants to repeat last season’s scoring record.
Chelsea Need a Striker
Indeed, even though Chelsea won the Premier League by seven clear points, the new season is likely to be even closer and that means Conte’s men can’t afford to lose a world-class striker. Like most of the game’s top teams, Romelu Lukaku was a target for Chelsea. Unfortunately, he recently made his way to Manchester United and that means it’s now open season in the transfer market for Chelsea.
According to reports, Conte isn’t going to be rushed into a decision when it comes to finding a replacement for Costa, but this may change as the new season draws closer. While Conte still has some time to posture and claim his squad won’t miss Costa, the reality is that they will. With 20 Premier League goals to his name last season, Costa’s exit will leave a hole in the team.
This fact hasn’t gone unnoticed by the odds makers at Sun Bets. When you go online and check out the site’s latest Premier League betting lines, you’ll see that Chelsea are currently third favourites for the title at 10/3. As defending champions, this is clearly not a great situation, especially since Manchester United and Manchester City are higher in Sun Bets’ rankings at 3/1 and 9/5 respectively.
Hesitation Has Cost Conte
Of course, the odds don’t always tell the whole story, but what is clear is that Chelsea need a new striker regardless of what Conte says. With this in mind, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has been linked to the club in recent weeks. Standing 6ft 1inch and capable of running a 30-metre sprint faster than Usain Bolt (3.7 seconds), Aubameyang could thrive in the Premier League.
With 85 goals for Borussia Dortmund in 111 Bundesliga appearances, the Gabon native has certainly made his mark in Germany and that’s why Chelsea are now looking to acquire his services. Unfortunately, the latest reports suggest that Dortmund isn’t willing to sell its speedy striker. If that’s true, Conte may have to make another approach for Alvaro Morata.
After failing to sign Morata last summer, Conte clearly feels the Spaniard has the credentials to slot into the Chelsea frontline. Indeed, with a similar style and playing position to Costa, Morata could fill in the cracks nicely and help the Blues pick up where they left off last season. Again, however, it looks as though it will be a battle to seal the deal. AC Milan has reportedly made a firm offer and, if Conte is insistent on taking his time, this could mean another top talent has slipped through the net.
Where Will the Missing Goals Come From?
The final name Chelsea fans may be hoping to see replace Costa is Andrea Belotti. The 23-year-old Italian is yet to hit his prime, but 26 goals in 34 Serie A appearances is certainly nothing to sniff at. Indeed, by sitting as a forward, Belotti could act as the perfect complement to Michy Batshuay who also plays as a forward.
Again, however, hesitation could be the undoing of Conte’s plans as AC Milan are a whisker away from signing the young player. Although it won’t be the end of the world if Belotti falls by the wayside, it certainly won’t bode well for Chelsea’s 2017/2-18 fortunes.
Can the team survive without a replacement for Costa? Possibly, but if Chelsea can’t find 20+ goals from somewhere else to make-up the potential shortfall, retaining the title looks to be a pipedream at this point.
Daniel Smyth is a freelance sports and betting writer with almost a decade’s worth of experience in the industry. After starting out in poker, Daniel has since become a noted writer for a range of betting-based events, including football, boxing and MMA.