The release of the 2016/17 Premier League fixtures has whetted the appetite for another thrilling campaign from 13 August.
With minds shifting towards the new season, Adrian Clarke looks at the areas where each club might seek to improve upon. Today he takes a look at 2014/15 Premier League champions Chelsea, who had a disappointing defence of their crown.
Chelsea only conceded nine Premier League goals at Stamford Bridge en route to the 2014/15 title but last season that number shot up to 30.
Antonio Conte's first task as Chelsea's new head coach will be to shore up the defence, and to find a way of playing that does not give as many opportunities to visiting sides.
Chelsea goals against
He may change the formation but it is not only the back four that needs repairing.
As a unit, Chelsea fell way short of their usual standards when it came to their work off the ball. I believe Conte must get the players' attitudes to improve, especially the senior ones, who should take greater personal responsibility.
New faces will help. Chelsea’s back four has a familiar look to it, but they are being caught square too often.
When the protection in front of them is not up to standard, they are susceptible to quick counter-attacks.
Freshening up the rearguard with quicker defenders may be something Conte looks at doing.
Chelsea's opening fixtures
|MW1||West Ham United (h)|
|MW4||Swansea City (a)|
Finding the right blend in central midfield is also important. Opponents targeted Cesc Fabregas as a weak link without the ball last season, so he needs to be paired with one or two powerful team-mates who can cover his back.
A new all-action box-to-box midfield man would give them more legs.
Going forward, Chelsea could do with a striker who challenges Diego Costa for a starting berth. The Spain forward's injury record and dip in form (just 12 goals last term) mean he may no longer guarantee the team 20-plus goals a season.
A collection of strikers who can challenge one another would aid the group.
A London derby at home to West Ham United guarantees a compelling start to Conte's spell in charge but the opening weeks do not look too troublesome. Things will get interesting in mid-to-late September when Chelsea face Liverpool and Arsenal in matchweeks five and six.