Having spent a small fortune in the last two transfer windows, Chelsea were not planning to be languishing in the bottom half of the Premier League this season.
The Blues are eleven points adrift of the top four with nine games remaining and their chances of qualifying for the Champions League look remote.
Chelsea could still surprise everyone by winning UEFA’s top tournament, but it would be a brave move to back them to achieve the feat.
Real Madrid are a good bet to dump them out at the quarter-final stage as they strive to lift the prestigious trophy for the 15th time.
In all probability, Chelsea will miss out on the top four and fail to qualify for Europe next season – a big fall from grace for a club with such lofty ambitions.
They are miles adrift of title-chasing Arsenal and Manchester City and will not find it easy to make up the deficit next season.
Their hopes of success are further complicated by Liverpool and Manchester United, both of whom will expect to be in contention next season.
Newcastle United and Tottenham Hotspur can also be thrown into the mix, although neither appeal as likely title winners over the next two or three seasons.
With that in mind, we assess three key elements which will determine whether Chelsea will be more likely title challengers than Liverpool or Manchester United next season.
Having splashed the cash with such reckless abandon, Chelsea’s new owners could never have imagined how things have unfolded.
The Blues have a sizeable squad packed with talented players, but the scattergun approach to their transfer business means it is incredibly unbalanced.
They still have several key areas to address including the acquisition of a top-class goalkeeper, a partner for Enzo Fernandez in midfield and a striker who knows where the back of the net is.
However, it can be argued that Chelsea are in much better shape than Liverpool, with manager Jurgen Klopp facing a massive rebuilding job this summer.
The Reds’ shaky defence needs refreshing, while their midfield requires at least two or three new players added into the mix.
Man United are much closer to having a title-winning squad, although they do have some glaring areas to address this summer.
Strengthening their defensive options, acquiring an elite-level midfielder and signing a world-class striker are United’s primary issues to resolve.
As is always the case with a transfer window on the horizon, the rumour mill is in overdrive about which players will be on the move this summer.
Chelsea have been linked with a plethora of players, but two leap off the page as the ones they need to sign – Declan Rice and Rasmus Hojlund.
Rice would be the ideal partner for Fernandez in midfield, while Hojlund could be the answer to their prayers in the goalscoring stakes.
Liverpool’s primary concern is their midfield, but links with Mason Mount, Conor Gallagher and Matheus Nunes don’t exactly scream ‘2023/34 champions’.
Jude Bellingham is an obvious target for both clubs given his performances for Borussia Dortmund, although a lack of Champions League football would probably scupper their hopes.
While United are in contention to finish in the top four, Real Madrid’s interest in Bellingham may see all three Premier League giants miss out on the midfielder.
The Red Devils’ big summer signing may well be Tottenham Hotspur’s Harry Kane, although spending around £100 million on a striker approaching his 30th birthday is fraught with danger.
Having dispensed with the services of Thomas Tuchel and Graham Potter this season, Chelsea are searching for a new manager.
Julian Nagelsmann and Luis Enrique have been heavily touted for the role, while former Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino has also been linked.
Whoever Chelsea appoint, they must be given a sufficient amount of time to implement their ideas.
Klopp has enough credit in the bank to be given the chance to turn Liverpool’s fortunes around, although there is no guarantee he will do so.
His stints at previous clubs have followed a similar pattern, and there is a suspicion that his best years at Anfield are now behind him.
United are in the best shape on the managerial front, with Erik ten Hag having a clearly defined vision about the direction he wants to take the club.
If new owners acquire United and leave Ten Hag to work his magic, you would have to imagine they would be closer to a title challenge than Chelsea or Liverpool.
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