Papering over the cracks

Chelsea have added to their trophy cabinet, but Jeff Stelling says they still need summer surgery

By @StellingJeff.   Last Updated: 16/05/13 6:45pm

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Lampard: has penned a one-year contract extension at Stamford Bridge

Lampard: has penned a one-year contract extension at Stamford Bridge

All the newspapers this morning feature page after page about Chelsea's triumph - but let's remember that the Europa League is effectively a plate competition for sides who have failed in the Champions League.

The Blues qualified for the tournament, which has been won in the past by unspectacular names such as Zenit St Petersburg, by losing, and made the final by beating Basel, hardly one of European football's heavyweights.

Therefore, while they and their interim manager Rafa Benitez - who may not have won all the Chelsea fans around but has proved what a quality manager he is - have done well, the Blues' victory on Wednesday night should not paper over the cracks.

"Juan Mata, Eden Hazard, Oscar, Ramires and Frank Lampard is as good a midfield, if not better, than anything else in the Premier League."
Jeff Stelling

They still have some defensive flaws, they still have a dearth of depth in the squad - the bench against Benfica was not the strongest - and, for me, they still lack an in-form, top-drawer striker.

However, I don't think Jose Mourinho would return, as has been highly mooted, if he didn't have guarantees that there would be money to spend to significantly strengthen the squad.

Plus, Chelsea's midfield - Juan Mata, Eden Hazard, Oscar, Ramires and Frank Lampard - is as good if not better than anything else in the Premier League.

I think the Stamford Bridge side will be major contenders for the title next season, whether Mourinho is at the helm or not, but they need to bring in three or four quality new players over the course of the summer.


There will also be managerial movement at Manchester City, with Roberto Mancini having been relieved of his duties and Malaga chief Manuel Pellegrini odds-on to replace him at the Etihad Stadium.

Mancini probably didn't deserve to lose his job, but not much is fair in football and the Italian got three-and-a-half years to impose himself at City and a lot of managers get a hell of a lot less than that.

He knew the position he was in and that a major trophy was a necessity every season, and he didn't deliver that this year, so I was in no way surprised to see him given his marching orders, just 12 months after guiding City to that dramatic Premier League conquest.


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Mancini often left games without attending press conferences and, we're told, there were times when he didn't even go back in the dressing room either, so his relationship with some of the players, too many of whom are just ordinary, was clearly strained.

Whether Pellegrini can do better is up for debate; he has done well in South America, enjoyed success in Spain with Villarreal and Malaga, his English is good, too, and plenty of top managers have come to our country and prospered.

But others have not - Luiz Felipe Scolari is a classic example of someone who arrived with a big reputation but just wasn't able to do it in the Premier League - so it will be intriguing to see how the Chilean, if appointed, gets on.


What I do know is that the start of the next season is going to be fascinating with new men in the dugout at Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United, Everton and goodness knows where else; there will be a real fresh look to the division and I cannot wait.

Unfortunately Wigan will not be part of that after their relegation was sealed on Tuesday evening with a 4-1 defeat at Arsenal and I'm not sure the FA Cup winners' return to the Championship will be fleeting.

The Latics have been punching above their weight for a long time as they are situated in a town of just 80,000 people, which if you want to make comparisons is smaller than my town Hartlepool, and it will be difficult for them to sustain their success.

I would expect them to lose their manager, Roberto Martinez, and possibly Shaun Maloney, James McCarthy, Arouna Kone and Callum McManaman, too, while the Championship will be hellishly strong with the likes of Leicester City splashing the cash.

The biggest thing for Wigan next season will be to use the parachute payments and ensure that they consolidate at worst, because they are the sort of club who could not just struggle to come back to the Premier League but to avoid going in the other direction.

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