3 Targets for Chelsea to Hit in 2016

Garry HayesFeatured ColumnistJanuary 9, 2016

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 17: Ruben Loftus-Cheek of Chelsea and Idrissa Gueye of Aston Villa compete for the ball during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Aston Villa at Stamford Bridge on October 17, 2015 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
Clive Rose/Getty Images

New year's resolutions may be difficult to maintain, but attaining set targets is less so. After all, working toward an end game is more rewarding than attempting to live up to intangible expectations.

Which brings us to Chelsea and what they should be hoping to achieve now we're a week into 2016.

The Premier League champions have hinted the coming 12 months will be more positive than the way the last year ended.

A 3-0 victory over Crystal Palace to see in the new year was the perfect tonic to cleanse the palate after what's been a dreadful campaign.

That was only the beginning, though. There's plenty more required between now and December to ensure Chelsea maintain some semblance of success.

So what should the Blues be targeting in 2016? Join us as we identify three key areas.


Avoid the Europa League at All Costs

AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - MAY 15: David Luiz, Ramires and Oscar of Chelsea pose with the trophy during the UEFA Europa League Final between SL Benfica and Chelsea FC at Amsterdam Arena on May 15, 2013 in Amsterdam, Netherlands.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Get
Michael Regan/Getty Images

The way the Premier League table is looking, a top-four position is long gone for Chelsea.

To hit the 72-point average that's been required for Champions League qualification in the past five seasons, Guus Hiddink's men must win 17 of their remaining 18 fixtures.

Given how inconsistent much of the top 10 has been in 2015/16, the point tally required for the top four may not be as high this season, but Chelsea still have a mammoth task ahead regardless.

Whatever they do in pursuit of a Champions League place, Chelsea must avoid slipping into the Europa League at all costs.

Not because of the much-maligned Thursday-Sunday schedule it throws up at different stages of the season but because it's a pointless endeavour.

The Europa League is the Champions League's poor relation, and Chelsea could do without it if they're not playing elite football on the continent.

For clubs of Chelsea's lofty ambitions, it's a hindrance and would be damaging to any title challenge Chelsea will put up in 2016/17.

If they're not in the Champions League, they may as well not be in Europe at all.

Without playing in midweek, the new manager would have time to build this team in his vision. Midweek training sessions will be about progress and tactical development rather than recovery.

That's a rare commodity in the modern game most managers likely crave at times, allowing them to work closely with players

Aside from that, it should allow for more youth-team players to be promoted. The manager can assess them closer in training and attempt new things in a closed environment.

Less is more at times, and missing out on Europa League qualification would certainly prove so for Chelsea.


Do a Leicester City and Turn the Tables

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 14:  Eden Hazard of Chelsea is closed down by Riyad Mahrez of Leicester City during the Barclays Premier League match between Leicester City and Chelsea at the King Power Stadium on December14, 2015 in Leicester, United Kingd
Michael Regan/Getty Images

What a difference 12 months made for Leicester City. From being bottom of the table on Christmas Day in 2014, the Foxes were Premier League leaders a year later.

Chelsea themselves did close to the opposite, going from league leaders in 2014 to 15th and three points clear of the relegation zone in 2015.

When the festive period comes around this year, Chelsea must ensure they're experiencing the highs Leicester did. They need to flip the table on its head.

When we think about names on paper, it doesn't seem an altogether difficult task for that to happen. Chelsea are reigning champions and have a team that boasts the Premier League's biggest wage bill.

That's all meant little this season, though. Chelsea have been bullied by many teams they have faced, beaten down to their lowest ebb.

The mistakes that have contributed to the nightmare must be avoided, otherwise the cycle will only repeat itself.

That means regenerating the squad and being ruthless with the players who have failed them.

Chelsea's naivety in thinking their squad from last year would be good enough to win the title again has cost the club dearly. The Blues were too inactive in the transfer market, not moving enough players out or bringing new faces in.

It starts in January, when Chelsea must add to their numbers before targeting a proactive summer when they can make up lost ground.

It also means appointing the right manager to replace Hiddink. Roman Abramovich must avoid appointing a "name" and find the man who is capable of moving the club forward.


Give the Kids a Chance

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 27:  (L-R) Isaiah Brown, Dominic Solanke, Kasey Palmer and Jeremie Boga of Chelsea with the winners trophy during the FA Youth Cup Final second leg match between Chelsea and Manchester City at Stamford Bridge on April 27, 2015 in L
Julian Finney/Getty Images

Chelsea's youth teams continue to make big noises, yet still we're waiting to see a single player make his mark in the senior side.

It seems every year we say it, but Chelsea need to make a concerted effort to change the culture at the club in 2016.

Not every youngster at Chelsea will go on to be a success, although when a club is winning back-to-back FA Youth Cups and the UEFA Youth League with it, it tells us there is clearly some talent in the ranks.

Chelsea youth players are doing everything asked of them. They're putting the club on the map in youth football and deserve an opportunity to prove their worth at the highest level.

That's not to say Ruben Loftus-Cheek must be a regular starter over Nemanja Matic or that Dominic Solanke should be first-choice striker over Diego Costa.

What it means, however, is integrating them more and giving them minutes to develop.

For too long Chelsea's transfer policy has been about the present. The club has reveled in signing big names for even bigger fees.

That's been at odds with the work in the academy. Managers feel a pressure to play marquee names and youngsters suffer as a consequence.

That must change. Chelsea need to adopt a transfer policy that works alongside the academy and doesn't snuff out any potential stars who are coming through.

The club also needs a manager who will buy into that by being given time to create a nucleus of homegrown talent.


Garry Hayes is Bleacher Report's lead Chelsea correspondent. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow him on Twitter @garryhayes.