Gary Neville has said Chelsea are "not competing" at the same level as Manchester City and Manchester United at present, warning whoever may take over from Antonio Conte has a renovation job on their hands.
The Blues sit fourth in the Premier League, 18 points below leaders City and three points off second-placed United. But Neville appeared on Sky Sports' The Debate and said the gap in competition is clear at present, per Ben Nagle of MailOnline:
"Chelsea, historically, they're not in for the players City and United are in for now. You could move Chelsea into that next pack, because they're not competing with the Manchester clubs at this moment in time.
"I look at these signings, and I look at that transfer window, and I think that could take a couple of years to undo.
"It's so geared to a system, the five at the back. If something happens to Conte...it's unlikely that he'll be there [beyond the end of the season]. A new manager has got to pick up that squad with that system."
Goal's Nizaar Kinsella commented on how significant the gap at the top was prior to Wednesday's Stamford Bridge setback, and City's spending has them on track for a third Premier League title in seven seasons:
The Citizens have spent big, but they've also invested wisely throughout their squad since manager Pep Guardiola's arrival at the helm in 2016. Meanwhile, the indecision around Conte's future in west London could lead to trouble in future, which Neville alluded to.
Sky Sports PL provided a breakdown of Chelsea's signings since Conte joined the club in the summer of 2016. This season's expenditure rose to around £260 million following the January acquisitions of Olivier Giroud, Emerson Palmieri and Ross Barkley:
Neville voiced some doubt in the task Conte's successor will be face, adding: "You look at those players, Giroud is there to play as a single striker, [Davide] Zappacosta wing-back, Marcos Alonso wing-back, David Luiz one of a back three. You think, it's tailored to that three as a back. You have to unravel quite a lot system-wise, there's a lot of risk in those signings."
Former Juventus boss Conte has insisted he's doing a "great job" in England despite the fact a successful title defence has looked all but impossible for some time, via ESPN:
Chelsea started 2018 with four draws in succession and went three consecutive matches in January without finding the back of the net, causing concern in attack, but Wednesday's disappointment highlighted struggles at the back also.
One could say City are way ahead of any peer at present—United included—but the managerial uncertainty in west London could see problems worsen before they get any better for Chelsea.