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Chelsea: will GQ man Álvaro Morata prove model replacement for Costa?

Alvaro Morata of Chelsea speaks to the Chelsea backroom staff prior to coming on during the The FA Community Shield final between Chelsea and Arsenal at Wembley Stadium on August 6, 2017...

Star man: N’Golo Kanté won the awards last season, but Eden Hazard remains Chelsea’s creative driving force.

On the pitch

You wonder whether they would have won either of their past two league titles without him and the question now is whether he can repeat last season’s brilliance, in the way that he couldn’t in 2015-16.

Biggest summer buy: Álvaro Morata has some pretty robust boots to fill. Whereas Diego Costa resembled a half-finished granite statue, all rough edges and gritty surfaces, Morata is more smooth marble, a man who looks like a GQ model rather than a weathered cliff. But the important thing to replace is goals: 22 of them last season in all competitions, despite Costa not being Antonio Conte’s cup of tea.

Breakthrough season: The “funny” answer would be to say: go and watch Vitesse Arnhem to see any Chelsea youngsters. But let’s not do that. The defender Andreas Christensen is not exactly unknown, having spent two years with Borussia Mönchengladbach, but he’s probably the closest thing Chelsea have to a fresh, wet-behind-the-ears kid who might make a first-team impact.

Bad boy: With Costa on his way out there is certainly a vacancy here, but there aren’t too many other obvious hard cases in the squad. Antonio Rüdiger, the new signing from Roma, may be one to watch out for: he got sent off for a brutal shin-high foul in the Rome derby last season.

Boo boy: If Morata doesn’t get early goals then he might be in for some rough treatment, and equally if anyone blabs to the papers and is thus deemed a “snake”, we could see a few pretty brutal signs on laminated bits of A4 paper.

Destination Russia: Most of the team will probably be there, where David Luiz and Willian will be trying to wash off the stench of shame from last time, Morata and Cesc Fàbregas attempting to get Spain’s mojo back, and Victor Moses looks good to make it with Nigeria, too.

Glass half-full: A repeat of José Mourinho’s first post‑title season (first spell), in which the champions retain their crown with strutting ease, the new additions integrate and Conte’s authority is thoroughly augmented.

Glass half-empty: A repeat of Mourinho’s first post-title season (second spell), in which the champions collapse into ignominy and in-fighting, with the new additions spoiling the flow of the team and Conte’s authority thoroughly eroding.

Off the pitch

The manager: Usually clad in a finely cut suit, Antonio Conte keeps in shape through his own interpretation of high‑intensity interval training, dashing up and down the touchline in short, intense bursts. He recently claimed that he lost three kilos every game because of his pitchside antics. He’ll waste away if he’s not careful.

The owners: Roman Abramovich, his fortune gathered from the oilfields of Russia, takes more of a backseat at Chelsea these days. But if things start going south, you know he’ll be there to deal with the problem, quietly and efficiently. You won’t even hear it coming.

Fan’s view

Trizia Fiorellino’s fan’s view: It’s hard to know how to feel: Conte made no secret we needed to strengthen but the club failed to deliver. To enter the campaign with this thin a squad is pushing our luck. Prediction: 2nd. Follow Trizia @chelseasupportersgroup.net

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Nick Miller, for The Guardian on Friday 11th August 2017 12.00 Europe/London

Title odds 7-2

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