Jose Mourinho’s return to Chelsea at the beginning of last season was something of a ‘second coming’ for the Chelsea faithful (so to speak), and as a result they spent much of the season as favourites to lift the league title once more.
Where, for a time at least, Rafael Benitez was able to extract a lot more from Fernando Torres than most of his predecessors, Benitez was inevitably replaced by The Special One. As hopes were harbored of Mourinho accomplishing the same, if not more with Torres, Chelsea’s front man failed dismally to replicate his best form, last seen in a Liverpool shirt.
Andre Schurrle, sharing striking duties with Torres, was hardly an improvement, but the goals came and results still went the way of The Blues thanks to an impressive midfield offensive. Eden Hazard finished the season as Chelsea’s top goal scorer with 14 goals, and in fact 42 goals were created and scored between the midfield and defense, while only 27 goals were scored by The Blue’s four front men.
The addition of a seasoned Samuel Eto’o and Demba Ba made little improvement to Chelsea’s strike force, but it mattered little as The Blues still managed to finish the Premier League season in third.
Third place for most teams would have been a notable achievement, but I suspect that in the collective mind of Chelsea football club and their supporters, third place perhaps left a rather bitter aftertaste, especially when they had come so close to claiming second spot and spent a number of weeks at the league’s summit. However, to achieve what they did without the services of a twenty-goal-a-season striker speaks volumes of Mourinho’s prowess as a manager.
In the bigger games last season, Chelsea relied heavily on their defense and counter-attacking ability to get desired results – most notably against Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United. This coming season though, things are expected to change.
So far in this transfer window, Chelsea have already brought in Spanish duo Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas for a combined figure in excess of £60million, with more possibly on the way in the form of French star Paul Pogba and Bayern Munich’s highly rated midfielder Toni Kroos – though rumour has it, Kroos would prefer a move to Real Madrid.
Focussing on current or confirmed Chelsea players though, Diego Costa is exactly the kind of player Chelsea were missing up front last season, scoring 36 goals in all competitions for Atletico Madrid and 27 in La Liga alone. Should he form a meaningful partnership with Fernando Torres, Andre Schurrle or Demba Ba, Chelsea may well go the distance this coming season, especially considering their defensive record last time out, and further combined with the goals scored from midfield.
Cesc Fabregas has long been a proven talent at not only providing scoring opportunities for teammates, but also getting on the score sheet regularly himself. This is a player with a sublime first touch, unrivalled vision, and a work ethic even Wayne Rooney would consider impressive.
Chelsea’s acquisition of the midfield ace will make for worrying reading for The Blues’ Premier League rivals with the thought that Fabregas could be partnered in the middle of the park with Oscar, Willian or Mohamed Salah – and then with a prolific strike partnership up front. In fact, I would venture that Chelsea now have a midfield at least as dynamic as Manchester City’s, if not the strongest in the league.
With all that said about Chelsea’s midfield and the immense promise held, they do bid a fond farewell to all-time top scorer Frank Lampard. His venomous right foot will be missed, though it has to be said that the void left has been adequately filled.
Jose Mourinho’s tactical ability is unparalleled, having outsmarted Manuel Pellegrini’s Manchester City, and Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool as well as the remainder of last season’s the top six teams both home and away.
Thus, the combination of a tactically astute manager, the league’s most miserly defense, its strongest midfield (probably), and one of the world’s great frontlines should mean that Chelsea will remain in the hunt for league glory to the very end.
My personal feeling is that, with the addition of another quality striker to partner Diego Costa, Chelsea is likely to finish the season as runners up, if not champions.