Chelsea Season Preview
With Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger going at it in the Community Shield, it feels like the season has started already. Add in Mourinho’s reports on Diego Costa, who went from hurt, to healthy and ready, to hurt again in a matter of 48 hours, and we’re in full season form. The question is, can the champions repeat?
Mourinho and the Blues dominated the Premier League last season, finishing up by eight points to second place Manchester City, but it could have been even more as the Blues played some of their youngsters in the last two to three weeks because of having already clinched the title. This season, it appears though the race should be closer. Arsenal, Manchester City, and Manchester United have all strengthened considerably while Chelsea have largely remained the same. There’s been a few small moves to finish off the squad, but the best thing Mourinho’s squad have going for them is continuity. Let’s take a look at each position.
Chelsea have a top three goalkeeper in the world in Thibaut Courtois. They did lose the best backup in the country in Petr Cech, who is now a starter at Arsenal, but to say their goalkeeper position is weak is a joke. They brought in Asmir Begovic, who was largely considered a strength for Stoke City last season, to be their backup! Some have labeled Chelsea’s backup position weak this offseason, and I couldn’t disagree more. It’s weaker than last season, but it’s still the strongest goalkeeper core in the Premier League by a wide margin.
Chelsea return four starters to the best defense in the Premier League last season. The Blues only allowed 32 goals last campaign and it’ll be very surprising if they don’t have a top three defense again. John Terry is a year older now but he still looks amazing out there and plays a position that doesn’t require extreme athleticism. Kurt Zouma is maturing well and provides good cover for almost all positions across the back. With Felipe Luis leaving, the Chelsea backup wing-back positions are a bit weaker, but between Zouma, Nathan Ake, and John Obi Mikel, there are enough players there who could slot in at wing-back if needed. In fantasy, my choice here is Cezar Azpilicueta, who is the cheapest of the starting four.
Midfield is arguably Chelsea’s biggest strength. They have one of the best defensive midfielders in Nemanja Matic, who excels in many aspects of the game. For a defensive midfielder, he sports an impressive 86.4 pass success percentage on over 60 passes per match. He plays above-average long-balls and dribbles extremely well for his size. Add that to his tackling and aerial skills and you have a near-perfect defensive midfielder. Next to him, the Blues have one of the best playmakers in Cesc Fabregas, who registered 18 assists last season. In front of them, Oscar and Willian, who both excel at tracking back and helping the defense, support world-class winger Eden Hazard. When in need of goals, Chelsea have brought back Victor Moses, who was out on loan last year. Moses will likely feature from the bench at the beginning of the season but don’t be surprised to see him start against weaker opposition later in the season. Moses is a better attacker than Willian and could provide Chelsea with some much-needed creativity when teams park the bus against them. At this time, he is unlikely to start against teams like Manchester City and Arsenal due to Willian’s superior defensive ability.
On top of Victor Moses, Chelsea’s backup midfield also features Ramires and Cuadrado. Ramires will likely see a large amount of playing time, especially against the better teams, and could feature instead of Oscar. Cuadrado hasn’t played well at all since arriving to Stamford Bridge, but he certainly has the ability should the Blues suffer injury problems. At defensive mid, John Obi Mikel can slide in next to Fabregas or Matic when the team decides to play more defensively.
The forward position is likely the weakest Chelsea position at the moment. Diego Costa is once again suffering from hamstring problems and is questionable for week one, which leaves the Blues with Loic Remy and a washed up Radamel Falcao. Remy is solid in attack but doesn’t possess the finishing skills Costa does, and is certainly a downgrade. Despite that, it’s worth noting he is far from being a bad player. He averaged a goal every 95 minutes last season and has enough speed to give Chelsea a different dimension in attack.
As for Falcao, it’s hard to judge how well he’s going to perform this season. The striker has never fully recovered from his gruesome knee injury that saw him rush back in an attempt to feature in last summer’s World Cup, and he hasn’t been the same since. He was a shell of himself at Manchester United and has struggled to gain playing time since then. Mourinho is confident he can get Falcao to resurrect his career, but the issue is medical rather than tactical. Falcao needs to regain his physical ability before gaining his old form back. The good news is that he’s confident the goals will come, which is always the start of a successful return story.
Best Starting XI
As you can see, Chelsea’s best starting XI is the same as last season. Continuity is key here, as the team is likely to be a lot more comfortable playing together than any other Premier League squad. Add in the few reinforcements brought in to strengthen the team and Chelsea once again look to be in the conversation for a title.
Can they repeat?