The start of the 2013/14 season will mark the start of a new era for Chelsea. The winds of change have long been troubling the glossy turf of Stamford Bridge. But the prodigal son, Jose Mourinho, has finally returned home after completing his ‘education’ and has made his decision to build a legacy.
In lieu of that, let us have a look at what we could expect this upcoming season:
What went right last season:
Last season, Chelsea were crowned the Princes of Europe, with Branislav Ivanovic grabbing the winner in the last-minutes of a hard-fought victory against Benfica. The only thing that probably went right for Chelsea last season was that, the team kept going despite facing major set-backs. Chelsea were knocked out of competition after competition, as they failed to captivate on the brilliant form they had started the season with.
A few players stepped up when it mattered with their elegance and trickery, namely Juan Mata, Eden Hazard and Oscar dos Santos. They were the spark in the side that Chelsea desperately craved for after letting the Arjen Robben-Damien Duff-Joe Cole generation leave.
What went wrong last season that needs to be improved:
A lot of things went wrong, but the catalyst was the sacking of Stamford Bridge favourite, Roberto Di Matteo. This stands out as the biggest mistake on Chelsea’s part that could have been avoided.
The fact that Chelsea became the first Champions League winners to crash out at the group states forced the board to lay Di Matteo off. This combined with the appointment of Rafael Benitez caused uproar among the Chelsea faithful.
A total of ten managers have been fired so far (with nine of them being appointed) in Roman Abramovich’s era.
Moreover the utter failure of the loan system came into question as Chelsea lacked depth in almost every position on the field. The club that played the highest number of matches around the world ironically had the thinnest squad in all of Europe.
What have they done to improve:
For starters, some stability would be nice. It would be rather invigorating to last a whole season with the same manager at the helm.
Mourinho has himself talked a lot about stability since his appointment, and wants to stay and build a legacy. If the players can see out game after game confidently and play fluid free-flowing football that leads to silverware, the manager will be the same.
Chelsea have loaned players out this season again, which is vital for their development, but this time they have been more careful. The list of high-profile loaned out players includes Oriol Romeu to Valencia and Marko Marin to Sevilla, while the biggest departure thus far has been Jeffrey Bruma to PSV Eindhoven £2.5m; the deal also includes a buy-back clause.
Chelsea have increased depth in vital positions. Andre Schurrle (£18m) and Marco van Ginkel (£8m) have been brought in for a combined fee of £26m while the departure of Ross Turnbull has necessitated the free transfer of Australian veteran Mark Schwarzer.
Keeping in mind that Mourinho is now focusing on the youth as well, 17-year-old Stipe Perica has arrived at Cobham along with Cristian Cuevas. Young William Wallace, who joined Chelsea in January, is set to be loaned out (maybe to Inter Milan) as he has struggled to acquire a work permit.
You don’t need to think hard to answer this one. Juan Mata had a stellar season last time around, and many expect him to do the same. The Chelsea front-line will feed off his through balls, and his presence in the middle will be vital to Chelsea’s play.
Petr Cech, who finished the season strongly, will have to begin were he left off with. Chelsea’s defence leaked goals by the dozens last time around, but Czech Republic skipper saved their blushes on numerous occasions.
Frank Lampard, who was handed a one-year extension after much deliberation, will be required to hand down his experience to the new young guns. Despite being restricted to a lesser role in the coming season, big moments require the most experienced players to step up and he will have to lead by example.
Hazard and Oscar both had impressive first seasons in English football. They’ve seem to have settled in faster than many people expected them to, and under Mourinho, it should become much easier for them to show their best.
Players to look out for:
Apart from the key men, Romelu Lukaku would definitely be the player to look out for. While on loan at West Bromwich Albion, he was efficient in front of goal, something Chelsea lacked. Along with him, another Belgian Kevin De Bryune, who was on loan in Germany, made quite a few appearances in Werder Bremen’s midfield and looks set to cement a first team spot for himself at Chelsea.
New arrivals van Ginkel and Schurrle will also be players to look out for this upcoming season.
Chelsea have had two offers for Manchester United and England forward, Wayne Rooney turned down. The striker has been at loggerheads with his club and seems keen to work with Mourinho. His addition will provide Chelsea with an added dimension up front. And If Rooney were to arrive, it could signal the end of Fernando Torres’s time at Stamford Bridge with Romelu Lukaku waiting in the wings as well.
Where would they like to finish?
Chelsea would love to finish on the top of the table and under Mourinho will surely be favourites to do so. It’s been quite some time since Chelsea won the league and with John Terry and Frank Lampard at the fag-end of their careers, the sooner they get the title on their hands, the better.
The club has won every single pre-season match they’ve played, apart from the Real Madrid game they shall be being playing today. With formations revolving around a 4-2-3-1 to a classic 4-3-3, Chelsea well carry their pre-season form into the league. And if they do so and maintain it, then this could turn out as a season of cheer for south-west London.
Where will they actually finish?
Many predicted that Chelsea could well run away with the title last season but what transpired was completely different. With Manchester United’s Sir Alex Ferguson finally retiring, and Roberto Mancini having been relieved of his duties as Manchester City manager, many believe that the title is Chelsea’s to win.
Only time will tell, because come December, any kind of prediction made at the start would only cue laughter.