GMS Academy member George Major picks his Chelsea starting XI for the new season. Do you agree with George?
After an inconsistent 2012/2013 campaign Chelsea will be looking to improve and win more silverware of note this term.
The return of Jose Mourinho, along with a few smart signings has made given the Blues exactly what they lacked last year: depth. The Special One has plenty of options at just about every position, and could set his lineup in a variety of ways.
Goalkeeper: Peter Cech
Chelsea have snapped up experienced shot-stopper Mark Schwarzer on a free transfer, while Henrique Hilario has re-signed to offer options for Mourinho. But neither is a serious challenger to Petr Cech, who will retain the No.1 jersey under the man that signed him.
Right-back: Branislav Ivanovic
The imposing Serbian has often been mentioned as one of the most intimidating defenders in the Barclay’s Premier League. Good in the air, he is ever-reliable in defence, and poses a threat going forward on set pieces.
Ivanovic spent the majority of last season at centre-back, performing well above-average. However, Mourinho seems ready to put him back at his original position, right back.
Centre-back: David Luiz
Since Rafa Benitez placed Luiz in the holding midfield role there has been much debate as to where the wild haired Brazilian’s best position truly is.
Mourinho has made it clear that he sees the Samba star as a central defender because of his take no prisoners defense and ability to play the long ball, quickly turning defense into attack.
With an embarrassment of attacking ability in front of him sure to draw plenty of free kicks, Luiz should also have the ability to display his fantastic set-piece technique during the season. No matter where Mourinho decides to put Luiz, he certainly has a uniquely gifted player at his disposal.
Centre-back: John Terry (c)
Terry was essentially marginalized by Benitez, and became no more than a bit-part player. Just when it seemed he was reaching the end of a fantastic career, Terry appears to have been thrown a lifeline by old boss Mourinho.
Although the preseason is just a warm up, the captain played 90 minutes in two of Chelsea’s three Champion’s Cup matches. In both he appeared to return to old form, organizing the back line and performing up to his incredibly high expectations.
Against Inter he withstood a nasty tackle that saw Hugo Campagnero rightly sent off; more importantly he completed the match and showed little, if any, effects of the tackle.
As long as the Chelsea legend is healthy, expect to see anchoring the back line.
Left-back: Ashley Cole
Left-back is perhaps the only position in this Chelsea squad that can be penned in with absolute certainty. Cole has been the model of consistency since his arrival from Arsenal and will be expected to maintain his superb form this year.
In Mourinho’s first tenure Cole’s attacking ability was limited; it will be interesting to see if the same applies in the 2013/14 season.
Cole turns 33 in December, and will have to convince the Chelsea board if he wants to extend his stay at Stamford Bridge. Continuing his play as one of the best left backs in the world should make the decision an easy one for Abramovich and Co.
Right defensive midfield: Ramires
Opinions about Ramires seem forever divided. Should he play holding midfield? Should he play as an attacking midfielder? Only time will tell.
He is a player capable of sublime skill, as seen in his recent goal against Real Madrid, but has also been known to disappear in matches, and often executes ill-timed challenges resulting in yellow cards.
On this everyone can agree on: the young Brazilian has endless amounts of energy. Club legend Didier Drogba once labeled him ‘The Blue Kenyan’ because of his never-ending stamina.
Having a player like Ramires in the middle of the park that is willing run full speed to attack or defend for 90 minutes is a plus for the Blues.
Left defensive midfield: Michael Essien
This may be the most difficult position to predict; Lampard, Van Ginkel, or Luiz could all easily slot into this position. That said my money is on Essien. He is most familiar with Jose, having played for him at Real last season and he has plenty to prove after several injury marred seasons.
Giving the Ghanaian the first shot at the position makes the most sense. Lampard’s career is in its twilight, so he will not be a regular. Van Ginkel is young and will need time to acclimate to the EPL. Luiz appears to be favored in defence.
Essien will be looking to show the doubters who said he cannot regain the form that made ‘The Bison’ a fan favorite in SW6. Under Mourinho he should have the chance to do just that.
Right attacking midfield: Kevin De Bruyne
Another difficult position to forecast. There are four players who could all play this position well; it may well be a position that Jose changes players at halftime until he finds the combination he is comfortable with.
For now, this position is going to the player that had the strongest preseason. De Bruyne immediately justified Mourinho’s faith with a great preseason that included a pair of tidy finishes.
A season on loan at Weder Bremen appears to have done wonders for the Belgian, as he came back with much more confidence, making it easy for him to showcase his natural ability. Under the Special One, his growth should continue.
Centre attacking midfield: Juan Mata
Despite reports that Mata doesn’t fit in Jose Mourinho’s system; Chelsea’s best player the last two seasons has nothing to worry about. As Mourinho has stated, Mata is every coach’s type of player.
He may not immediately sync into the new system, but with his amazing football I.Q. and vision it will only be a matter of time and practice before the little Spaniard is pulling all the strings, leading the Chelsea attack.
Perhaps this is the year Mata could win the EPL player of the year award that he has been shortlisted for the previous two seasons.
Left attacking midfield: Eden Hazard
Arguably Chelsea’s most dynamic player, Hazard will look to improve on a good first year at the Bridge. So far this preseason, Hazard has seen Mourinho focus a lot of his attention on the Belgian.
Hazard obviously has the skills to become something special, and Mourinho is looking to develop him from a good player, to a great player.
Jose has also been insistent that Hazard gets back and helps out on defense- something he did little of last year. If the young Belgian becomes anywhere near as dynamic as Jose’s previous left winger, Cristiano Ronaldo, Chelsea fans will be in for a treat this season.
Striker: Fernando Torres
The only real weakness on this Chelsea squad, it is possible that a certain Englishman could be brought in to strengthen the squad. As of now, that has not happened so the first crack at striker goes to El Niño.
He showed glimpses of his Liverpool days last season, netting 20 goals last term; however, he failed to impress in the EPL.
With emerging talent Romelu Lukaku nipping at his heels he will not be given nearly as much room for error as last year. Finding the back of the net from the beginning of the season will be a must for the Spaniard, or else he will find himself a literal spectator.
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