It has been three long years since a team from outside of Manchester lifted the
Premier League. Two of the last three crowns have been won by serial-champions
Manchester United while their detested rivals City won English football’s top
prize the season prior. Just to put this into perspective, Carlo Ancelotti was
the last manager outside that city to lead West Londoners Chelsea to first
place back in 2010. Today he is at Real Madrid after a brief stop-over at PSG.
Chelsea narrowly pipped United to the title that year by a point, but have been nowhere
near first place since, with the following three seasons seeing them finish
second, sixth and third. Exit everybody else…enter Jose Mourinho…and all of a
sudden everything changes.
The return of the self-styled “Special One” coupled with another brandishing of
Abramovich’s chequebook has brought renewed optimism at Stamford Bridge that it is time…and I could not agree more.
The club has spent in excess of £60 million on new players this summer, and has
headed into the new campaign high off the glory of winning the Europa League.
And here’s why yet more silverware awaits Mourinho’s men.
1. Midfield strength
There aren’t many teams in the Premier League with a better, more cohesive
midfield than Chelsea’s. Yes, Arsenal and City will feel that they do with the
quality and numbers they have in that department but Jose Mourinho possesses
more depth, youth and experience.
Frank Lampard is still going strong at 35 and is showing no signs of his
powers waning. He has already scored this season and is proving to be an
invaluable asset to have in an otherwise youthful and exuberant midfield.
He offers experience, calm and leadership in the middle of the park and even when
he finally hangs up his boots and does not pull a Ryan Giggs on us, there are
several youngsters ready to take his place.
New signing Marco van Ginkel looks quality while Josh McEachran
is coming through the ranks and has been showing real promise. Kevin De Bryune
had a fantastic season at Werder Bremen and Oscar has been absolutely brilliant
since crossing the Atlantic - he has already struck five times in the League for
Then there’s Willian, signed from Anzhi Makhachkala under the noses of
rivals Tottenham. The Brazilian announced himself with an audacious first-time
strike into the top far-left corner against Norwich City after coming off the
bench in the dying embers of the match.
And you just know that Chelsea have a pretty solid midfield when Juan Mata
hasn’t even been getting much game time as he adapts and adjusts to how his new
manager wants him to play. Eden Hazard has begun to hit form after a rather
slow start to the season while John Obi Mikel, Michael Essien and Ramires offer
steel and reliability.
The latter two also provide Mourinho with versatility - they
can play in a variety of positions across the middle of the park and even in
Brazilian Ramires looks to have benefited the most from the summer
break. He has played with verve and freshness that would not have been there
had he taken part in the Confederations Cup after Chelsea had gone through
their longest fixture list in almost 5 decades and has been a constant fixture in
the first eleven.
By contrast, Manchester United have failed to seriously improve their engine
room, and while Manchester City have brought in the likes of Fernandinho and Jesus
Navas, who, despite having started well, it remains to be seen if they can
fully adapt to English football.
Arsenal brought in world-class talent in German playmaker Mesut Ozil who has already
showed exactly why there was so much disgruntlement at the Bernabeu after his
departure and in recruiting Mathieu Flamini, Arsene Wenger went some way in addressing their defensive midfield shortcomings after the departure of Alex Song to Barcelona and
Abou Diaby’s tendency to spend more time on the treatment table than on the
Fitness problems have always plagued the Gunners’ engine room in recent
years and this season it has been no different, with Flamini, Walcott,
Chamberlain, Podolski and Diaby already on the sidelines. Santi Cazorla and
Mikel Arteta have only just returned from injury so there is definitely a
question of depth for Wenger’s men.
2. A shrewd summer of transfer business
Chelsea reverted to their stereotypically-profligate selves this summer by spending in
excess of £60 million on new signings.
The likes of Christian Atsu, Samuel Eto’o, Willian and Andre Schurrle have all been
brought in over the past three months and will doubtlessly improve a squad who
won the Europa League last season and are surely headed for better things.
The signing of Eto’o on a free was a particularly shrewd move and while many scoffed at the time (he is 32 and much of his deadly pace is gone) but he still knows where the goal is as we saw against Cardiff over the weekend. Plus he offers continental experience and that strikers instinct – remember him lurking behind Cardiff keeper Marshall in the build up to Hazard’s equaliser.
One of Chelsea’s biggest problems last season was that they had a misfiring strike
force in Demba Ba and Fernando Torres, but the inclusion of Eto’o in the mix will lend them more firepower.
Andre Schurrle had a fantastic match away at Steaua Bucharest and followed that up
with a brilliant hat-trick display in Germany’s final qualifying match away at
Sweden. He definitely looks like a quality signing while big things are
expected of Willian as well.
3. The Jose Mourinho factor
There are new managers at each of last season’s top three Premier League clubs, Manchester United, City and Chelsea. David Moyes, Manuel Pellegrini and Jose Mourinho have all taken charge of the respective outfits and only the latter has proven, title-winning
experience in English and continental football.
Moyes may have lifted the Community Shield back in August but that was the first trophy of his entire career, while Pellegrini last lifted silverware when he won the UEFA Intertoto Cup with Villarreal in 2004.
Back then, Mourinho had just started what was to become a trophy-laded first stint in charge of Chelsea, and went on to win two Premier League titles, two League Cups, the Community Shield and FA Cup.
The “Special One” has proven experience at winning titles in England and that’s what could give his side the edge come May.
This is a typical Jose Mourinho team. A squad brimming with players who have competed, and won, at the highest levels of the game. The Champions League two seasons ago, the Europa Leaguelast season, the Blues have proven that they can win massive games when the heat is on.
Petr Cech, John Terry, Frank Lampard, Michael Essien and Ashley Cole have all won titles with the Blues in the past. Fernando Torres and Samuel Eto’o are also players who are used to winning crunch games.
This is a side which can compete with the very best in the division and having players in your team who know how to close out a win is paramount to success.
Old Trafford transition
Another factor that could decide the outcome of the title race is the troubles currently being inflicted by Manchester United.
The Red Devils have laboured over the last couple of months, winning just three of their first eight games in the league. Guillermo Varela and Marouane Fellaini were the champions' only
signings this summer and a side that failed in Europe and in all domestic cups last season has scarcely been improved upon.
Yes, United won the title last season by 11 points but the competition was nearly non-existant. How will they cope without Sir Alex Ferguson?
Does Moyes have what it takes to guide a team whose core is mostly made up of
players the wrong side of 30 and filled mostly by average ones to glory? Is the
capturing of Fellaini really enough to fill the holes in midfield?
We will find out in May, but until then, this title is Chelsea’s to lose.
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