“I think it’s very difficult, I can say that the Premier League is changing, there are other forces, every team gets stronger."
There was an unerring truth about Jose Mourinho’s comments at the end of last season after securing the Premier League title against Crystal Palace. Two months later and it was very much the case.
Manchester United have strengthened considerably, so have Manchester City and Liverpool, while Arsenal brought in Petr Cech - a man who surely provides an assurance of more cleans sheets and hence more points than previous seasons.
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The big four (other than Chelsea) delving into the transfer market and investing in new recruits so heavily is corroborative evidence supporting what Mourinho had suggested - teams are getting stronger and winning the league is going to get tougher.
His body language in the press conference ahead of facing Arsenal in the Community Shield, showing signs of slight anxiousness, something which the Special One so defiantly proclaims he never feels.
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The fact is that the season is just a week away and there is a sense that his rivals have the upper hand. This fact is what spurred accusations of other teams ‘buying the tite’. Why is spending so frowned upon? If the money is there and FFP permits it, then use the funds to buy quality, as simple as that. However, this fact is something that is eating at Mourinho as he looks to defend his Premier League title because now, suddenly, every team has a stronger squad.
It's not hard to figure out why. Being defending champions invites more pressure. Winning back-to-back English league titles is a huge challenge even for him. It’s a feat only two managers – Sir Alex Ferguson and Mourinho himself 10 years ago – have achieved since Bob Paisley in 1983. So there is pressure and it spews out sometimes during media engagements. You can’t really blame him.
Mourinho has been relatively open about the need to add to his squad, however, one month before the window shuts Chelsea find themselves far behind their rivals.
When it comes to their transfer dealings this window Chelsea have not been the most productive. They have strengthened Arsenal by selling Petr Cech, sold Felipe Luis back to Athletico Madrid and the once highly touted Josh McEachran and Gael Kakuta have also been shown the exit door.
On the flipside they have recruited poorly by bringing in a couple of unheard of Brazilian kids (Nathan and Kenedy) for about £9m, who will in all probability be loaned out somewhere, and replaced Cech with Asmir Begovic (£8m) while attempting some sort of rescue mission in signing Falcao on loan.
It wouldn’t have been the case however if Chelsea recruited as shrewdly as last season. Antoine Griezmann, Mauro Icardi, Alexandre Lacazette, Pedro, Rafael Varane, Axel Witsel etc are just few of the names that were linked with the Blues this window, but the champions have been relatively quiet. This is partly down to FFP and partly down to Mourinho feeling that his squad is more or less complete.
If Mourinho ‘bought’ the title last season he did so for a pittance. Of all the transfer spending he managed to bring in Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas for a net spend of £5m. Surely, one of the best pieces of summer business by any manager in the last 10 years. The two players who made that extra bit of difference in quality from the previous season.
So spend to get to a title, but what after? How do you retain it? Last season showed the Blues in two separate avatars. The first half of the season blitz up to Christmas with 21 wins in 27 matches; and the rough patch after it when Chelsea won just seven out of 17 when the they toughened up their defence and battled through the fixtures until then end of the season.
Costa scored 13 goals before Boxing Day and seven after it while Fàbregas contributed 18 assists up to New Years Day and just four in the next five months – making it clear that it was a tale of two seasons
This week Fabregas was quoted saying the only way Chelsea can better last season is to win the league and Champions League, something impossible without further strengthening in his own position. Chelsea crashed out of the Champions League last season because their midfield was overrun by PSG with Fabregas playing catch up in pursuit of Marco Verratti, Blaise Matuidi and Thiago Motta in the centre of the pitch.
Costa should stay more or less stay fit without twanging his hamstrings again but, if he does, Chelsea are more equipped this season than the last one with the signing of Falcao, who won't have to do a great deal to beat Didier Drogba’s contribution of four goals last term.
A left back - probably Baba Rahman of Ausburg – will come in to replace Felipe Luis while John Stones would be the ideal English centre-back to follow in John Terry’s footsteps at Stamford Bridge.
But, with a month to go and Jose relatively happy with his squad, it's pretty much a steadied ship going into the new season.
Where do Chelsea need to strengthen? Let us know below!
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