Football

Chelsea may not have the great team they think they do

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This time last year, Chelsea began their Premier League season with a convincing win over new-boys Burnley, where Cesc Fabregas provided two assists and Diego Costa got on the scoresheet.

They went on to win the title with consummate ease and could even afford a 3-0 humbling during their second to last game against West Brom couldn't dampen spirits.

Fast-forward three months and Chelsea do not seem to be the same mind-blowing team we grew accustomed to seeing for the best part of last season.

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Their opening game, which is worth noting was at Stamford Bridge, was a shambles, with Thibaut Courtois getting sent off, two conceded and quality of play generally being very poor.

Let's not get carried away - it is only one game and United lost their opening game 1-0 to Everton the last time they won the title. But based on this performance, combined with pre-season and a large part of the end of last season, something seems to be amiss at The Blues.

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Defence

The most robust of defenders, the hardest and the toughest, eventually fall from glory. We saw it with the injury-plagued Carles Puyol half a decade ago, we saw it with Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, and quite frankly we are seeing it now in Chelsea.

John Terry is a ripe old 34-year-old and his partner, Gary Cahill, is reaching the end of his prime at 29. Last season, these two were paired almost every game and undoubtedly this much playing-time will take its toll.

The increased age also means a lack of pace, which in the modern game is essential. We saw against Swansea, Bafetimbi Gomis consistently get behind the two centre-backs and cause them problems.

Having slow centre-backs is manageable, as long as they are positionally sound - which they are - and the full-backs can provide adequate cover against threat from out wide.

Can the Chelsea full-backs still do this? We saw time and time again, Jefferson Montero ghost past Branislav Ivanovic without breaking a sweat.

Obviously a bad day at the office is allowed occasionally, but Ivanovic has been Chelsea's rock for so long and Montero is hardly a world-class player, despite possessing obvious talent.

With so many teams operating with rapid wingers, it is imperative that the full-backs can cope with these demands. What if it was Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar or Franck Ribery against Ivanovic that day? The scoreline would most probably not be so flattering.

Perhaps it is time for Mourinho to phase in promising Kurt Zouma - a big centreback with pace, strength and composure. Their pursuit of John Stones is also completely justified - a future Zouma-Stones partnership could be their base for years to come.

Midfield

The Chelsea midfield has the potential to sweep any team away. Creative inputs from Oscar and Fabregas, combined with the pace of Eden Hazard and Willian and the defensive solidity from Nemanja Matic make for a formidable force. But is there enough balance in the team?

We saw last season that Real Madrid, when they lost Luka Modric to injury, their midfield became too attack-heavy and they let in a lot of goals. They relied solely on outscoring the opposition and this resulted in a lot of high-scoring games, most notably the 4-2 against Celta Vigo.

Chelsea have a lot of creativity with Fabregas playing in the holding midfielder position, but this doesn't do their defence any favours. In the 2014/15 season, in the Champions League especially, Mourinho opted leaving one of these players out in favour of a more defensive option - usually the reliable but much-maligned John Obi Mikel or Kurt Zouma.

Alongside Matic, this created a shield in front of the back four which helped them keep their shape a lot better. Compare this to a number of games when both creative players have started - the 2-2 against Swansea springs to mind, but even last season we saw games like the 4-2 win against Swansea again, a 6-3 against Everton and most notably the 5-3 defeat to Spurs. Would the old Mouinho team have shipped this many goals?

Attack

Not too much to say here, except that Diego Costa's injuries may limit him from playing at full potential. Mourinho claimed midway through last season that his striker was never fully fit up until that point, and he was a doubt for the season opener as well. He needs to be rested to completely get rid of this injury or we could see him hindered for a lot of the campaign. 

Meanwhile, his backup Radamel Falcao is horribly off-form and lacking the confidence he once had, and may not recapture his lethal touch for a time yet.

More importantly, neither striker has a bundle of pace like a lot of top strikers do, and while Loic Remy does provide this, he may not be the answer to Chelsea's problems

No doubt we will get a better idea of Chelsea's title credentials as the season progresses and it is likely that they will be there or thereabouts come the business end of the season. But Mourinho may have to make a few tweaks before then in order to prevent more similar results like the one against Swansea.

To read a more in-depth analysis on Falcao, read my article here: http://www.givemesport.com/602762-which-of-the-top-fours-new-signings-will-be-a-success-in-the-premier-league 

Do YOU want to write for GiveMeSport? Get started today by signing-up and submitting an article HERE: http://gms.to/writeforgms

Topics:
Football
Chelsea
Premier League

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