Last season, Chelsea became one of the worst teams in the history of Champions League football, rivalled by Liverpool, to win the competition. After being outplayed in pretty much every single game, somehow they managed to drag themselves to a penalty shoot-out in the final which they won.
For all their success in the cup competitions, Chelsea fell some way short, finishing 6th, 25 points behind us and City. This summer they’ve splashed the cash again and Ramon Isaac, from the excellent Mowing Meadows Chelsea blog, looks to the season ahead.
Scott the Red: What would have to happen this season for you to class this as a successful one?
Mowing Meadows: Whatever happens this season it is unlikely to top the elation all Chelsea fans felt after that night in Munich but the poor league form leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. For me to consider this a successful season there will need to be a serious title challenge. The last two seasons in the league have left us way off the leaders and it isn’t a feeling I want to grow accustomed to. Considering the money Roman Abramovich has invested this season I think a title challenge is the minimum repayment. A solid cup run and European campaign wouldn’t go amiss.
STR: How do you feel about your club’s business in the transfer window this summer?
MM: I’ve always thought in recent years, transfers have lacked a real structure. Yes, talented players were brought (Torres being the main example) with little thought going into how that player’s style of play would be implemented within the team. Last season showed signs of a move to a more fluid passing game with the additions of Romeu and Mata and I’m very excited to see that has continued during this transfer window with the signings of Marin, Oscar and of course Eden Hazard. One issue that has arisen through the summer is the lack of options up front, with Drogba and Kalou released and Lukaku sent out on loan, the burden lies squarely on the shoulders of Fernando Torres and the not so loved (by a fair few) Daniel Sturridge.
STR: Talking of Torres, he’s scored 12 goals in all competitions in the year and a half he’s been at Chelsea and not one of them has changed the result. Will he ever be a £50m player for Chelsea?
MM: The simple answer is no. I guess I’ll have to say more than that but a £50m striker… he sort of looks and plays a bit like Falcao doesn’t he? I’m not sure if he will ever be the player he once was, that being said I can see Torres doing much better this season but it will very difficult for him to ever justify the transfer, coupled with the wages we’ve paid over these last 18 months it will take a Lionel Messi like 70 goal season.
STR: Who do you think will be your most important player this season?
MM: There are so many that could be chosen for this title but you have to look at what will be the difference from this season compared to last. The answer has to be the £34million man, Eden Hazard. The main question will be if he is able to handle the pressure at such a young age? Only time will tell. However if his performances in Ligue 1 are anything to go by, Chelsea have a real world class talent on their hands. It will be interesting to see where he lines up on the pitch and whether he starts in the No.10 role as he stated he wanted to play when he joined Chelsea or out wide on the left, where he played predominantly for Lille. The less likely option will be to see him as a false 9 as he did against England during the friendly for Belgium.
STR: How do you rate your manager’s ability to take your club forward?
MM: Here we reach the fork in the road. The talent of the squad and its potential are undeniable, the squad looks at its strongest for some time. Di Matteo done a wonderful job in the Champions League last year by creating a team difficult to break down and clinical on the counter. That won’t work this season with the players brought in. The team will look to outplay the opposition and dominate the possession battle. It remains to be seen if Di Matteo can lead this new look Chelsea to success in the league. He did a brilliant job in motivating the veterans last year but with Drogba gone, Terry looking at an inevitable ban and Lampard’s playing time likely to be reduced, it will be a different challenge to last year’s Champions League run. I doubt Di Matteo is the right man to lead the club forward, his form in the league wasn’t any better than AVB last season, but let’s hope I’m wrong.
STR: Who would you like to see replace RDM this season when he’s sacked?
MM: Ha! It is going to happen isn’t it? This was something I thought about before he was given the job full time. I’m taking Mourinho out the equation because fans all over the world would pick the Special One and rightly so. There were some big names available in the summer and especially following the Euros. I would have loved Joachim Loew, Germany play the same 4-2-3-1 formation and have put a lot of faith in the youth to great (trophy-less) success. But now? I’d quite like Roman to give me a stab at it, barring that I wouldn’t mind it being offered to Bielsa, however that is as unlikely as my last suggestion. Realistically if it were to happen Guardiola is the best option even if I don’t like anything to do with Barcelona any more.
STR: Are you expecting John Terry to be banned?
MM: I don’t think there’s a part of me that thinks JT won’t get a ban. The FA set a precedence with the Suarez affair and can’t see them dealing with Terry any differently. I think the only question is whether it will be a more severe suspension than Suarez but I think the “Not Guilty” verdict might spare him that much.
STR: Who do you think will win the league this season?
MM: There can be only one answer right? Chelsea. Although I don’t think Di Matteo is the right man for the job, the talent at his disposal should not be underestimated. It is in my opinion likely to be the strongest if not one of the strongest starting XI in the league and there is good depth in all positions except up front. The blend of youth and experience will need to gel quickly but I believe it will. I’ll even go one better in my prediction Chelsea to win the title by 3 points ahead of a strengthened Manchester United. Sorry City fans, I don’t see where the improvement is going to come from in your team. Oh and this may be Arsenal’s season… Next year.
Follow Ramon on Twitter and read the Mowing Meadows blog.