It’s August, I have work to do and a flat to find. Naturally this means it’s season previews time. First up, Chelsea.
At the end of last season
The Blues were Champions League and FA Cup winners. However, their league form was decidedly average since the appointment of Roberto Di Matteo, winning only 5 of their final 11 games, which saw them finish in 6th place (behind Newcastle, in case you were wondering). So all in all, a fairly mixed bag.
What’s happened since then?
Transfers galore at Stamford Bridge, with Chelsea being the most active movers of the big clubs so far, although there have been questions about what appears to be a classic case of buying players just so other teams can’t have them (see: Man City, strikers, 09-11). The signings of attacking midfielders Eden Hazard, Marko Marin and Oscar mean that Chelsea now have 8 or 9 midfielders who might reasonably expect to be part of the first team, which could cause problems in a dressing room not exactly short of personalities.
What could have more impact is the departures, or one of them at least. Nobody will be missing Saloman Kalou or Jose Bosingwa’s monobrow, but Didier Drogba will be a different matter. At the age of 34 he was still Chelsea’s biggest threat last season, and basically won them Roman’s precious Champions League by himself. His absence heaps a lot of pressure onto Chelsea’s remaining strikers: Fernando Torres, Romelu Lukaku and Daniel Sturridge, who may struggle to fill his boots. Or alternatively might do just fine. Who knows?
Apparently one of football’s nice guys, Roberto Di Matteo seems to have won over the dressing room on the strength of not being Andre Villas-Boas, this season will provide a truer test of his managerial abilities, especially given the addition of a raft of signings he may not have known about until he read about them in the Guardian. He’ll also have to cope with an embarrassing number of midfielders to shoehorn into his favoured 4-2-3-1 formation, the lack of a natural right-back and the probable suspension of his captain and self-appointed talisman.
Where will they finish?
A difficult one to call. The sheer quantity of attacking talent means they will in all likelihood win a trophy of some kind, and the squad depth of flexible midfielders leaves them well prepared for a long season. However, a number of players with little Premiership experience and the twin pressures of chairman and dressing room means that it could be a long (or upsettingly short) season for Di Matteo. Top 4 and at least one cup final.