Yesterday’s 8-1 trouncing of the Indonesians All-Stars wrapped up nicely for Chelsea was a largely successful pre-season tour. The club’s PR team have done their job spreading and sharing the Chelsea brand with our Asian brothers and sisters, whilst the coaching staff have got the squad looking as fit and sharp as quickly as I can remember in pre-season for a long time. The glaring mediocrity of the competition obviously enjoins any serious evaluations of the performances so far, but to be working to regain fitness in the Thai/Malaysian heat and with the only practice matches being staged on some of the shittiest pitches I’ve ever seen, the speed, organisation and cohesiveness of the play was all impressive in my opinion – as was the rate of improvement across the three games.

Returning Loanees: Without doubt the stars of the tour were the young players returning from loan spells last year. Kevin De Bruyne was hardly ever out of the game in Thailand, showing his incredible fitness playing for the whole of the first hour and covering more ground than the rest of the midfield seemingly combined. The speed with which he has evinced his importance to this team I think was made apparent by the collective concern over his injury after scoring in Malaysia, and collective relief after the scan revealed no serious damage.  Had it not been for that injury, Kevin would’ve most likely been the most impressive player on the tour, but with 4 goals in just 3 halves of football his fellow Belgian, Romelu Lukaku probably just edges ahead. Of course there isn’t an aspect of the 19 year old’s game that can’t be significantly improved but there surely aren’t any blaring weaknesses to Lukaku’s game either. His potential is still his greatest attribute but his claim to the #1 striker’s position at Chelsea must be a real threat to Fernando Torres at the moment. Tomas Kalas finally is another former loanee to have slotted in easily and impressed so far – all indications are that he can be a more than adequate back up for next season.

New Signings: Neither Andre Schurrle or Marco Van Ginkel managed to particularly stand out over the three matches. The young German was arguably was trying too hard to be direct at times and making bad choices oftenm whereas the Dutchman was perhaps being too cautious, eager to show his discipline and not make mistakes. Neither of course have done anything wrong or especially poorly so far, but I think they’ll need to look better on the US tour if they want a run of games at the start of the season.

Youth Players:  Of all the youngsters taken to train with the senior squad and given chances in games, the most impressive by a distance was young Bertrand Traore – the 17 year old Burkinabe midfielder who scored two of the best goals on tour and made his presence aware to all who were watching. Mourinho confirmed he’ll be signing a professional contract in September. Two other youth players on tour (our two young Brazilians) Wallace and Lucas Piazon both looked good also, picking up assists in the first and third game respectively. Both will be going out on loan next year; Wallace to somewhere in Europe (probably Italy) and Piazon hopefully to somewhere in the Premier League, with Ian Holloway’s Crystal Palace rumoured to be interested.

Disappointing Players: Like I said in the first paragraph, the nature of these warm-up matches prohibits the making any meaningful assessments, but in the case of both Demba Ba and Victor Moses, their performances only served to ratify my opinions of their status in this squad. I think both looked pretty poor, particularly in comparison to Lukaku and De Bruyne. Next year is a huge season for Moses’ career. If he can’t show he can be a more consistent and effective player in Premier League matches for Chelsea, then his days will be truly numbered. Ba meanwhile, who has always felt like a stop gap to me, I think has got a real challenge on his hands to even last the season at Chelsea, especially if we sign Wayne Rooney. On the issue of how much his observance of the month of fasting on the Islamic calendar could have affected his displays so far, I’ll leave to the individual to decide – it is of course, absolutely no excuse for any sub-standard efforts or contributions.

US Tour Preview: The squad now will spend three days in London before flying out to America to play three games in a eight team exhibition tournament. The standard of matches will be much higher and resultantly will be much better indications of the quality of our preparations so far. Our quarter final game will be against Mourinho’s old Inter side, who have declined to an astonishing degree since the Portuguese left in 2010. If we win (which I think we will and should) then we’ll play either Milan or Valencia in the semis, followed by a final game or third place play-off, likely to be either against Juventus or Real Madrid. At the risk of sounding platitudinous, the results aren’t what will be important, however, three wins, particularly with two for the manager against former clubs of his, I think would be a great platform and boost to start the PL season. The final pre-season game will be on the 10th August against AS Roma – seven days before the “Big Kick-off”.

Other teams Preparations

Finally, just some quick thoughts on how our rivals have looked and performed since the end of last season:

–          Re: the defending league champions, I have absolutely no idea what they’re doing in this transfer window so far. The need for more and better central midfielders couldn’t be more obvious, even to the layman. Yet instead of signing the likes of Thiago (available on the cheap) they continue only to be linked with the likes of players they have no hope of signing, Gareth Bale, Cesc Fabregas, Cristiano Ronaldo etc. Moyes may well have something up his sleeve, but if he doesn’t, his first transfer in the job is looking set to be a miserable disappointment…

–          Tottenham however have done well having signed Paulinho and Nacer Chadli, whilst rumoured to be in for the impressive Roberto Soldado. They may however prove to be over reliant on these players making an immediate difference and impact, as their match with Sunderland on Wednesday served as welcome reminder, without Bale they are a pretty flat and uninspiring team. The Bale to Madrid saga isn’t over yet this summer by any means either…

–           Arsenal, like ourselves enjoyed a very good tour of Asia, but typically, they’re still yet to spend a penny, having lost out to Benitez’ Napoli for Gonzalo Higuain. Recent Copa Libertadores winner Bernard however, of Atletico Mineiro, is strongly rumoured to be signing for the Gunners soon and I think he’d be a good addition. Arsenal’s ability to compete for a top three space next year still can’t really be assessed at this stage though…

–          Lastly, Manchester City have once again invested hugely in the squad, signing Fernandinho, Jesus Navas, Stevan Jovetic and Alvaro Negredo, giving them without question the best front line in the division, to go with their back four who have been the PLs most stringent for the last three years. If Chelsea sign Rooney things may change but right now, with their squad and a coach as good as Pellegrini, City have to be strong title favourites at this stage…

 

@MatthewClark46

What am I? A highly evolved male primate from England. A 21 year old accounting graduate. A lover of classic literature and European football. Keen blogger and essayist. Wannabe polemicist. Leftist. Humanist. Atheist. Scorpio. Always up for a debate. Gravatar: Christopher Hitchens/