Chelsea conceded 39 goals last season and finished at third in the league. And that made sure that we struggled to finish top four. We scored 75 goals only but we had scored three less when when we won the league title in 04-05. It’s the 39 goals that we conceded last season that made a difference. Even Arsenal conceded only 37. Man Utd conceded more but they scored many more too and they were poor even though they won the title. Don’t want the 2012/13 Man Utd to be a benchmark of any sort.
If Chelsea have to win the premier league in 2013/14, we should improve vastly in defence. If we set ourselves a target of 30 goals or less, we will be on course given out riches in attacking football this season. Do we have a defence that can inspire Chelsea to a premier league title? For me this is an important premise because I often hear people say how well some of our players did/proved last season. We struggled to finish third last season. So certainly that’s not a good standard. Every single player and the team will have to do considerably better than last season to win the league.
Let’s have a look at who have we got and where do they stand.
Probably the weakest link in Chelsea defence. Good when we are defending deep protecting our goal in the dying moments. I wouldn’t trust Cahill so much. He’s got all the heart and passion but lacks skill and technique and is being exposed too often these days. More of a squad player who can chip in where possible. Just don’t see him as a first choice centre back in any premier league winning side.
Age is catching him up fast. Very injury prone these days. Never pacy even in his best days. Surprisingly he’s done quite well in the pre-season. I’m sure he’d have realised that he’s not the king pin of our defence as he used to be. Really need pick himself and his career up. Think he’s still got something to offer a couple of seasons. Will be my one of my first choice centre backs given that he’s captain and brings something extra to the table.
Certainly our best defender of the last season. Was recognised as one of the best right backs in the premier league last season. Surely he’s has made the right back position his own. Fanstastic in defence and active in attacks. Made us realise what we’ve lost all the while by not having a top class right back. Hoping that he has a great season and starts for Spain in the world cup next year.
The most key defender in our squad. I think he’s not been as effective as he used to be. He’s still dependable in defence but his contribution to attacks have seriously dwindled. Cole and Hazard probably haven’t struck a partnership yet. And that’s had an impact on his game. Hazard’s brilliant season meant this wasn’t going to be very visible. Ashley Cole will be my first choice left back only until we buy a new quality left back.
I’m a big fan of Ivanovic. But I’ve to admit he’s been blowing hot and cold. My trust on the whole Chelsea defence has gone down a couple of notches and it’s no different with Ivanovic. Still I find more reliable than Cahill. At least Ivanovic reads the game better and faster than Cahill. Very potent threat in the attacking corners. Not quite first choice but surely would rotate him and keep him playing.
Probably our most versatile defender. With his ability to play anywhere in defence and also as defensive midfielder, his utility value is really high. When we was making blunders in defence, I thought he’d learn from experiences. Well he has, to some extent, but I also realise that it’s very much him to try those things that he does. Strangely for a defender, he has better passing skills than tackling skills. Very unpredictable and impactful player. First choice without doubt but not because of his defensive abilities.
Hasn’t convinced me yet. He’s 24 and not a young player as some make him out to be. He’s a very experienced player that’s played more than 150 competitive games. He doesn’t inspire me. He’s very plain in his style and approach. Doesn’t offer much in attack. But he’s an important squad player. To use a David Moyes quote, we’d need Ryan just in case Ashley Cole gets injured. Now you can understand why Rooney was ‘angry and confused’.
As you can see in the image above, Petr Cech is the jewel of our defensive necklace. Chelsea’s biggest match winner, season after season, is Petr Cech. Quite easily the most important Chelsea player in our whole squad, even above Mata and Hazard. The reason why we conceded only 39 goals and not 50 was probably because of Cech’s individual brilliance. He’s shown that he’s human but all things considered still the best goalkeeper in Europe. I can’t put anyone above him. I don’t think he’s slowing down or losing his effectiveness. He’s still excellent.
Great signing by Chelsea. Extremely pleased to have a goalkeeper of Schwarzer’s quality as the back up for Cech. He’s got great experience and he’s a fantastic choice given our specific requirement. I’m no longer worried about the goalkeeping situation. We’ve got Cech. We’ve got Schwarzer just in case. We’ve got Courtois for the medium/long term. The situation is perfect.
FINALLY . . . . .
It’s a popular thought that this defence won’t win us the premier league. The defence that won the premier league last season wasn’t any great either. In fact, they conceded more goals than Chelsea’s but still had a better goal difference and won the league leaving us 14 points behind. Defence’s role doesn’t just stop at stopping goals. Their organisation and movement are key for the team to control the game and to positively contribute to the attacks too.
Chelsea’s investment in the last couple of seasons show that we want to win the league with the attack. I do think we should look to win the title with our attacking options. Chelsea’s defence or defensive set up is not as disastrous it’s made out to be. There’s no denying that there’s more room for improvement but the real focus should be in scoring goals than conceding goals. If you look at how Chelsea squad is being built – this is not built to be a mean machine like it was in 2004-06. We have shorter, lighter, nimble and creative play maker type players. They are never going to be as helpful as the earlier Chelsea teams in defending as one unit. Instead we can get the maximum what they are supposed to be good – which is scoring goals like nobody’s business. But the same can’t be said about competing in the champions league where finer details matter quite a lot. That’s why teams like Man Utd and Man City can win the league but fail in Europe. And if I’m right, none of our league rivals have particularly strengthened their defence. With more attacking talent (from Europe and elsewhere) being spread over the premier league and not just with the top teams, to concede 35-40 goals and to win the league could be a norm.
Anyway, Jose Mourinho’s focus on defence is very well known. I think you can see a significant drop in the goals conceded column purely from Mourinho’s training on tactical and defensive organisation. Don’t think Jose will play too high up as he should know that it will expose our defence and help the opponents exploit our weakness. I also foresee our defence to up a gear to be able to meet Mourinho’s high expectations.
You see here how in the last season we were losing control of the game in the second half. For a top team like Chelsea and a team with title aspirations, to have conceded 25% of the goals in the last 15 minutes of the game is not good at all. Jose’ Chelsea are always known to hold the lead, control the game, kill the game and not give a chance to the opponent to come back into the game. I’m expecting this focus and mindset to be back with Chelsea this season.
For me the biggest concern in our defence is our left back position where there’s a huge gap in quality between our first choice and second choice players. The second biggest concern is the lack of a steady, strong centre back pairing. We need to settle down on a centre back pairing and allow that partnership to grow. We still need one left footed and left sided centre back. Rumours say we are still in the market for Mangala. I think we would surely sign a defender in this window.
New signing or not, under Mourinho, I’m very confident that we will become once again a very difficult team to score against and Stamford Bridge will once again be the fortress that opponents hated to visit. While the attacking side will sort itself out, can we set ourselves an incredible target of conceding only 30 goals or less this season? I do think this league will be won with the attack than with the defence. Even if our defence doesn’t improve from last season and only our attack improves this season – with Oscar and Hazard playing their second season, KdB looking in good touch, Mata being the attacking pivot as always, Lukaku’s burning desire to achieve at Chelsea and a possible Rooney signing – I can’t think how our attack and goal scoring cannot improve. I know this could be an unpopular view – I do think Chelsea can win the league title with this defence – with now Mourinho in charge.