Whether you believe Jose Mourinho when he says Chelsea have completed all of their business for this summer transfer window, or whether you believed him last year when he explained, ‘even when we (football managers) say we’re very happy with our squad, we lie’, it would certainly seem as though the crux of our team and starting XI for next season was completed with the signing of Filipe Luis. It’s an interesting question as to whether the additions we’ve made make us a stronger side (on paper) than Manchester City, but regardless, this season, we not only need to assume the responsibility of being contenders (as Mourinho phrases it) but we have to actually win the thing; and I think we will. Here are eight reasons why Chelsea have to be considered title favourites for the 14/15 campaign…
1) First of all and probably most importantly, is that I’m getting bloody sick of us not winning it. For any top side, one or two years without winning the league is forgivable. In a period of reasonably extensive and accelerated transition, three seasons is understandable; and factor in the continued lack of direction brought about by the constant changing of managers, of which we’re well accustomed, four years is just about tolerable. Were we to make it five without Premier League success however, then we’d begin to have no choice but to start questioning whether this new group of players really has it in them to go all the away in a campaign. Should Mourinho go three years without a major trophy also, questions over his remaining quality and job security will be quickly and poignantly raised also. For many people at the club and for many reasons, victory in the league this year seems crucial to the continued success of their careers. It looks like John Terry’s last chance to be a regular starter in a league winning season also.
2) Finally, the label of ‘team in transition’ has been shaken. With the exception of Mohamed Salah, all of Mourinho signings have now had ample time to adjust to the country, the league and to their teammates. Even the two new players with no PL experience (Costa & Filipe), arrive with playing styles and attributes perfect for the division, and at a stage in their careers where they’re ready to win things immediately. Eden Hazard and Oscar meanwhile, with two full seasons under their belt, must now finally be ready to produce their best football and lead this team as its two most brilliant creative talents.
3) In addition to being ideally settled, it’s worth noticing also that as a collective, the current squad is at a perfect age to finally deliver on its potential. An average age for a starting XI of 26ish sounds ideal, but sounds even better firstly when you realise that Thibaut Courtois (22) and John Terry (33) will be the oldest and youngest regular members of the first team, with neither materially affecting its average on their own. Also the overall spread of ages across the XI is perfect as well, with the more experienced players being predominantly in the back line, whilst the more youthful players start in attack.
4) Having come so close last year despite some rather blaring deficiencies, the excuses we had to fall back on last year with regards to personnel in certain areas, have now vanished, with the club having addressed the weaknesses in its squad emphatically. No striker, no central midfielder, no natural left back? OK, have of three of the best in world in their positions. Who are you gonna blame now?
5) There’s probably no such thing as a perfect fixture list but ours offers plenty to be appreciative of. Having away games at Everton, Man Utd, Man City and Liverpool before Nov 8, may look daunting but it also presents a great opportunity to make an ominous start and to get plenty of tough fixtures out of the way quickly. During the periods of the season when the big Champions League games are played also (from early November through December and from February through to April) we have long streaks of games where we don’t play anybody from last season’s top five, which will mean chances to rotate and also a chance to build up (hopefully) irrepressible levels of momentum.
6) It’s now five years since a team retained the Premier League title and given the last two sides to do so – Jose’s first Chelsea team and Man Utd in the era of Ronaldo and Tevez – were comfortably better than any side currently in the division, I don’t see a reason why that trend shouldn’t necessarily continue. As good as this current Man City side is, consecutive league wins, history shows, requires a level of consistency and quality and resilience I’m not sure I’ve ever seen from Manuel Pellegrini’s men, who tend to shine more in bursts and surges, than consistently over an entire year.
7) Considering how close the title race was last year it becomes a pertinent question to ask, has anybody else improved to nearly the same extent as we have so far this summer? Man City’s side is still fearsome but Yaya Toure isn’t getting any younger, Sergio Aguero remains a constant injury doubt, whilst Joe Hart and Vincent Kompany have continuously declined in from since 2012. Signings like Bacary Sagna, Willy Caballero and Fernando improve their squad but not really their XI; Eliaquim Mangala, their likely sole major signing is a risk also after an inconsistent year with Porto. Liverpool are likely to find this season much tougher with many new signings to integrate and more fixtures to contend with, not to mention the loss of maybe their greatest ever player. Manchester Utd will doubtlessly be far better but even Louis Van Gaal might secretly concede, 7th to 1st might too far of a jump in one year. Arsenal are then the one side who threaten to improve considerably from last year. If they can keep Theo Walcott and Aaron Ramsey fit for the entire season, with additions like Alexis Sanchez, Arsene Wenger’s side are a match for anyone in England (and maybe Europe) on paper. If he can just prevent the annual injury crises and subsequent collapse, then they could once again be a side to genuinely fear. I’d be much more fearful had they just signed Fabregas, Costa and Luis, however.
8) And finally, perhaps the most obvious reason to make Chelsea favourites is the ridiculous record Mourinho has enjoyed in the second seasons of his past tenures. A double with Porto, a stroll to the league with Chelsea, a treble with Inter and a record breaking league win in Madrid – it’s a trend all of the sensible money has to be on backing to continue this season.