Holy smokes, guys. No, not that kind of smokes, Jack Wilshere. Holy smokes, as in: holy smokes the Premier League season kicks off in less than a week.
I know last week that I promised some coverage of our preseason friendlies, but that was back when I had lost track of time – not realizing that the Premier League would be starting less than a week before the release of this article. Instead, I’ll provide some brief thoughts on our preseason fixtures, and some things to keep an eye on with the 2014/15 Premier League season about to begin.
The key to these preseason friendlies is to remember to not read too much in to them, especially this season. This Chelsea team, which features 13 players returning from the World Cup, needs less time to find their form to start the season.
The first few fixtures gave us a look ahead to the future, and gave us a reason to be excited about the likes of Izzy Brown, Patrick Bamford, and Jeremie Boga to name a few.
As far as first team players are concerned, it’s arguable that the newcomers (Cesc Fabregas, Diego Costa, and Felipe Luis) have been the most impressive. Jose Mourinho even went as far as calling Fabregas “the future” of Chelsea. Diego Costa scored quite a goal. Add Fabregas to the list as well. Take a bow boys!
Aside from that, the preseason has been a steamy pile of garbage for me. Perhaps the World Cup spoiled me this summer, but I’m ready for the Premier League to begin.
2014/15 Season Storylines
The number one problem that this team still has is the same problem it had last season: strikers. The season has yet to begin, and we’re already down one striker (Drogba). Though he is expected to miss just a few weeks, that gives us Costa and Fernando Torres to choose from at striker until Drogs is fit to return. Sure, today it’s Drogba. But what if it’s Costa in April or May? That leaves us with two strikers that both have their best years behind them. This team needs a backup striker (think Loic Remy or Wilfried Bony). Costa will inevitably get injured or suspended via red cards or yellow card accumulation, and we can’t rely on Torres or Drogba if Costa gets suspended for a game against one of the big clubs.
The next controversy is, like Soccer Yanks’ own Chris Gluck taught us, back at square one. The controversy of Petr Cech and Thibaut Courtois will likely carry on until one of them is sent packing. My gut feeling tells me that Cech is going to be named the starter, while Mourinho tests Courtois’ patience as he plays second fiddle. Even if it is the other way around, we’re going to find out if Courtois really wants to play for Chelsea. If having two world-class goalkeepers is a problem, then that’s a problem that I want to have.
How I think 2014/15 will play out
An article recently posted about Jose Mourinho’s history of second seasons with a club got me thinking: will we be better this season than we were last season?
The article states that Mourinho has always (well, with the exception of one) had a more successful second season during each of his tenures with European clubs. At FC Porto and Inter, he won the Champions League title in his subsequent season with the clubs. With Real Madrid, he beat out Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona side for the Spanish crown. The exception – well, “exception” so to speak – was his second season during his first tenure with Chelsea, when they did not claim any extra cups but won the Premier League with four fewer points than they recorded in the preceding season.
So, that means we will win some silverware this year, right? Perhaps.
The depth and versatility on this team is crazy, for the most part. My starting eleven would include: Courtois; Azpilicueta, Terry, Cahill, & Felipe Luis; Matic & Fabregas; Schurrle, Oscar, & Hazard; and Costa. That would give us Cech, Schwarzer, Ivanovic, Ake, Zouma, Ramires, Obi Mikel, Willian, Moses, Salah, Torres, and Drogba to choose from on the bench.
So to summarize: we have two world class goalkeepers, an upgraded back four (which was already arguably the best back line in the Premier League in 2013/14), three defenders that can come off the bench with experience at fullback and centerback, a slew of holding/defensive midfielders, depth on the wing, and not so much depth at central attacking midfielder and striker.
Nonetheless, our starting lineup for the season opener against Burnley, barring injuries, will be one of the best in the world. However, injuries happen to every team every year. If we can get extremely lucky and avoid injuries up the middle at central midfield and striker, we have a very strong chance of winning the Premier League and/or Champions League titles this season.
While I do not see Mourinho as being on the “hot seat” this season, he should be expected to be fighting for the Premier League title up to the last week or two of the season, as well as making it back to the Champions League semifinals. Until this team gets another backup striker, that is all the further I am comfortable predicting this team’s success in 2014/15.
Next week – any new transfer moves that occur over the next seven days, and how the view from the top of the table looks after a win on the road against Burnley.