I’ve been looking at the movers and shakers for Chelsea this year and what it could herald for the season. We’ll see who’s moved on, who’s arrived and what that means for the team as a whole. I’ll even round it off with some predictions!
Marko Marin – German Winger (Werder Bremen £6.5m)
Eden Hazard – Belgian Attacking Midfielder (Lille £32m)
Thorgan Hazard – Belgian Attacking Midfielder (Lens Undisclosed)
Oscar – Brazilian Attacking Midfielder (Internacional £25m)
Victor Moses – Nigerian Winger/Forward (Wigan Athletic £9m)
Cesar Azpilicueta – Spanish Right Back (Marseille £7.5m)
Didier Drogba – Ivorian Center Forward (Released)
Salomon Kalou – Ivorian Striker/Winger (Released)
Jose Bosingwa – Portuguese Wing Back (Released)
Raul Meireles – Portuguese Midfielder (Fenebahce £8m)
Thorgan Hazard – Midfielder. (Year long move to S.V. Zulte Waregem)
Thibaut Courtois – Goalkeeper. (Year long move to Atletico Madrid)
Josh McEachran – Midfielder. (Year long move to Middlesboro)
Sam Hutchinson – Right/Center Back. (Year long move to Nottingham Forest)
Kevin De Bruyne – Midfielder. (Year long move to Werder Bremen)
Nathaniel Chalobah – Defensive Midfielder. (Six month move to Watford)
Michael Essien – Midfielder (Year long loan to Real Madrid)
Romelu Lukaku – Center Forward (Year long loan to West Bromwch Albion)
Plenty of activity as you can see, especially on the loan side where more players are out on long term deals around Europe. But where does that leave the first team? Let’s break it down by Goalkeepers, Defence, Midfield and Attack:
In Petr Cech we have one of the best custodians in the world. Our back ups for him at the club are not particularly strong, unfortunately. Ross Turnball should be considered the number two ‘keeper with Hilario and Blackman his back ups. I used to wonder why on earth we keep Hilario on the books, but he’s also a coaching asset and could well see himself moving to the backroom staff once his current contract expires.
Thibaut Courtois will be Chelsea’s next number one in a few seasons. The choice to put him out on loan for now is a very wise decision and I can see it happening again next season, too. This will get him invaluable first team experience and in a couple of years he’ll be on our bench learning how to meld with the team and push Cech very hard for the number one slot.
Man to watch: Thibault Courtois. Can he show that his superb showing with Atletico Madrid wasn’t a fluke?
Right now we have a legitimate back up for every position, with each position carrying two international players as back ups/rotation. ACole has Bertrand to Foster, War Criminal has Azpilicueta to beef up into a vehicle of right sided destruction and JT, Cahill and Luiz offer everything we need in the middle with War Criminal able to slot into the middle as required due to the bans and injuries that will inevitably occur.
Initially I would have preferred Hutchinson to stay to offer bench cover for the right and middle, but his long term loan to Forest makes perfect sense. It gives him the sorely needed first team experience he’ll need to challenge for a regular spot at Chelsea in the next year or two. Chelsea have invested heavily in Hutch and I don’t see that stopping now as we look to the future. I expect to see Sam sign an extension around Christmas if his performances with Forest continue as he has started.
Man to watch: David Luiz. Can he build on his great form from last season and establish himself as one of the Premiership’s top defenders?
The midfield is our strong suit this season. We have strength, experience and flair – every base covered. Mikel’s play has already been influenced by the creative players and I hope that Hazard, Mata and Oscar can develop defensive awareness to help out the back four when needed.
Mikel seems to have something pretty special going on right now, but the sale of Meireles and loan of the Bison leaves with Oriol and Ramires as cover for him and Super Frank. I expect to see Ramires taking up the slack and rotating more with Frank now, and doubt we’ll see him bombing down the right so much… but don’t quote me.
Hazard, Mata, Oscar, Moses, Marin and dare I say Malouda will be providing the ammunition and boy, the prospect of facing Hazard, Mata and Oscar is going to put the fear of football into many a defensive midfield and defence this season. RdM again, has cover for each position and Ramires may even start on the right and switch to a more defensive role for Frank, giving the fresh legs of Marin and Moses to play the impact sub role.
Man to watch: Juan Mata. Can he continue where he left off and not get caught in Hazard’s shadow?
Robby di Matteo has squarely bet the coop on Nando with Danny Boy playing apprentice to the twinkle-toed Spaniard. The first few games of the season saw Torres shining beyond the work rate we already know to exist. I thought the loss of Drogba would leave a huge hole to fill, but the truth is he doesn’t play like Torres does at all and the players we have brought in complement Nando’s interlinking pass-and-move game.
I was hesitant at Lukaku’s move at first out of a selfish want for strength in depth, but like Didier Drogba, he’s a completely different player to both Nando and Sturridge and his time at West Brom under the guidance of Chelsea legend Steve Clarke is going to do him wonders. That means we’re going to see the likes of Piazon and Bamformd rise up from the Under-21 squad for some of the lesser league and cup matches to warm the bench and maybe make a cameo or two there if RdM keeps Victor Moses working the wings.
Man to watch: Fernando Torres. It’s time to keep the work rate up and knock in thirty goals.
Aside from lacking Premiership strength in depth up front I’m more than satisfied. I think we have an attacking midfield that can challenge any defence in the world, and once they start gelling into teamwork and not just dazzling individual displays there’s strong possibility of us racking up some high scores in the league and cup.
Can we dominate the league and Europe? I don’t know. RdM will, once again, most likely have to pick and choose our battles again come February depending on how things go, but Mr Abramovic is not going to settle for anything less than a title challenging campaign. So, and I can’t believe I am saying this, I would be willing to sacrifice both the League and FA cup and the World Club Cup in order to perform at the highest level in the league and Europe this year.
What is our strength? Goals. The amount of creativity we have is immense. I’m thinking this could be one of those years were we regularly knock in three or four a game. Look for goals coming from all over the pitch, too. I think that everyone in the first team will score a goal except for Mikel and the goalkeepers. Gary Cahill will outscore John Terry and we’ll have four or five players who get into double figures.
What is our weakness? Being caught on the counter. It’s inevitable that with Frank and the front four foraging to create that we’re going to get caught on the break. With Ivanovic and Cole making the necessary wing born runs it leaves Mikel and the back two to stop any threats. Atletico Madrid gave us a master class in this during the Super Cup final and it’s a lesson we need to learn sharpish because you can bet every penny you have that it’s going to be used by almost everyone we play from now on. Without doubt it’s going to lead to tired legs as the game comes to a close, but the strength of depth in the midfield and defense should be able to cope with it.
Premiership: We’ve a lot of work to do and Manchesters Utd and City will both be vying for the top. Second place unless War Criminal does a hatchet job on RVP and Rooney.
Champions League: No team has won the Champions League back to back. I would love to see us do it this time around without parking the bus. We’ll make the final.
FA Cup: Unless the back-ups perform well we have to consider this a secondary goal. Quarter Finals.
League Cup: I actually enjoy this underrated competition, but it’s the last thing we need to worry about. Let’s put the kids in and see how they do. Quarter finals.
World Club Cup – It’s a nice distraction like the Super cup was, but it’s not important at all. Don’t care at all, but we’ll probably win it if we put some effort in. Winners.