A Gooner’s View of Other Clubs of The 2014-15 Season Part 10
Hi everyone. This is part 10, the final part of my series of blogs about the status of the Premiership Clubs of the 2014-2015 Season following the conclusion of the League season. In this blog, I’ll be focusing on Chelsea. Of course, all of this is my own opinion, so feel free to disagree and debate!
It was Jose Mourinho’s 2nd year into his 2nd stint at Chelsea at the start of the previous season, having returned to the club after largely failing to meet his objectives at Real Madrid (i.e. failure to win the Champions League). Mourinho’s Chelsea, the “little horse”, had finished 3rd in the Premier League in the 2013-14 season, the first season in his second stint as Manager, behind only Liverpool and Manchester City.
Chelsea had a relatively quiet Summer 2014 transfer window, signing only former Gunner Francesc Fabregas from Barcelona for 27 million Pounds, Spain international striker Diego Costa and Portugal international left full-back Filipe Luis for a combined 47.8 million Pounds from Atletico Madrid, the returning Didier Drogba from Galatasaray on a free transfer and France international forward Loic Remy from Queens Park Rangers for 10.5 million Pounds. Columbian winger Juan Cuadrado was the only signing in the winter window from Fiorentina for 23.3 million Pounds. Amongst the higher profile exits were David Luiz to Paris Saint-Germain for 40 million Pounds, Samuel Eto’o to Everton on a free transfer, former Gunner Ashley Cole to Roma on a free transfer, the club’s record goalscorer Frank Lampard to Manchester City on a free transfer, Demba Ba to Besiktas for 4.7 million Pounds, full-back Patrick van Aanholt to Sunderland for 1.5 million Pounds and Romelu Lukaku to Everton for 28 million Pounds after an impressive loan spell there. The major winter exits were Fernando Torres to Milan for an undisclosed fee, reserve goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer to Leicester on a free transfer, Andre Schurrle for 22 million Pounds to Wolfsburg, Ryan Bertrand to Southampton for 10 million Pounds and Thorgan Hazard to Borussia Monchengladbach for 5.8 million Pounds. There were also a lot of loans out of the club which I am not going to list here, as we’d likely be here all week if I did!
Chelsea had a very good start to the season, only losing their first match in the League away to Newcastle United in December, with only 3 draws up to Christmas. After Christmas, however, Chelsea’s form dipped ever so slightly, recording 2 losses (away to Spurs on New Years Day and away to West Brom on May 18th), with 4 home draws (against Manchester City, Burnley, Southampton and Liverpool) and 1 away draw (to Arsenal) at that time – a very good set of results overall that is quite hard to find fault with, really. Chelsea also captured the League Cup, beating Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 in the Final. The only real faults can be the poor aggregate result vs. Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League (David Luiz knocking out his former club was ironic) and the 4-2 loss at home to Bradford in the F.A. Cup after leading 2-0 at half-time.
Chelsea displayed some good attacking style in the early part of the season, with many teams being carved up by the passing of Fabregas and the runs of Costa, who scored 20 Premier League goals in his 1st season with Chelsea, and Eden Hazard, in addition to the occasional piece of craft from Oscar and the hard work of Willian, Nemanja Matic and Ramires in midfield, partially being aided by the stoic defence of John Terry, with Cahill and Zouma also featuring in central defence, as well as the runs of Branislav Ivanovic also aiding the attack in addition to his usual dogged defending, while Azpilicueta was an able left-back and largely kept new signing Filipe Luis out of the team. Thibault Courtois also had a great season in goal, mostly keeping experienced stopper Petr Cech out of the team.
The often defensive and cautious style of play fostered by Mourinho in many of his teams can be quite dull for the neutral fan to watch and really came to the fore in the later stages of the season, partially due to the loss in form from Fabregas and the injury to Costa, although Remy did perform ably when called upon and Drogba was his usual nuisance self, although he did seem to labour towards the end of the season with age finally catching up to him. It must be noted, however, that Mourinho will make substitutions early to change things if he feels that the team is not playing to his liking. The form of Nemanja Matic at defensive midfield was strong all season though and partially aided to Chelsea picking up points despite often not playing well, which is always the yardstick by which Champions Elect are judged. The other player who carried form with him all season was Eden Hazard, who did have an excellent season, scoring 14 goals in the Premier League, but it is worth noting that a number of these goals were scored from the penalty spot. Diego Costa, as already mentioned, had an excellent debut season despite carrying a hamstring injury issue for most of it. However, I think Chelsea’s best player of the season was John Terry, who seemed a colossus at the back and was rarely beaten, although this was aided by a defence and midfield who put in the required defensive work, thus leaving Terry less exposed than he might have been in another team.
I don’t think Chelsea had any standout poor performers. There were, however, some players who could have shown more consistency, such as Oscar and the now departed Andre Schurrle. Juan Cuadrado was also not as effective as he had been for Colombia in the 2014 FIFA World Cup, but this may be down to adapting to his new club and team-mates. John Obi Mikel is also one who can improve, but I’m not sure he has the capability to do so – he is very average in his position (defensive or centre midfield) in my opinion and is really a bench player if Matic is fit. Mikel made just 16 appearances in the Premier League, his lowest total since joining Chelsea in 2006.
As far as Chelsea’s needs for this upcoming season goes, they have already purchased Kenedy and Nathan, 2 young Brazilian attacking midfielders for around 11 million Pounds (Nathan has gone out on loan to Vitesse Arnhem for the upcoming season though), as well as Asmir Begovic joining from Stoke for 8 million Pounds to replace Petr Cech, who departed for Arsenal after 493 matches for Chelsea (2nd highest at the time in the team for appearances, only behind John Terry) for 10 million Pounds. Gael Kakuta has departed for Sevilla for 2.5 million Pounds and highly rated young midfielder Josh McEachran has left for Brentford for 750 000 Pounds, possibly in part due to a lack of first-team opportunities at the club. Radamel Falcao has joined on loan from Monaco (arguably as Monaco cannot afford his wages) and will be hoping to impress after a disappointing season on loan at Manchester United, although I am not sure how he will be accomodated into the team, as Costa is firmly established as the first choice striker in Mourinho’s 4-5-1 system. Mourinho will likely be targeting a defensive midfielder soon, with Mikel due a testimonial soon, and Mourinho may well be looking to freshen things up in that position and find a solid young back-up for Matic. Much is expected of Ruben Loftus-Cheek, but I cant see him playing as a defensive midfielder as he is too attack-minded in my opinion. Another position that Mourinho may well be scouting for is a new centre-back, as John Terry is getting on in years and a replacement will need to be sought sooner rather than later, although it is entirely possible that the replacement will be sought internally – Nathan Ake springs to mind there, but he is not quite as imposing in stature as John Terry – few defenders are!
That’s all from me for this week. I hope you all enjoyed this off-season series. What are your thoughts? Let me know!