Season preview: Chelsea
Chelsea’s 2011/2012 season was the very definition of topsy- turvy. Its season began with high expectations.
The young pretender Andre Villas-Boas was being hailed as the next Jose Mourinho, a great tactician with a young and modern approach to the game. There was a reservation over his level of experience and whether or not he’d command the respect of the senior Chelsea players and this concern was rightly justified. The more he tried to stamp his authority on the squad that Jose built, the more it appeared there was a divide between Villas-Boas and the senior heads such as Lampard, Drogba and Anelka. This combined with a string of poor results in the league led to the young Portuguese being axed after Christmas.
Fast forward a few months and his replacement, fan favourite, Roberto Di Matteo was at the helm and was exceeding all expectations, as he embraced the experience within his squad. To the surprise of just about everybody, Chelsea finished the season as European Champions and FA Cup winners, much to the delight of Roman Abramovich. This remarkable turnaround led to calls for Di Matteo to receive the managerial position on a permanent basis and those calls were answered with the awarding of a two year contract to the Italian.
Much fuss was made about Villas Boas being forced out by players. Di Matteo didn’t have this problem and his job has been made easier by the general consensus that Chelsea really do need to rebuild their ageing squad.
The club has already splashed out over £70 million on Oscar, Marko Marin and the Hazard brothers, with more set to follow. Gone is the influential Drogba, as is the notoriously difficult Nicholas Anelka and it appears Malouda and Essien will soon be joining them out the door of Stamford Bridge. The new signings have all the attributes to surpass all that has come before at Chelsea and it really is an exciting time for the club with such a buzz around Stamford Bridge.
Next season will be a win-win situation for Chelsea. If Di Matteo succeeds and repeats this year’s heroics, all the new signings will have been well worth the money. However, if the Italian proves to be a one season wonder then that will pave the way for Abramovich to get his man, should Pep Guardiola stay true to his word and return to football in a year’s time.
I predict a vast improvement on their league form this year. It won’t be easy as they’re not the only big spenders in the Premier League, however, they do have the winning mentality and a good set-up to boot, so there’s no reason why they won’t be title contenders once more; it’ll be close, but I see Chelsea finishing second this term.
Dan Cain, football correspondent