Last year marked the return of the Special One, Jose Mourinho, who came back to Chelsea after six years away. Mourinho had enjoyed a highly successful time at Inter Milan, and a rockier period at Real Madrid. Chelsea had success too, but they also suffered from instability as they went through seven managers before finally re-appointing the fans' favourite Mourinho.
Luckily for Mourinho, a lot of his squad from years gone by were still at Chelsea; Ashley Cole, Frank Lampard, John Terry, Petr Cech and others, as well as a scattering of some of the best young talent in the Premier League. The problem Mourinho faced was how to integrate the youngsters into a team that contained many Premier League winners. He let some of them go out on loan, whilst Oscar and Eden Hazard stayed in the first team. He also made a few signings; Andre Schurrle came in from Bayer Leverkusen, whilst Chelsea also bought in Marko van Ginkel and both Willian and an ageing Samuel Eto’o from Anzhi.
Chelsea were there, or thereabouts for the majority of the season, and on many occasions looked close to nabbing the title; however they fell short and a costly draw against Norwich in April all but sealed their fate. Constantly on the periphery of success, they were ultimately swept aside by eventual champions Manchester City and Brendan Rodgers' resurgent Liverpool. A Champions League semi-final appearance was also not enough for Mourinho’s men who will be looking to eradicate the feelings of being the also rans from 2014.
Chelsea have been very active in the transfer window; they acted quickly to snap up Cesc Fabregas (to the general annoyance of Arsenal fans) as well as Atletico Madrid’s Diego Costa. Both signings are very astute pieces of business; Fabregas can play in a multitude of positions in midfield, whereas Costa should give Chelsea the potency upfront that ultimately cost them last year (they scored 31 goals fewer than Manchester City). Another striker joining the ranks bizarrely is Didier Drogba; the man remains a fans' favourite but seems more like a step backwards for Chelsea. Would he get into any of the other top four sides? Probably not - and as with Samuel Eto’o before him, he just feels like a stopgap player. Filipe Luis, signed from Atletico, looks to have the capabilities to replace Ashley Cole and should like up well with Chelsea’s burgeoning midfield.
Two big players have exited the Bridge. The transfer that shocked was me was Romelu Lukaku to Everton; a bold move to see the one player who could theoretically have fired them to the Premier League title, but with Costa coming in, I see no room for him. It’s a shame as he could have been leading the line for Chelsea for the next ten years or so. We’ve seen it happen before with this team, though, young players being pushed out on loan continually and eventually sold off for a big profit without troubling the first team. I think they’ll ultimately rue the decision, but who knows? David Luiz also exited, going to PSG for a staggering £50m. Luis is a great player, but Chelsea were more than within their rights to sell for that price. Also leaving the Bridge are veterans Ashley Cole and Frank Lampard; this is surely part of Mourinho’s plans to lower the average age of the squad whilst lowering the wage bill. Demba Ba has also left, but I doubt he would have figured in Mourinho’s plans this year, and if he had stayed, he would have been fourth choice at best.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
This season it’s got to be Oscar. He’s the most talented player in the Chelsea team, the player who should ultimately be the first name on the team sheet, and the guy who Chelsea could mould their style around for years to come. He has style and flair and also a decent eye for goal. I would love to also have written about Romelu Lukaku in this section, but I guess a year of fawning over Didier Drogba will be enough for some fans.
Chelsea have to be aiming for the top spot. Mourinho’s built his legacy around winning things for Chelsea, and last year would have been a disappointment for all concerned. They’ve spent their money wisely and will hopefully be looking to blood some of their youngsters into the team too.
So if Chelsea can win the league, get to the final of the Champions League and blood through younger players, then they will ultimately be seen as a success. If none of the above happens, then it could be curtains for Mourinho. He is managing the bookies' favourite team to win, so he’d better deliver.