My Prediction at the beginning of season: 1st
Final table position: 3rd
With the Special One back in charge, expectations were high at Stamford Bridge. Instead of sounding like the confident manager he’s been over his entire career, Jose Mourinho kept repeating the same phrase over and over again like a broken record: “We can’t win the title”. In a way, it was the perfect Mourinho phrase. He plays mind games more than any other coach in the recent history of football. But in another way, it became annoying. Chelsea were firmly in first place at one point in time and Mourinho kept saying he doesn’t have the strikers to win. I don’t care what a manager says behind closed doors, being so critical of your strikers in public can do no good for your team. In the end, it was the lack of goals against easy opposition that cost Chelsea the title.
The Blues had a brilliant campaign against the Premier League’s top teams. They had five wins and one draw against the rest of the teams in the top four, only drawing once against Arsenal. What hurt them was not being able to beat poor opposition that parked the bus against them. Late in the season, a 0-0 draw against Norwich City, a 1-2 loss at home to Sunderland, and a 1-0 loss at Crystal Palace all stand out. If you ask Mourinho, it’s a lack of quality strikers that was the cause. But looking further into it, it might have to do with tactics as well. Chelsea had the lowest Cross to Through Ball Ratio (According to Michael Caley) out of the top four teams. And you could see the effect that had on results. Chelsea played brilliantly on the counter attack, and when good teams pressed them, they defended well and countered better. Against weaker opposition, when teams just stood back and defended, Chelsea had trouble breaking them down. They put in a lot of hopeful crosses but created no danger. Mourinho will have to fix that next season if he wants to win the title. Diego Costa will not be enough.
Hilario and Schwarzer shouldn’t be a big loss. There was talk that Schwarzer might resign but that might not be needed as Thibaut Courtois is expected to return to Chelsea and Petr Cech might be relegated to a backup next year. Frank Lampard wasn’t very active towards the end of last season and you could feel age having an effect on him. Chelsea have already replaced him with Cesc Fabregas. Samuel Eto’o was not as effective as Chelsea would have liked and a replacement in Diego Costa should be coming in this summer. As for Ashley Cole, Chelsea will either have to find a replacement or keep playing the fantastic youngster Cesar Azpilicueta in his place. They also have Ryan Bertrand coming back from his loan at Aston Villa. Overall, Chelsea haven’t lost much.
Players on the decline
John Terry – Terry was fantastic last season but you can tell he’s slowing down with age. He is not as fast as he used to be and sometimes has trouble with quicker strikers. Gary Cahill can usually provide enough cover with faster players but Chelsea need to find a replacement for Terry this summer or next at the latest.
Players on the rise
Eden Hazard – outside of some defensive collapses late in the season, Hazard has been fantastic for Chelsea. He continues to improve and will be the face of this club for years to come. Expect more from him next season.
Cesar Azpilicueta – Azpilicueta established himself as one of the best defensive backs in the game last season and has shown incredible improvement in both attack and defense. He will be a constant at Stamford Bridge this season.
Chelsea’s roster is currently made up of a lot of young players who are on the edge of stardom. The roster should improve in the next few years and they’ll be a dangerous squad.
Needs: Striker, central midfielder, left-back, backup center-back
Chelsea have already addressed their central midfielder need by signing Cesc Fabregas. Ramires and Andre Schurrle should provide great cover for the starting 5 in Chelsea’s midfield so I think they are set in that position. They could sign one more versatile player to provide cover but it’s not a huge priority. As for striker, they should finalize the deal for Diego Costa within the near future. With Fernando Torres and Demba Ba backing him up, I think they are fine there as well. That leaves them with the need of addressing left-back. There are two options right now, play Branislav Ivanovic as right-back and Cesar Azpilicueta as a left-back and sign backup players for the entire defense. Another option would be to play Azpilicueta at left-back, sign a new starting right-back, and use Ivanovic(plus one more new player) as cover for all defensive positions because he’s so versatile. In either case, they need to sign someone for the defense. With David Luiz gone, they have no one good enough to play in the Premier League or Champions League past their starting XI.
Overall, Chelsea are in a great position this summer. They only have a few holes to patch up and should be able to challenge for the title once again.