Chelsea’s title? Maybe not

by Brett Curtis

cabcdotnetdotau_mourinho_chelseaSo José Mourinho’s back in town. He’s won the Premier League, the Champions League, Serie A, and the Portuguese league all twice each. He’s also won La Liga, the UEFA Cup, the FA Cup, the League Cup, Coppa Italia, and Copa del Rey. The list is endless. Upon arriving in England in 2004, he dubbed himself the “Special One.” This time around, however, he claimed he’s merely the “Happy One” to be back. At the age of fifty, with all those trophies under his belt, it’s probably fair to say he’s both.

Intriguingly, his two chief domestic competitors this season are also new to their jobs. First up, there’s David Moyes at Manchester United. Chosen for his ability to sustain a club after an impressive eleven-year spell at Everton, he’s certainly a safe pair of hands. But what has he actually won? The third-tier of English football with Preston North End and, as of last Sunday, the Community Shield is the answer to that question. And as for Manuel Pellegrini, the ex-Real Madrid boss now in charge of Manchester City, a couple of league titles in Mexico and Argentina as well as the Intertoto Cup with Villarreal are the extent of his silverware.

This is why every man and his dog seem to be tipping Mourinho and Chelsea to reclaim the Premier League crown this season. He is undoubtedly the best manager in the Premier League now that Sir Alex Ferguson has decided to hang up his hairdryer. The aforementioned trophy haul alone proves that; that’s without getting into his formidable tactical acumen, his feisty mind-games, and his incredible ability to get the absolute best out of his players.

But what about those players at his disposal? It is often argued that a good goalkeeper can provide a side with an extra ten points a season, but that logic is surely better applied to managers instead. They can make a difference, a very big one in fact; but there’s only so much they can do with the resources available to them, as David Moyes knows only too well. That is not to compare Chelsea to Everton but, last season, Chelsea finished third on 75 points. Having not really strengthened the squad a great deal this summer, there could be an argument, then, that the maximum amount of points Chelsea are realistically looking at this season is 85. Last season, that would have placed them second behind Manchester United. Only once since Arsenal went the entire season unbeaten in 2003/04 would 85 points have been enough to win the title – in a very sub-par season in 2010/11. It would surely not be enough this season given the continued strength of the Manchester clubs.

That is not to dismiss Chelsea’s chances entirely; they quite clearly could win the league. United, of course, aren’t likely to attain as many points this season because Sir Alex Ferguson has gone, and an inferior manager has replaced him. Meanwhile, no major signing has arrived, while the likes of Nemanja Vidic, Patrice Evra, and Rio Ferdinand have grown another year older. But what about Manchester City? Pellegrini’s trophy haul may pale in comparison to Mourinho’s, but the Chilean is a vastly experienced manager, having led Villarreal to the semi-finals of the Champions League in 2006, and Malaga within a minute of that exact same feat last season. He is, to put it frankly, a shrewder manager than Mancini, capable of exerting more out of the squad available to him, both domestically and in Europe. He will also bring some much-needed calm to a previously frenzied environment.

Furthermore, unlike Chelsea and United, City’s squad has been significantly added to. In the attacking areas, they have added some sorely lacked width and pace with the arrival of Jesus Navas, while essentially replacing the departed and somewhat troublesome duo of Carlos Tevez and Mario Balotelli with Stevan Jovetic and Alvaro Negredo. Providing the latter recovers from Luis Suarez’s alleged repeated ill-use of his name back in October 2011, this talented trio should help City improve on last season’s dismal lack of goals (only Everton scored less in the top seven), while another top-class central midfielder has finally arrived in the shape of (the admittedly over-priced) Fernandinho from Shakhtar to ensure City fans shouldn’t have to endure the plodding of Javi Garcia or Gareth Barry quite as often.

With the possible exception of centre-back, then, City’s squad contains at least two top players per position, giving them ridiculous strength in depth. And, while United’s first XI could do with an addition or two, they too have a very competitive squad, supremely accustomed to winning trophies through extensive rotation and self-discipline. Furthermore, while Moyes may lack experience at the elite level, he does have the small matter of having the best player in the league by some distance at his disposal. (That Anderson really is a cracking player, y’know.)

Chelsea arguably have the finest set of attacking midfielders in the league, with Andre Schurrle ready to combine with Eden Hazard where Duff and Robben left off circa 2007, but they appear to lack the strength in depth of the Manchester clubs. Moreover, the glaring issues of last season – central midfield and up-front – are yet to be addressed in this summer’s window; Kevin de Bruyne and Marco van Ginkel are unproven and more attacking midfielders by nature, while it remains to be seen how Romelu Lukaku will perform in a side generally expected to break the opposition down. Should United, as expected, address their own major issue by signing a top central midfielder, it could leave Mourinho with a task beyond even his managerial expertise, unless he can sign the world-class striker he publicly craves.

With three new managers set to go head-to-head(-to-head) for the Premier League title, this season could be a fascinating one compared to the damp squib of last. However, while Mourinho might be the happiest, most special manager in the league, both Moyes and, in particular, Pellegrini have inherited stronger squads to power through the finishing line. And, ultimately, that is what will probably matter most come May.

7 Responses

  1. Soba says:

    Yet, Mourinho’s side has advantage over the two, even though Schurrly, Van Ginkel and De Bruyne are said to be unproven, they are really proving themselves. In the striking department, Mourinho will address it sooner rather than later. My bet still on chelsea coming 2nd at worst comes May.

  2. Quint says:

    His three year stint at RM wasn’t so special!

  3. If United can strengthen their midfield I would have them as favourites,everyone seems to be discounting those 11 points they won by(it could have been more if United had’nt taken their foot off the peddle) and as for the change in managers,I love Sir Alex and everything he has done for the club but towards the end his decision making was not the best,one example is the REAL game when Nani got sent off,those vital minutes after the decision should have been used making the changes necessary to counter Mourinho,s changes(modric) instead he kicked off for ten minutes and it cost United the game,David Moyes would not have made that mistake and I think he will take United to another Level entirely and I am hopeful Chelsea at Home will prove this where we will see how Moyes counters Chelsea’s midfield,I would use Phill Jones in a defensive midfield role !!

  4. Guern says:

    Hi. I note, in your “biog” blurb, that you describe yourself as sane. So I’d just like to toss a question into the air here around the sanity, or not, of deciding who will win a League title with 36 games still to play. If, of course, this is something you deem entirely “sane”, perhaps you might also take a moment to look around you at the torrent of effluent which passes for football comment and ask yourself: do I really have anything of note to contribute here, or am I merely another vacuous arsehole spewing pointless diarrhoea into the digital realm? My fervent hope is that you see this comment as helpful and supportive. Find something useful to do. Take up woodwork. Learn to play a musical instrument. Believe me, better and more insightful writers than you have fuck all to contribute to the canon of sports journalism. There’s no shame in recognising, now, that you’re unlikely to say anything that someone else couldn’t say better (or indeed wouldn’t say at all on account of its crushing vapidity).

  5. bbgunJhevi says:

    Well written but i dont know how you calculated Chelsea will only reach a maximum of 85 points. A glaring problem we had last year was not quite finishing games off. That cost us roughly about 17points (not accurate) and so far for this season we have managed to held onto our leads. Last season with our lack of depth we eliminated manu from the carling cup and f.a cup …. Now we have a stronger squad then them as well my only concern is City and Spurs they boast the best midfield players this far

  6. Chelsea dont have a stronger squad than Man Utd,they are are totaly lacking in centre forwards and the defense is what?Terry is past it,Cole peaked about three years ago, Cech is ready to draw his pension Luiz cannot defend,what Mourinho is likely to do is play Essien as right back because one area they are strong is attacking midfield and they could spare him to bolster the defense,Chelsea and Mourinho will be found out this season !!!

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