The defending champions of the 2010/11 Premier League trophy have had somewhat of a quiet summer, a growing trend over their last two transfer periods. Carlo Ancelotti has instilled a great balance in the side since taking over as manager, and will no doubt be aiming to emulate last season’s great success in the league.
Chelsea were nothing short of formidable last season. Attacking wise, they were probably one of the best in Europe – scoring and creating goals with comfortable ease as Didier Drogba, Florent Malouda and Frank Lampard all found their shooting boots from an early period.
Their home form was superb, as always, while when playing away the had a distinct nature of not losing. This is of course the form of true champions, but can the emulate last season’s historic league and cup double? The new home-grown rulings mean Chelsea may have to call upon one or two youth player to fill the quota, which could possibly lead to exclusions in other areas.
The biggest “new signing”, if you will, is the return of Michael Essien to the site. Fit and firing, the Ghana captain is undoubtedly one of the best midfielders in the world, and it’s hard to fathom that Chelsea did what they did last season even with this man on the treatment table. His return is huge for Ancelotti and his Chelsea side, if he can stay fit all season Chelsea will be aiming for more than one piece of silverware.
Last Season: Champions
Manager: Carlo Ancelotti
Ins: Yossi Benayoun (undisclosed from Liverpool), Tomas Kalas (£5million from Sigma Olomouc), Matej Delac (Inter Zapresic, £2.7m).
Outs: Michael Ballack (free to Bayer Leverkusen), Joe Cole and Juliano Belletti (released), Miroslav Stoch (undisc to Fenerbahce), Rhys Taylor (loan to Crewe), Tomas Kalas (loan to Sigma Olomouc).
Chelsea have had a few ins and outs, but the squad isn’t any stronger or weaker than what finished the season. The release of Joe Cole, who later joined Liverpool, was subsequently replaced by Yossi Benayoun who joins for about £5million from Liverpool.
The other players to arrive at the Bridge will not have much of an effect on the senior squad. Tomas Kalas, from Sigma Olomouc, has been loaned straight back while Matej Delac will be involved in the youth setup.
Chelsea have said goodbye to Michael Ballack, who’s contract came to an end. The former German captain joins Bayer Leverkusen. Also leaving is Belletti, who returns to his home country.
Young midfielder Mirolsav Stoch, who played with Slovakia at the World Cup, has joined Fenerbache.
Tactics: Things haven’t changed much in the Chelsea starting eleven over the last season or so, but the side is bolstered with the return of the injured Michael Essien in the midfield. The Ghana powerhouse played in a similar system to the one illustrated on the right at the beginning of last season – with Frank Lampard in an advanced position and the very good John Obi Mikel holding. This lopsided diamond has been somewhat of a key to success, and Ancelotti has done masterfully pairing Anelka and Drogba in the same team. Both full backs add plenty of attacking thrust, however if rumours that Ashley Cole could be off are true then Chelsea may put Yuri Zhirkov in the role.
Key Player: Who to pick? You could take any of a number of players; Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard, John Terry, or a fit Michael Essien. They each add their own qualities to the squad, and it’s the mixture of this spine that has seen Chelsea become so strong.
Fixtures: Chelsea kick-off the season at home to West Brom, before visiting Wigan before another away tie against Tottenham. It’s then another away game, this time against West Ham before hosting Blackpool at the Bridge.
First five fixtures: West Brom (H), Wigan (A), Tottenham (A), West Ham (A), Blackpool (H)
Where will they finish? Chelsea will have another strong season. The squad is virtually unchanged, and the look like they are about to add more players. However with my prediction of Arsenal to win the league, someone must fall shy and that is Chelsea. 2nd