Despite the excitement that surrounded Stanford Bridge at the Special One’s second coming, Jose Mourinho insisted throughout the season that his Chelsea side does not possess the firepower up front to challenge for the title.
It was unlike Mourinho as he likes to talk up his sides and backs his player in public, often creating a siege-mentality, but in the end his words proved to be a self-fulfilling prophecy as Chelsea ultimately finished third.
Chelsea were able to negotiate a £40 million price tag for third choice centre-back and Mourinho used that money to sign Diego Costa for a £32 million fee.
After signing a striker that scored 36 times last season, Mourinho can no longer rely on his oft-repeated excuse of lacking a world-class striker, especially considering that the striker’s Spanish compatriot Cesc Fabregas was also signed from Barcelona for £30 million to compliment the battering ram of a striker.
The Blues boasted an enviable record against fellow title-contenders last season, winning five and drawing one out of the six matches played against them, but often came undone against weaker opponents that defended deep and set out to frustrate them as they failed to beat six sides from the bottom 10.
With players like Fabregas, Eden Hazard, Willian and Oscar to carve out chances for Costa, Chelsea must be much more ruthless this time around.
Chelsea’s third major signing was of Felipe Luis, who joins following the departure of Ashley Cole. The £20 million price tag for a 29-year-old left back has raised several eyebrows, but Luis brings experience and a winning mentality with him.
The Brazilian is the third player to join from the Atletico Madrid side that knocked out Chelsea in the Champions League last year, with Thibaut Courtois being recalled to provide competition to – and maybe replace – Petr Cech.
Didier Drogba also makes an emotional return to the Bridge on a one-year contract and while he may not enjoy the same game time that he did during his first stint, his presence will be invaluable as the departures of Cole and Frank Lampard have shorn Chelsea of experience.
As usual, the list of Chelsea departures is inflated by the number of players sent on loan — 12 so far and almost certain to increase.
By selling the promising but disillusioned Romelu Lukaku for £32 million and the misfiring Demba Ba for £8 million, Chelsea have managed to considerably improve their squad without having a drastic net expenditure.
A poor World Cup for Chelsea’s star
While Mourinho’s decision to sign Costa before the World Cup seemed like a brilliant strategy before the tournament, it may have been better had he waited as Costa endured a horrible World Cup.
Interestingly, few Chelsea players covered themselves in glory in the World Cup, barring André Schürrle who provided telling contributions in several occasions, including the World Cup winning assist.
Brazil’s Ramires, Oscar and Willian seemed devoid of ideas throughout the tournament and César Azpilicueta, Fernando Torres, Costa and Fabregas endured a disastrous campaign with Spain. Hazard was also unable to provide a spark for the Belgians as he so often does for Chelsea.
All these players are sure to be an integral part of Mourinho’s side next season and it will be interesting to see if they carry any psychological baggage of the failed tournament with them into the start of the season. But if there is one man who can bring out their best after the disappointment, then it is the Portuguese.
Mourinho’s hunger will be at an all-time high after failing to win any trophy for the past two years. He has signed the players that he desires and he will be focused firmly on winning his third Premier League title.
After getting rid of fan favourites Juan Mata and David Luiz, this Chelsea side has a very distinct Mourinho feel to it.
Loved at the Bridge despite never winning over neutrals with his defensive style, the Portuguese cannot afford another barren season. However, as things stand, he and his men are title favourites.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 11th, 2014.
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