First off, before I start this article, I would like to state on record, I do not think Chelsea WILL win the league this year. If it is a simple yes/no question, my answer is a no. If I was to bet my last fiver, it would go on no.
However, there is a small part of me that thinks if the new signings can have the impact we all hope, it may not be as unlikely as it may at first seem. This season, largely due to the disruptions thanks to COVID, may provide the perfect storm for someone to do something unexpected, and we are in as good a position as any to be that “someone”.
If we look at our competitors:
Liverpool have had two remarkable seasons, getting almost 100 points twice, and getting to two consecutive champions league finals. As painful as it has been to watch the media fawn over them, their consistency has been incredible. This cannot last. They say there is only one thing harder than winning a league, and that is defending it. Hunger invariably drops, along with the desire of every other team to beat the reigning champions. Looking at their squad, and their apparent lack of transfer business, I don’t think there is huge depth there, and one or two injuries in forward positions leaves them very exposed.
City have no such problems in that area, but are they going backwards under Pep? Since Kompany’s departure, they have looked weak at the back, and for me, Ake doesn’t solve those issues. David Silva and Sane have now departed, whilst Aguero seems evermore injury prone the older he gets. There is immense pressure on them to sustain a Champions League challenge, and might that cause a lack of focus occasionally in the league? We can but hope.
United, who obtained the same number of points as us last season have been hampered in their efforts to strengthen where needed. There is a weakness at the back, and a lack of depth in attack, similar to Liverpool. All in all, I don’t see the business they have done thus far as being enough to go from 66 points to champions in one go.
Moving on to Chelsea. There were clear issues at both ends last season. The final league table reveals a shocking number of goals against, whilst the failures in attack were also costly (possibly more so).
Home defeats to West Ham, Bournemouth and Southampton, yielded no goals for, which was shortly followed by a “dominant” if not toothless defeat at Newcastle. The goalkeeping and defensive issues were well documented, to the point that I believe they lost faith in each other, and the defensive performances were far weaker than the sum of its parts.
So what has been resolved? In attack it is quite clear. Since the end of 2018/19, out have gone Hazard, Willian, Pedro, Morata, Higuain; and now properly replaced with first Pulisic, then Werner, Ziyech, Havertz, along with the return from loan of Abraham, and the return to form of Giroud. If those options aren’t enough to solve the scoring issues, then I don’t know what is.
At the back, Chilwell has arrived, and will add so much needed pace to the left-hand side. Alonso has been, and continues to be a very good footballer, but who doesn’t get the yips when he plays and we’re up against a team with a fast right winger?
The key signing of the lot could be Thiago Silva on a free transfer. The whole team, and in particular the defence, lacked leadership and a know-how-to-win mentality at times last season. If his body can survive the rigours of premier league football at nearly 36, his experience could be invaluable, whilst we scour the market for a longer term solution.
In goal, it remains to be seen what will happen. If Edouard Mendy does arrive from Rennes, his 6”6 presence will hopefully add some much needed assistance defending crosses and set pieces, although I cannot confess to having seen much of him. I might be in the minority in that I retain some hope in their being a player in Kepa somewhere too. You don’t get to be a Spanish keeper without ability, and his first season under Sarri was vastly superior to the one we have just witnessed.
There are lots of “ifs” but if our forward players are as good as we hope, and the defence can add some steel and resolution to our back line, there is no reason why we shouldn’t aim for 80+ points this season. What the final figure ends up as, and of course, what our competitors achieve as well, will determine how far that points return will get us. Whatever happens, I think we are in for a fun ride.
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