It has been another interesting pre-season at Stamford Bridge, with Chelsea’s seemingly pursuit of almost every big name start in the world making daily headlines. Chelsea came so close to winning the treble last year that you would think that they only need to slightly tweak the existing team. But that is not the Abramovich way and Chelsea are once again tearing down and rebuilding for another campaign.
The changes this season start at the top with Luiz Felipe Scolari coming in as the new coach. Scolari comes in with an impressive track record, but the jury is out on whether his teams can produce the Beautiful Game and win as often as José Mourinho did. Scolari has promised a clear-out of up to ten players over the next six weeks so the Chelsea line-up will look very different than it is today.
Chelsea’s success the last three years has been built on strength at the back. When fit the partnership of John Terry and Ricardo Carvalho are as good as anyone in football. The problem is that they keep getting injured, especially Terry which causes problems as Alex and Ben-Haim have not shown that they are up to the challenge when called on to fill in for Terry or Carvalho
Petr Cech was the best goalkeeper in the world prior to his head injury at Reading. He has not been the same goalkeeper since and is prone to making mistakes in big games (see Arsenal and Europe 2008). If Chelsea are going to play a more attacking style of play this season then Czech needs to be at his best. If he is not, then Chelsea will leak a lot more goals this season than they are used too.
Chelsea’s midfield looks a little crowded and I am sure will be thinned out in the coming weeks. Deco came in, but it looks like Frank Lampard will leave. That is not an even swap for Chelsea. Lampard is good for 20 goals a season which is an amazing number for a midfield player and he will be sorely missed. Michael Ballack at the end of last season looks like he was back to his best form but he is going into the final year of his contract and you wonder how that will impact his play.
Joe Cole should shine under Scolari on the left side of midfield, but what Chelsea needs is a good right winger. Chelsea were at their best when Cole and Robben were terrorizing teams up and down the flanks and Scolari needs to find a quality right sided midfield player.
In order to switch to the beautiful game Chelsea needs players with flair, who can turn a game around with one piece of magic. Chelsea has gone for more pragmatic players in the past and they need to buy players like Marcelo, Lulinha, Guardado, Quaresma, Dos Santos, Modric, and Arshavin who can all generate the creativity and excitement that Chelsea desperately needs.
Up front Chelsea currently have Drogba and Anelka, with Drogba looking to leave. Drogba is a very difficult player to replace and when he is into the game he is the best center forward in England. Chelsea are rumored to be looking to replace him with Barcelona star Samuel Eto’o. Like the Deco for Lampard switch, Drogba for Eto’o is step backwards for Chelsea. Drogba’s strength makes him perfect for the English game while I think that Eto’o will struggle in the more physical, colder English game,
It will be an interesting six weeks until the transfer window closes for Chelsea fans. I expect that 8-10 players from last years squad will leave and that Abramovich will splurge on a couple of superstars. Money can often turn any difficult situation around and the arrival at Stamford Bridge of Kaka, Robinho and Arshavin would fix any the perceived weaknesses that Chelsea have.
Scolari is is under immense pressure to replicate Manchester United’s treble winning season of 1999 and who comes in during this transfer window will go a long way to determining whether Scolari is successful.