At long last, the phoney war is over. Let’s get on with the real business.
The new Premier League season gets underway on Saturday and those expected to challenge for the title have completed their pre-season preparations, if not quite all of their transfer dealings.
Ahead of the big kick-off, here is a look at what Chelsea have done this preseason.
What’s gone right?
Antonio Conte has certainly hit the ground running at Stamford Bridge, bringing his formidable work ethic and strict discipline into the role to whip his Chelsea squad into shape in a bid to return them to the top of the table. The Italian, who cracked straight on with the task-at-hand after leading his country at the European Championship, admitted he needed throat lozenges because he’d been shouting too much in training. Already, Chelsea are looking back like their old selves, though it wouldn’t be too hard to improve on last season’s misery.
What needs work?
While Conte has managed to get big-money deals for striker Michy Batshuayi (£33m) and N’Golo Kante (£32m) over the line, there is a sense that Chelsea’s transfer business isn’t yet complete. They continue to chase another forward and, by comparison with the Manchester teams, they just don’t look as prepared just one week out from the season.
Pretty good on the whole. An early defeat to Rapid Vienna was followed by a stroll against RZ Pellets and a 1-0 win over Liverpool in a fiery tour match out in California. They were blitzed by Real Madrid in Michigan before rallying to lose 3-2. But wins against Milan and Werder Bremen have ended pre-season on a high and they open next Monday evening at home to West Ham.
Just Batshuayi and Kante through the door so far, but both are certainly eye-catching signings that will enhance the team. Chelsea continue to chase their old boy Romelu Lukaku, but even an offer of £60m plus Loic Remy might not be sufficient to overcome Everton’s stubbornness. Chelsea also retain an interest in Kalidou Koulibaly, the Napoli defender.
Having performed a U-turn to decide to stay at Chelsea, Eden Hazard has shown good sharpness ahead of the new campaign, scoring a number of goals and creating other chances. Kante has also demonstrated his amazing capability to control a midfield battle and shield a defence, offering Chelsea a control in midfield they lacked last season.
July 16 – 0-2 v Rapid Vienna
July 20 – 3-0 v Pellets WAC
July 28 – 1-0 v Liverpool
July 30 – 2-3 v Real Madrid
August 4 – 3-1 v AC Milan
August 7 – 4-2 v Werder Bremen