After Strengthening in Transfer Market, Chelsea May Be Premier League Favorites

Janusz Michallik@@JanuszESPNFeatured ColumnistJuly 21, 2014

Chelsea's manager Jose Mourinho gestures to his team from the technical area during the Champions League semifinal second leg soccer match between Chelsea and Atletico Madrid at Stamford Bridge stadium in London, Wednesday, April 30, 2014. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
Matt Dunham/Associated Press

Chelsea came close to winning the Premier League last season, and frankly the Blues were not far from having a chance at taking the Champions League as well. Manager Jose Mourinho may have talked himself and the team out of the possibility, constantly pointing out that the team is not ready and short of the quality necessary to do that just yet.

He may have been right in his assessment, but I still wondered why he would be so cautious while possessing a very capable team, perhaps short of that lethal striker. Even though his views turned out to be correct, many viewed his statements as an excuse. In turn, he made sure to remind everyone that his next season will be the one in which Chelsea were going for trophies.

As the transfer window stands right now, for me Chelsea are the favorites to win the Premier League. You have to suspect that others will still make significant additions to their squads, and as always, the race at the top will be tight, but Mourinho has done everything possible to make this team better and able to fight for trophies on all fronts.

Filipe Luis, right, will be a strong addition for Chelsea, says Janusz Michallik.
Filipe Luis, right, will be a strong addition for Chelsea, says Janusz Michallik.Andres Kudacki/Associated Press

If you viewed last season's Chelsea as very good, what the Blues are doing this offseason is frightening. Having already bought Filipe Luis, Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas—and with the transfer window far from over yet—one look at the squad tells you that Chelsea are already equipped to deal with any and all competitions, while having flexibility to play just about any system home and away in the Premier League as well as any style of play when it comes to Europe.

Strength, power and pace are there for all to see, and playing from the front foot or being well organized and playing the counter are just a few options given the talent at hand.

What is most impressive about Mourinho is that he has addressed his squad's needs first and very quickly. In Luis, he has arguably the best left full-back out there. Yes, the one that would have made every World Cup team but his own. Scolari chose Marcelo and Maxwell, which perhaps paints a bigger picture about what happened to Brazil and why.

Luis, Cesar Azpilicueta and Branislav Ivanovic give Chelsea incredible depth in the full-back position while allowing Ivanovic to slide over to center-back if John Terry or Gary Cahill are not available. The Blues would have no problems in the back, then, if you consider that Mourinho still has quality in some youngsters like Nathaniel Chalobah centrally and Todd Kane and Kurt Zouma at right-back, as well as Ryan Bertrand at left-back if he chooses to retain some for depth. There is more quality than needed in that back line.

Nemanja Matic stepped into his holding role in January as if he had played in the Premier League for years, and he'll be a strong point in the midfield again. There remains a question over who will be next to him, with Ramires not always reliable and Frank Lampard departed. Whatever formation Mou chooses, the flexibility becomes even more apparent.

Fabregas gives Chelsea that little extra creativity and passing ability that Oscar may have been missing, and between the two, you now have not only experience, but in the case of Fabregas, a proven Premier League commodity in terms of scoring. 

Willian has the capacity to play wide and also has been used more centrally to great effect in tough away games, especially in Europe. That comes in handy when Mourinho feels that he has to overload and shut down the opposition's midfield. Willian has been outstanding and under-appreciated in a number of games when he was called upon to play that role.

Cesc Fabregas, left, has Premier League experience and will give Chelsea an extra element of creativity.
Cesc Fabregas, left, has Premier League experience and will give Chelsea an extra element of creativity.Manu Fernandez/Associated Press

Eden Hazard did not have an outstanding season in general for club or country, but his talent is unquestionable, and with extra competition he will have to be at his best to keep himself in the starting XI automatically. Oscar, for that matter, has no guarantees as well.

The competition will come from Andre Schurrle, as I think he will be like a new signing. I always felt that Mourinho did not use him often enough last season, and if the World Cup is any indication, Schurrle is ready to claim his spot at Chelsea. Playing wide or centrally if needed should not be an issue for him, and again, it shows the theme of flexibility Mourinho possesses for domestic and European competitions.

Mohamed Salah gives you pace on the break, and I would not be shocked to see Christian Atsu sticking around if he has a good preseason. The Ghanaian has pace, creativity, ability to take on defenders and a decent cross if he keeps his game simple and buys into the defensive responsibilities required by Mou. It may be a long shot, but I would keep him and work with him. The potential is there.

Diego Costa solves the problem of a strong target man who is a consistent goalscorer. He will have to prove that in England, of course, and even though he had a horrible World Cup experience with Spain, let's not forget that he limped into the tournament not even close to being 100 percent.

This is still an area in which Chelsea will have to improve, and getting another proven goalscorer is a must. Questions about Romelu Lukaku's status remain, but for me it is time for him to take the challenge on and win a place at Chelsea for himself.

There are suggestions, of course, that Lukaku feels that he deserves some guarantee, as he has proven himself elsewhere. He does not deserve thatnobody does. If he is good enough, I am sure Mourinho will give him that opportunity.

Fernando Torres will be capable of contributing, but I can’t imagine he has Mourinho’s full trust in terms of his consistency. He gives a good enough work rate and enough goals to be considered a third striker at this stage of his career.

Oh, I almost forgot the goalkeepers. In Petr Cech, the Blues already have one of best in the world. But in Thibaut Courtois, they will also have a 22-year-old who has won La Liga, the Europa League and the Copa del Rey with Atletico Madrid, while also reaching the Champions League final last season. If Cech stays and is not tempted to look elsewhere, Chelsea are set there.

In the end, Mourinho has a squad of established, experienced professionals that, on paper, have no need to be afraid of anyone. This is a team capable of playing with style, as well as one that can grind it out during the festive season and at some difficult away grounds.

Looking at the early schedule, they should be able to set a nice tempo and build momentum, which for me is always important. What Mourinho does have is a pressure to win that he has indirectly put on himself. He will be used to that.


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