After a return to the summit of the Premier League and retaining their FA cup, Chelsea enjoyed a successful season. The bitter sting of being Mourinho’d out of the Champions league was quelled as Chelsea put that set-back behind and pressed their advantage home for the Premier League trophy. All of this made me select Carlo Ancelotti as my Manager of the Year but it will be the year coming that will define his Chelsea tenure. If their success this year was a consequence of staying steady as others took steps backwards the onus is now on Chelsea to move on from under Mourinho’s shadow and Ancelotti to form a squad all of his own.
· Drogba was in Imperious form throughout the season his Top Goalscorer award coming even with a month and a half at the ACN
· If Chelsea were good this year, imagine just how much better they would have been if Essien and Bosingwa had avoided injury
· Frank Lampard cannot play as well at the tip of a diamond as he can when running from deep, granted this didn’t work too well in the world-cup, ghost goals aside.
Goalkeepers: Chelsea lost one game this year based on the performance of their Goalkeepers. The shambolic display of Hilario against Manchester City has confirmed his Exit. Ross Turnbull was brought in to complete Chelsea’s contingent of Home-Grown players without sacrificing a European Squad spot in another position. However he played well when called upon and could do nothing about Samuel Eto’o’s goal at the bridge. Chelsea fans should be happy with the return to form of Petr Cech, the once unbeatable Goalkeeper had suffered a crisis in confidence after his clash with Stephen Hunt but appears to be back in form. As such Chelsea have no reason to pursue a Goalkeeper.
Defenders: The progress made by Alex and Ivanovic would be the story of Chelsea’s defence. Whilst not as rock solid as before (having conceded more than United) Chelsea only have very slight concerns heading into the summer. John Terry’s season came under serious scrutiny and whilst his form waivered it was not as bad as many made out. In truth Terry had a steady season and developed his partnership with Alex very well. In the summer Chelsea again need not make many changes in defence, Ricardo Carvalho may yet leave the club but he could be replaced by either Michael Mancienne or Jeffrey Bruma who are returning from very impressive loan spells. With cover at every position defence is not a priority for Ancelotti.
Midfield: After abandoning the so-called diamond a few games into the season, Ancelotti had to revert to Chelsea’s patented 3 central midfielders with 2 wingers. Chelsea rotated their midfield fairly regularly, Lampard had another excellent season but excellence has become routine for him in every shirt bar an England one. Worryingly beyond the great work of Florent Malouda Chelsea were not dominant in Midfield. Jon Obi Mikel has not performed to potential and has certainly not made the holding position his own, however he will still be given time to prove himself further as he was a placeholder for Michael Essien. Joe Cole’s departure and Gael Kakuta is still not ready to be involved in the midfield rotation and as such Chelsea may need to strengthen in midfield. Without a young Attacking Midfielder coming through the ranks Marek Hamsik would be an ideal signing for Chelsea. The young Slovak has shown goal-scoring ability in Serie A for Napoli and has only 2 years left to run on his current contract so Napoli cannot hold him for Ransom. Another name touted around Europe is that of Mesut Özil, the young German showed true star quality at the world cup and would relish playing “between the lines” at Chelsea. The signing of Yossi Benayoun was a straight swap for that of Joe Cole. A winger who can play across the front he provides versatility with some skill and if he can raise his morale after a sapping time at Liverpool he could prove to be a snip.
Forwards: Didier Drogba is coming off a career season and Nicolas Anelka has extended his stay so Chelsea have little to worry about up front coming into the new season. However the seasons beyond pose a problem, Franco Di Santo was decidedly unimpressive in his spell at Blackburn and Fabio Borini did not show the kind of form that would lead you to believe he is a star in the making though they may just need another full-season of first-team football to prove their worth. Salomon Kalou started to show both form and confidence at the tail end of the season. Regardless of popular opinion Chelsea are no longer just an Oligarch’s toy, they are a fully functioning football factory. The papers may wish that Chelsea will spend big on a forward but the only conceivable move they could make is for Alexandre Pato. His stock is at its lowest for years and after the departure of his mentor Leonardo he may wish to be reunited with Carlo.
I had expected Miroslav Stoch to feature this year for Chelsea but his transfer to Fenerbache indicates that Carlo and the board feel that the squad can cope with this season and seasons to come. As such Chelsea don’t need more than one big signing this summer as the return of Michael Essien and Jose Bosingwa will feel like big-name signings.