Soccer Magazine

2011/12 Premier League In-depth Season Preview: Chelsea

By Thetoaststaff
Tweet2011/12 Premier League In-depth Season Preview: Chelsea

ChelseaLast Season: 2nd
Since the start of the 2011 calendar year, big changes were expected at Chelsea. January 31st brought expensive superstars David Luiz and Fernando Torres, while the summer market displayed a different tone. Ever since Jose Mourinho left Stamford Bridge in 2007, tycoon Roman Abramovich has terminated four different managers in search for the next “Special One,” but with Andre Villas-Boas at the helm, it appears he may have found the second coming.Villas-Boas, 33, followed Mourinho from FC Porto to Chelsea and on to Internazionale before splitting for the manager role back at Porto in June 2010. In just one year’s time, he captured the Portuguese Supercup, the Portuguese Primeira Liga, the UEFA Europa League, and the Portuguese Cup before leaving in favor of Chelsea.
Unlike Mourinho who like to use a 4-4-2 formation to win heavy possession and play the ball between the backs until finding good opportunities, Villas-Boas is known for pushing the attack with a 4-3-3, which in turn may lead to more goals both for and against the Blues.
Contrasting from the January transfer market, rather than attempting to outspend every club, Chelsea has taken a step back and found solid players for reasonable prices. The off-season brought in three players under 20 in midfielder Oriol Romeu from Barcelona, forward Romelu Lukaku from Anderlecht, and keeper Thibaut Courtois from Genk. Although Courtois has been loaned to Atletico Madrid, Lukaku and Romeu will receive playing time at the top level.
Yuri Zhirkov was the only significant loss when considering his ability to play balls into the box from the left side and replace Ashley Cole if injured at left back.
Among the back four, Chelsea may have one of the best duos in the league in John Terry and Luiz. Cole will return on the left with Branislav Ivanovic and Jose Bosingwa alternating to their right. Both Slobodan Rajkovic and Patrick Van Aanholt are names to watch for potential breakouts if they receive time this season, which relies upon the health of the back line. If either appears to be capable, Alex may be on his way out in favor of a younger choice.
Chelsea fans have been accustomed to starting one of the best midfields in the Premiership for years, but it appears they’ve taken a step back for this season. Frank Lampard is the only certainty to start, with Yossi Benayoun, Gael Kakuta, Florent Malouda, Joshua McEachran, John Mike Obi, Ramires, and Romeu will figure into the mix. While there may appear to be quite a few names, they’ve demonstrated little ability to control the pitch with creativity and speed. Michael Essien won’t be available for selection for a few months’ time after suffering another knee injury this season, but figures to play as soon as he returns.
Up top, Chelsea has six capable forwards, likely forcing at least one to leave in January. Between Nicolas Anelka, Didier Drogba, Salomon Kalou, Daniel Sturridge, Fernando Torres, and Lukaku, it’s going to be a constant struggle for playing time. After coming to Chelsea in 2006, Kalou has most often appeared as a sub, but has shown the ability to start at other significant clubs around the world. It would surprise few if he left in January for greener pastures.
Much will be made of the chemistry of this team early on due to Villas-Boas young age and lack of playing credentials, as speculated in the British media. It’s no secret that Nicolas Anelka may become unhappy in a jiffy if he isn’t provided with proper playing time, and considering the other forwards available, it may very well be the case.
With three weeks left in the August transfer market, whispers of 25-year-old Luka Modric, an attacking midfielder from Tottenham, coming to Chelsea appear to be growing stronger. Modric would figure into the starting IX right away, but will come at a steep price.
It appears that Chelsea is set to make another run at all of the hardware this season, but with questions surrounding the creativity and experience of the midfield, they will enter the season as second favorites to Manchester United. Expect Chelsea to make a strong run in the Champions League, but unless they are able to add a world class midfield talent, their chances to make the final remain questionable.
The starting XI figures to be something like: Cech – Cole – Terry – Luiz – Ivanovic – Lampard – Mikel – Ramires – Torres – Drogba – Anelka

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog