With only 20 days until the start of the Barclays Premier Season 2012/13,what can we expect from the Champions of Europe. A new era for the club?
"He's done it! The greatest night in the history of Chelsea Football Club! European Champions"
It only seems like yesterday that Didier Drogba took those two infamous steps in 'that' game. I was there. My 46th game of a long and tiring season following Chelsea over land and sea (and Leicester!) But that moment when he struck the ball, sending Neueur the wrong way, I will never forget that noise from our end of the ground. I've seen the YouTube video
of a Bayern fan filming the shootout behind the goal so many times I dare not disclose the figure. That single kick from 'Le Drog' not only made us the Kings of Europe but it made us the Kings of transfers. Not winning the Champions League would have meant we wouldn't have got Eden Hazard or Oscar and more importantly no Champions League this year with our bitter rivals Tottenham Hotspur retaining their place in the Champions League qualifying stage. That night still hasn't sunk in. It won't until we play Brighton in a pre-season friendly on 4th August where 4,000 Chelsea fans (including myself) will take to the Amex Stadium with the ' Champions of Europe' chant ringing along the South Coast of England. There will be new faces as I have mentioned before and there will be some who have moved on to new pastures, but the club moves on as does every club with players coming and going.
The team arrived back early Sunday afternoon from their US Tour with mixed results. A good start against the Seattle Sounders, who are in mid-season, winning 4-2. A tense affair in New York against PSG which was a game of two half with Chelsea opening up more in the 2nd half resulting in Lucas Piazon scoring his first senior goal late on. In Philadelphia against the MSL All-Stars, a last minute deflected winner from Eddie Johnson ended Chelsea's unbeaten record with some very suspect defending and lack of cutting edge upfront. The final match of the tour ended in Miami where an understrength AC Milan playing on the counter attack won 1-0. So overall, a poor tour results wise, however, a pre-season does not determine your season ahead. Only last year, we won 7 out 7 under the very opinionated AVB and look at what has happened since. The stand out player of the tour was Eden Hazard. A player who is willing to take on players with his trickery with a burst of pace but intelligent enough to know when to pass when needed. Marko Marin was another who impressed me with his directness and raw pace. The only worry with Marin is that he is very right-footed and can therefore easy for defenders simply to show him down the side (usually the left side where he predominantly plays). If he were to work on maybe getting to the barline and using his left foot from time to time, it would make the defender worry about which way he was heading. The players are now off until Wednesday to recouperate from the travelling and matches but will be back in training to work more on tactics particularly with Torres linking up with Marin and Hazard.
So what next?
Well as you may have seen Spain crashed out of the Olympics at the group stage after losing 1-0 to Honduras meaning both Mata and Romeu will be back earlier than planned with Mata starting a well deserved 2 weeks holiday after featuring in the summer for the full national squad in Euro 2012. Romeu will be back in at Cobham this week to start the new season having already had his summer off. The only official Chelsea player still on Olympic duty is the new boy ,Oscar, scoring a cracking goal against Belarus yesterday to round off an impress start to the Games. Rumours of Cesar Azpilicueta of Marseille joining seem to be gathering pace with Marseille wanting £10m and Chelsea only offering £6m, so a comprise of £8m will no doubt be agreed in the coming days. Chief executive, Ron Gourlay, has been reported to have said that, ''if the right players become available at the right time we will sign them. We've done that and are continuing to look at one or two positions and we will see how that develops over the next couple of weeks". This is a clear statement of intend to strengthen not only the squad but the team. So what other position and more importantly who is this other player Gourlay is speaking of assuming Azpilicueta is all but a Chelsea player? Another Forward? A Centre Midfielder? Many questions but little or no 'real' evidence as to who this mystery player is! If this new player were a forward I would prefer to give Daniel Sturridge a go as Torres's back up as he feels he is better centrally than playing a a wide player. His goal last night against the UAE showed that he has the technical ability but simply lacks the discipline and maturity unless he changes his attitude. He wants a shot centrally, well here's his chance to impress us. If this new addition were to be Hulk, it would mean he would play as RW predominantly but if Torres were to get injured/suspended, he could step in as his replacement and therefore has that ability to play in two positions which maybe important considering we could be playing up to 70 games this season challenging for 7 Cups.
Another player who has interested me for a while has been Axel Witsel. The Belgian (we love our Belgians at Chelsea) is reportedly close to joining Real Madrid. A move I and other Belgian football experts find very hard to believe as Madrid would not completely overhaul their midfield of Khedira and Alonso especially after their La Liga title and reaching the Sem-Final in the Champions League. Modric to Madrid seems a done deal meaning Witsel is open to moving to a bigger club. His perfomances for Benfica against Manchester United and Chelsea were noted by both clubs. The sticking point may well be the transfer fee reported. A staggering €40m for a player sold to Benfica last summer for €10m. I highly doubt the fee discussed will be €40m but closer to €25-30m mark. This would be my XI with their understudies (21 players in total plus Meireles, Ferreira, Hilario, Romeu and Hutchinson in the squad). Players like McEachran need to go out on loan where he will play week in week out. Lukaku is the same plus he need to drastically improve his first touch and awareness inorder to deal with the Premier League and should stay in the Premier League inorder to get first hand experience. Kakuta in my eyes has one last chance to show us what he can add by going on loan to a big club and playing every game otherwise he maybe shown the door. Kevin De Bruyne has shown us in glimpses for Genk and on the US Tour what we can expect from him in the next few years but the club feel he needs to play away from Stamford Bridge for a season or two in a stronger league like the Bundesliga at Werder Bremen to develop his game. So after much deliberation, this is my final squad for the season ahead:
With Hilario, Hutchinson, Meireles, Ferreira, Romeu with Piazon and Blackman switching between the first squad and youth/reserve team.
So what can we expect from Chelsea Football Club this season?
Something new, a past paced attack and more interesting football to watch. But only time will tell wether this style of football will actually happen as it is one thing on paper and other implementing on the pitch. I would regard a successful as challenging for the Premier League and therefore guaranteeing a spot in the Champions League for the following season, getting to the 1/2 finals of the Champions League considering teams like Real Madrid, PSG and Manchester City particularly the latter two considering the investments into the clubs and winning either the F.A Cup or League Cup. This promises to be a season full of drama, goals and moments to remember.