Premier League 2016/17 Preview – Chelsea

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Antonio Conte was widely praised for his overachievement with a weak Italian side at Euro 2016. Image: Sky Sports

After last season’s horror show, Chelsea will be looking to strike back. They have recruited arguably the best manager at EURO 2016 in the form of Antonio Conte, and have seen Premier League champion N’Golo Kante and Marseille top scorer Michy Batshuayi join the club. Conte’s arrival will return Chelsea to a team that is hard to beat, whilst, if pre-season is anything to go by, they are looking devastating in attack, scoring 13 goals in their six games. The Blues’ lack of European football could be an advantage in the title race, especially given their aging defence. Kurt Zouma will be looking to establish himself as John Terry’s long term replacement at centre back after injury hampered him last year. Scoring goals was not a problem for Chelsea last year, and Batshuayi’s arrival as well as the very public courting of former striker Romelu Lukaku suggests that the Blues will ruthless in attack. Chelsea face a relatively easy Christmas fixture list, so could really stake their claim for the title heading in to the New Year.

Key Man: Eden Hazard. The Belgian was an invisible man for much of last season, creating just four goals all season. Having reached double figures for goals and assists in the two seasons before last, the attacking midfielder is one of the best in the world on his day, and will be crucial if Chelsea are going to bounce back in to title contention.

One to Watch: Nathaniel Chalobah. After struggling to break in to the Napoli side last season, it seems that Chalobah will be staying at Stamford Bridge this season. Although there is fierce competition for places in defensive midfield this season, his work rate and versatility could see him breakthrough in the style that Ruben Loftus-Cheek did last year.

Last Season: 10th 

Prediction: 1st  

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Premier League 2015/16 Preview – Chelsea

Swansea City v Chelsea - Premier LeagueChelsea cruised to the title last season, and it is difficult to see how they will not be able to defend it. Jose Mourinho as added shrewdly to his title-winning squad, with Falcao will hope to regain his form after a dismal season at Manchester United and Asmir Begovic has arrived to provide add competition to Thibaut Courtois. Eden Hazard was involved in 23 goals last season, whilst Cesc Fabregas topped the assists charts with 18. Mourinho’s side boasted the best defence in the league, and they are looking to strengthen by chasing John Stones, whilst Kurt Zouma will already be looking to challenge Gary Cahill for a place alongside John Terry. Falcao and Diego Costa don’t have the best injury records, so the Blues could be left short up front, whilst it remains to be seen whether John Terry will be able to lead the defence week-in, week-out. With both Manchester City and Arsenal in their first six fixtures, Chelsea can establish their dominance over their title rivals from an early stage.

Key Player: Eden Hazard

One to Watch: Ruben Loftus-Cheek

Prediction: 1st

Sentimental Chelsea blow title chance?

Deluded Chelsea fans have forced Roman Abramovich in to surrendering the league title and strip apart a successful team. Since Rafa Benitez was named interim boss last year, fans clamoured for the return of ‘the special one’, with this blinding them from what Benitez achieved.

Mourinho is returning to the Bridge after “[his] worst season as a manager”, where a feud with club captain and Real Madrid icon Iker Cassillas blew up in to a full scale players revolt against him. His touchline antics in Spain, such as poking Pep Guardiola in the eye, led to Andreas Iniesta claiming that “he damaged Spanish football”.

Although rows with the likes on John Terry and Frank Lampard seem unlikely, neither is guaranteed first team football, but nor will they be contempt with a place on the bench all season.

Another thing to look out for is the deconstruction of a potential world-beating side. Mourinho has reportedly told David Luiz, who his touted by many as a future Chelsea captain, that he “will be sold if he doesn’t stick to his role”. Then there is the system, a 4-2-3-1, including 2 hard-working wingers who he expects to track back. This system has already seen the demise of Joe Cole and Luca Modric, who’s careers stagnated under Mourinho. The same fate is likely to affect two out of Eden Hazard, Juan Mata and Oscar. This would rip apart what was looking one of the most fearsome attacks in the world.

One positive of Mourinho’s return though is that we are likely to see Romelu Lukaku playing regularly for Chelsea. Mourinho likes strikers in the ‘Drogba mould’, and Lukaku is essentially Drogba without the diving or petulance.  Although this has led to rumours that Fernando Torres is on his way out of Stamford Bridge, Demba Ba is surely the more likely option to be up for sale. Ba, although a decent Premier League striker who will score 15-20 goals a season, is not the calibre of player needed to challenge for the League and Champions League. Torres, however, showed with his form in last season’s Europa League that he is on the road to recovering his best form.

Torres’ form, as well as Chelsea’s Europa League win and solid 3rd place in the Premier League was down to the management of Rafa Benitez. Benitez’s squad management got the Blues through 69 games last seasons with relatively few mishaps. Chelsea would be in better stead for a title challenge with Benitez at the helm, but the fans’ sentiment forced him out.