English Premier League 2014-2015 Season Preview: Chelsea
A whisker away from three trophies last season, Chelsea ended up with nothing. It lost the UEFA Super Cup final, lost at home to Atlético Madrid in the Champions League semifinals and couldn’t muster more than a scoreless draw against Norwich on the second-last day of the season to erase hopes of a Premier League title. A comeback victory at Cardiff on the final day at least secured third place and automatic passage into the Champions League group stage this year.
It’s hard to say that being that close to multiple trophies constitutes a disappointing season, but that’s certainly how it feels for Chelsea. More than losing, it’s the way in which the team lost that might be more concerning.
More than ever, José Mourinho is putting his faith in defensive tactics and an ability to squash all life out of the opponent before winning on a counterattack or a set piece. The fact that he keeps pulling it off is a testament to Mourinho’s ability as a manager, but the hope is that his strategy last year was a result of his personnel.
Now, with the undeniably attack-minded transfers of Diego Costa, Filipe Luís and Cesc Fàbregas, Chelsea might return to a more proactive style. After coming so close by playing in a manner that suggests Mourinho felt his team was the underdog in the fight, that argument will be more difficult to make in 2014-15.
KEY ARRIVALS: GK Thibaut Courtois (from Atlético Madrid), F Diego Costa (from Atlético Madrid), F Didier Drogba (from Galatasaray), M Cesc Fàbregas (from Barcelona), D Filipe Luís (from Atlético Madrid)
KEY DEPARTURES: F Demba Ba (to Beșiktaș), D Ashley Cole (to Roma), F Samuel Eto’o (released), M Frank Lampard (to New York City FC), D David Luiz (to PSG), F Romelu Lukaku (to Everton)
PLAYER TO WATCH: Seemingly an easy fit into a lineup that lacked a dangerous playmaker for much of last year, Cesc Fàbregas makes his return to the Premier League, where he starred with Arsenal prior to three seasons at Barcelona.
KEY STAT: Last year was the first in four seasons in which Chelsea finished without winning any competition. The last time Chelsea went four years between trophies was at the end of Mourinho’s first spell as manager. However, 82 points in Premier League play last season was the club’s highest total since 2009-10.
STADIUM: Stamford Bridge (Built in 1876; Capacity 41,798)
An Archibald Leitch-designed stadium took over the original grounds in the early 1900s, proposed for use by Fulham. That club turned down the chance to move in and then the new Chelsea FC had its home, now tucked into a “village” full of hotels, eating establishments and more.