Even a rudimentary football fan would know how vitally important strength in depth is when it comes to winning a football title. Liverpool came excruciatingly close last season but eventually succumbed to Manchester City who almost played with two teams throughout the season; Mancini during his time at City frequently stated how he wished to have 2 satisfactory players per position.
Manchester City has certainly been restricted this transfer window due to the FFP ban, however, with a few smart signings and retaining their current assets City’s strength in depth looks incredible for the upcoming season. It’s certainly plausible that City could alternate between two completely different line ups and still be able to dispose of the majority of teams in the Premier League. They now have satisfactory cover for every position on the pitch; Caballero was brought in to rival Hart’s #1 jersey, Sagna to cover Zabaleta & Fernando for further cover in centre midfield. The addition of Frank Lampard may also prove essential during the Champions League campaign.
Manchester City was crowned Premier League champions last year scoring an incredible 103 goals, Liverpool were a close 2nd with 102 goals scored. Both City’s full-backs contributed massively with their overlapping runs and dangerous crosses, and Kolarov managed to rack up 7 assists whilst Zabaleta managed 6. It’s a modern aspect to the game that all top teams seem to have incorporated, just look at Germany at the World Cup. Nevertheless it also has disadvantages; it can often leave the centre-backs extremely exposed resulting in conceding many more goals. City conceded 37 goals this year, 10 more than 3rd place Chelsea. Thus a solid defence is still incredibly important in winning football matches, but it’s became very apparent last season that the top 2’s objective was simply to score more goals than the opposing team.
There is a further disadvantage of playing with this style of football and that is the fitness of the players, even with the stamina of players such as Zabaleta, they still state how exhausted they become with the amount of games that they play. This is the reason Pellegrini decided to sign Bacary Sagna as cover for Zabaleta, the left hand side of City’s defence already has alternating players in the form of Clichy & Kolarov. With the signing of Mangala almost imminent it seems Manchester City will have the option of 2 completely different defensive lines, both of which look extremely strong.
It’s common knowledge how strong City’s midfield & strike force is – which is possibly why Pellegrini doesn’t seem too concerned about being unable to strengthen with a big name signing. With Yaya Touré deciding to stay it’s plausible that no new signings are necessary, furthermore, the signing of Lampard will add an element of power to City’s midfield that they lacked last year when Yaya didn’t play or just simply wasn’t in the mood. Fernando will compete for a place with Javi García, enabling Fernandinho to have a more advanced role in the team; this should have a positive impact on all players, keeping them sharp all season. Although Negredo is out for a couple months Stefan Jovetić has looked extremely deadly in pre-season, this suggests he is going into this season with a point to prove to everybody.
We all know how tactically sound José Mourinho is by now, he has his football team playing like a well-oiled stubborn machine. Chelsea’s incredibly organised defence conceded only 27 goals last season, and a lot of this success can be credited to the centre-back partnership of John Terry & Gary Cahill both of whom were phenomenal all season long. Furthermore I was particularly impressed with Chelsea’s full-backs who although not as attacking as City’s certainly did a brilliant job. Ivanović got forward frequently but was cautious to counter attacks and he was rarely caught out of position. He was extremely strong, persistent, dangerous and good in the air when required, on top of this he also managed to score 3 goals during his reliable campaign. César Azpilicueta was equally impressive, even more so considering that he was being played out of position, as naturally he is a right-back. As consistent as Azpilicueta was it’s reasonable that Mourinho would prefer a naturally left footed player to play left-back as Ashley Cole exited Stamford Bridge to play in the Italian capital. As a long term replacement, Filipe Luís has been drafted in from Liga BBVA Champions Atlético Madrid for £20 million. The 28 year old had a very good season with Atlético helping them secure their first Liga title since 1996, yet he was not taken to the 2014 World Cup by Scolari. Luis’ team mate of last year Thibaut Courtois returns to Chelsea after a lengthy loan spell at the Spanish champions, he will contest a first team spot with the ever consistent Petr Čech. Behind every strong defence is a reliable goalkeeper; Čech was as dependable as ever keeping an astonishing 16 clean sheets, a joint league best. However, he will certainly be forced to fight for his place as the young Belgian has enormous talent and potential as a goalkeeper.
Chelsea’s midfield was phenomenally strong last year with most of the goals coming from the middle of the park. Eden Hazard had a tremendous season causing havoc in every area of the pitch; he managed to score a strikingly impressive 14 goals throughout his campaign and picked up the PFA Young Player of the Year award as a result. Brazilian fan favourite Oscar also managed to score 8 goals, with his agility and quick feet enabling him to create numerous chances as well as score a few himself; being one of Brazil’s best players during the WC he will certainly be looking to improve on last season and secure a trophy. Team-mates Willian & Ramires didn’t’ feature all so often in the World Cup but played well when they did play, after a solid season for Chelsea they will both be looking to improve and go one step further towards silverware. Moreover, André Schürrle, who although was not a solid starter for Chelsea, was very influential contributing 8 goals to a less than stellar total goal count, he also didn’t start many games at the World Cup for Germany. However, when he was introduced as a substitute for the Germans, he always looked menacing on the ball looking to create goals and chances wherever possible; most notably two brilliant goals against hosts Brazil.
Chelsea finally decided to part ways with loyal servant Frank Lampard, the now Chelsea legend has provided immense service for them over many years but has now signed for New York City FC after Chelsea didn’t renew his contract. Lampard however will be loaned to New York’s sister club Manchester City, the loss of Lampard may be hard to replace as he was so influential. Lampard’s workload was eased by Serbian powerhouse Nemanja Matić whom impressed many people in his short time at Chelsea, arguably the best defensive player in the entire Premier League; I certainly think so. Matić can help protect the defence whilst also injecting positive aggression into the team. If Matić can maintain form and fitness throughout this campaign I’m sure Chelsea will not miss the departure of temperamental Brazilian David Luiz who moved to PSG for a breath-taking £50 million. The money was undeniably used in an erudite manner as Mourinho attempts to further sure up the midfield and incorporate as much quality and flair as possible. Mourinho has made a big name signing in Cesc Fàbregas, as the Spaniard struggled to maintain first team football at Barcelona and decided that a return to the Premier League would be the best decision at the said time. Fàbregas has already proved he is suited to the Premier League during a lengthy spell at Arsenal, as Wenger nurtured him as a youngster and transformed him into the midfield maestro that he is today. Fàbregas may be the key element in helping Mourinho secure his first trophy since his return to Stamford Bridge.
It was certainly Chelsea’s strike force that cost them the league. Since losing Didier Drogba in 2012 they have been unable to find an established goal scorer, as £50 million signing Torres has never been consistent nor was French born Senegalese international Demba Ba, who managed only 7 goals in his 2 years at the Blues. Ba departed the club for Turkish side Beşiktaş this summer. Samuel Eto’o improved a lacklustre strike-force although still wasn’t as prolific as required if they want to be champions. The pressure was on Mourinho to rectify the lack of goals from his forwards, and many believe the answer was young Belgian star Romelu Lukaku whom has had two years out on loan at West Brom and Everton scoring an impressive total of 33 goals. However, Mourinho decided to dwell further into Atlético Madrid’s stardom and purchase hot property frontman Diego Costa for £32 million. The Spaniard caught the eyes of the world after an astonishing season in Spain scoring 27 goals in 35 appearances, some of which were absolute wonder goals.
Both Lukaku & Costa had less than stellar World Cups but many are confident Costa will have a good season although still unproven in England. It still seems peculiar that Mourinho would go on to sell youngster Lukaku to Everton for £28 million when he’s proved he can score plenty of goals in the Premier League. In my opinion he still has a lot to offer and will improve greatly in the future. From another viewpoint Mourinho frequently proves critics wrong and will be looking to do so again, as he has re-signed Chelsea legend and fan favourite Didier Drogba; maybe not just to play, but as a positive outlet in the dressing room. His ability and experience from playing for the Royal Blues may be just what they need to win the Premier League once again.
City and Chelsea are undoubtedly the two favourites for the league this year and will battle it out right to the death; the strength in depth of both teams will help them compete in all competitions domestic and European. If City’s defence can improve and concede fewer goals wherever possible they might just have enough to retain the league, however if Costa brings his shooting boots to West London the title may just navigate itself back down South to Chelsea.