This week’s column will review the Super Cup final, highlight the main transfers to and from Chelsea this summer and what the implications for the team for the 2013/2014 season.
The UEFA Super Cup hosted in Prague last Friday saw the current UEFA Champions Bayern Munich take on the Europa Champions Chelsea in what turned out to be a very exciting spectacle. A match that left Chelsea players and fans alike heartbroken, after leading for the majority of the match. Mourinho expressed his dissatisfaction by saying, “the best team lost”, but that is football and despite leading most of the match, containing the UEFA Champions despite being a man down for more than 30 minutes, we were unable to hold on long enough to receive the gold medals.
Chelsea took the lead early on after some fantastic build-up play from Eden Hazard, who found Andre Schurrle, who’s perfectly weighted pass was superbly slotted home by Chelsea’s number nine, Fernando Torres. Torres scored his first goal of the 2013/2014 season in all competitions and there is no better way to open an account than with a finish that perfect. After taking the lead, the Blues settled and played off the counterattack. Despite Bayern dominating in possession, Chelsea contained the Bayern attack, and went into halftime leading 1-0. UEFA’s Best Player in Europe, Franck Ribery, equalised early in the second half, opening the game up. Chelsea once again defended well and relied heavily on the counter attack to create opportunities for goals. Ramires was sent off having received a second yellow card and Jose Mourinho’s side was reduced to ten men. Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic and David Luiz both had the opportunity to win the match, but Ivanovic was denied by the crossbar and Luiz by a fine Manuel Neuer save, which forced the game into extra-time.
Chelsea started extra-time brightly with the brilliant Belgian at the helm of it all when Hazard created an opportunity for himself and made it two one to the Blues. Once again Chelsea were in the lead and it remained that way until the final seconds of the minute of additional time after the extra-time period. Petr Cech who did well by keeping the Blues in the lead, pulling off a few fine saves at the end of the match, was finally defeated when Javi Martinez was played onside by a tired Ashley Cole and tapped in from close a few yards out.
Another final, another penalty shootout. Bayern Munich versus Chelsea, Neuer versus Cech. Chelsea were victorious in 2012, however the fate was not to be repeated as Chelsea’s Romelu Lukaku failed to find the back of the net and Bayern won 2-2 (5-4 on penalties).
As disappointing and heart-breaking as the final was, there are many positives to be taken from the match. Luiz returning from injury was excellent. The attacking three of Hazard, Oscar and Schurrle linked-up well and played brilliantly behind Torres, who scored a fantastic goal and looked very comfortable and confident leading the line. The defence played extremely well and the whole team’s work rate was fantastic having played more than a half an hour with a man less. There are many reasons to be positive and excited for what lies ahead in the 2013/2014 European campaign.
As the summer transfer period has drawn to a close, the squad has increased in quality and depth with a few new faces brought in, however certain areas remain thin. Chelsea also bid farewell to some players and loaned out a few more. I will not discuss all the transfers but rather highlight a few of the more interesting and surprising transfers and their implications on the squad.
There were a few surprise transfers, with last day loan moves granted for Victor Moses and Romelu Lukaku. Moses has been loaned to rivals Liverpool, after having an impressive first season when called upon in Chelsea’s demanding previous campaign. However with the addition of Willian, Moses would be the seventh player competing for one of three attacking spots and having not being selected to feature in any of Chelsea’s first four competitive matches, the move will ensure the young Nigerian receives game time this season, albeit on Merseyside.
With Chelsea’s weakest point perhaps being the lack of a consistent striker who scores week in and week out, and with Lukaku having scored 17 goals in the Premier League last season, his loan move to Everton was very unexpected. Lukaku, although having not started in any of Chelsea’s first four matches, was assumed by many to be a very strong contender for the coveted striking position. However, after the addition of Samuel Eto’o and failure for a successful loan move for Demba Ba, it may serve the young Belgian, and Chelsea, best going forward. Lukaku is still very young and has outstanding potential, which needs to be honed and playing regularly will be key to him achieving his best. Having signed a long-term contract with the Blues, this season on loan at Everton will serve to best prepare Lukaku for his future with Chelsea, where he will undoubtedly play a significant part.
Andre Schurrle and Kevin De Bruyne (having returned from loan at Werder Bremen) are perhaps the most interesting additions to the Chelsea squad this season. Both have impressed in pre-season and in Chelsea’s opening matches of the season. With Juan Mata, Oscar and Eden Hazard perhaps the three “best” all-round attacking players, depth in this area is vital and De Bruyne and Schurrle will provide that depth and alternative for the Portuguese manager. Willian was one of Chelsea’s late transfers, acquired from Anzhi Makhachkala, and will also be competing for one of the attacking positions behind the striker. The young Brazilian is yet to play in Chelsea blue, but it will be interesting to see how he performs with his new teammates and club.
It was a surprise that no “big name”, “powerhouse” striker was acquired in the summer and it seems Mourinho is happy with Torres and Ba to fight for the starting position. Eto’o as decorated a player as he is, will presumably be relied on as a back-up.
Some new faces have joined the squad, but the first team will remain much the same as the team that played last season, however with more competition for positions and more depth in then squad, Mourinho will have more to choose from. Tactically Chelsea are expected by many to refocus on their defensive display and work on maintaining fantastic home record to ensure the consistency needed to compete for the Premier League title. However, with the options in attack I hope Mourinho allows the brilliant Belgian, magician Mata and outstanding Oscar to do what they do best and dismantle and taunt defences!
A young but a talented squad lies in the very capable hands of Mourinho, waiting to be moulded. Time will tell what the Portuguese has set his eyes on, I believe he would hope to bring the Premier League title back to Stamford Bridge upon his return. However, EPL, Champions League, whatever the aim, the goal remains the same: win every match and if you don’t win, you don’t lose!