You know you’ve had a bad year at the office when the person you labelled a ‘specialist in failure’ ends up with more trophies than you at the end of the season. It also doesn’t help when your nearest rival finishes the year with two more trophies and your ex-protégée comes out on top over 38 games, all the while haemorrhaging goals like a, well, a defence containing Glen Johnson and the ever-inconsistent Agger/Skrtel at its heart. And for all his talk about horses, transition phases and beating the champions twice, Jose Mourinho knows that another barren season at the Bridge and he’ll probably be escorted out of London by Roman Abramovich himself come next July.
But Mourinho is not generally one to repeat his mistakes. The signing of Diego Costa, a big-name, prolific goalscorer was quickly locked down and followed by the somewhat surprise capture of Barcelona’s dynamic castaway and Arsenal golden boy, Cesc Fabregas. With Thibaut Courtois also set to come back in as No.1 next season, it would seem that the Blues will start next season as favourites, if they continue this early form and make a couple more key signings before the transfer window closes. Here we take a look at a few players who could be joining the Blues this summer.
Filipe Luis is a solid, safety-first Mourinho signing
Paying over £20m for a 29 year old full-back is bound to raise eyebrows, and the Blues’ pursuit of Atletico left-back Filipe Luis has done just that. With the departure of Ashley Cole to Roma now confirmed, Chelsea were in the market for a left-back, and Mourinho seems to have his made up his mind about Luis, despite his age and heavy price tag. Indeed, Wolfsburg’s Swiss full-back Ricardo Rodriguez had a stellar season in the Bundesliga, with 5 league goals and an astonishing nine assists to his name (Luis didn’t register a goal this season and ended with only 2 assists).
However, Mourinho’s Chelsea rarely requires its full-backs to bomb forward at every opportunity; the stingiest defence in the league last year did a phenomenal job of keeping a lid on things, with Mourinho by and large expecting the creative spark to come from the midfield or further up the pitch. Filipe Luis will primarily be used as defensive cover, Eden Hazard in front of him is prone to the occasional lapse in defensive concentration, and his defensive stats show that he can do the job more than adequately. He is an experienced player with Champions League experience, which is why he is preferred to more attacking full-backs like Rodriguez. A midfield consisting of Hazard, Oscar, Schürrle, Salah and now Fabregas is not one lacking in creativity, so expect Luis’ arrival to improve the already solid back-line and provide a springboard to Chelsea going forward for at least the next 3-4 seasons.
A fight to keep Lukaku will be well worth it
With Costa signing on as the undisputed first-choice striker already, the more intriguing question of who remains as back-up is still to be addressed. Lukaku enjoyed a stellar campaign with the Toffees last term, and Mourinho would ideally want him as the second striking option behind Costa but it remains to be seen if the Belgian frontman will be satisfied with playing second fiddle to someone next season. Youngster Patrick Bamford enjoyed a fruitful loan spell at Derby last season and will be happy to be a third choice back-up to try and prove himself, but it remains to be seen if Mourinho is willing to take a chance on him with the Blues expecting to challenge on all four fronts next year. It is likely that Ba will remain at Stamford Bridge, and rumors about a Didier Drogba comeback are never too far away when talking about Chelsea’s transfer business.
André Schürrle can be Chelsea’s greatest strength next season
It’s easy to get lost among the glut of creative talents in Chelsea’s midfield, and although André Schürrle showed glimpses of his talent throughout the season with 8 goals scored from the wing and a respectable 29 chances created, there is a sense that the German international could have made much more of an impact if used more regularly by Mourinho over the course of the season. His confidence will be high coming off the back of a fantastic World Cup campaign with Die Mannschaft, providing a match winning impact from the bench regularly, assisting the World Cup winning goal, and he’ll be looking to build on that in his second season at Stamford Bridge. Only Thomas Mueller scored more goals for Germany than Schurrle, and he had almost thrice as much playing time as the Chelsea winger.
His pace on the flanks and selfless playing style means he would make a perfect provider for a frontman like Costa, and an attacking trident of Schurrle-Hazard-Oscar ahead of Fabregas is surely one to make defenders nervous.
Mourinho himself said that this would be the season that his little ponies would be ready to mount a serious title challenge, and a second consecutive trophy-less season will have him looking over his shoulder for Abramovich’s axe. With City quietly plugging any existing gaps in their massive squad, Arsenal having the most un-Arsenal of transfer windows to emerge as genuine title contenders, Liverpool splashing the Suarez transfer fee on anything that moves and United benefiting from a decisiveness absent in the Moyes era, Chelsea’s road to the top is already more difficult than it was at this time last season; however, a couple of shrewd signings and possibly another big name added to the roster before the window closes and it may be Jose Mourinho who has the last laugh come May next year.