Where do you start previewing the season ahead after a pre-season like ours? Ostrich impressions seem the better option right now really but I’m going to skim over the fact our defense is looking about as impregnable as an 18 year old looking for a council house and assume normal service will be resumed shortly.
Thankfully, we kick off against West Brom – no disrespect to the Baggies intended, just optimistic because it’s not one of the ‘big four’ (whoever they are these days) – and hopefully a gentle but probably marginal win at home against our former midfield favorite, Roberto Di Matteo.
Next it’s off to Wigan and whilst our title winning home game against them last season saw us completely wipe the floor with them, it was a different story earlier in the season, so I won’t be assuming anything ahead of this one. And we round off the month with another home game, this time against Stoke and hopefully a further 3 points.
September sees a real contrast because as well as an away fixture against West Ham, it also sees games against both City and Blackpool, whose annual wage bill is said to be less than our captain’s salary! We get our first game against a ‘big four’ side in October, at home to Arsenal. Liverpool wait until November, with Spurs, United and Arsenal all to play in December.
The run-in puts us up against United and Newcastle before rounding the season off with a toughie at Goodison. But what does that all mean for us? Should we hide the trophy now? Actually, as ever Chelsea’s biggest critic, I’m probably being a bit harsh off the back of a poor pre-season where half the time our first teamers didn’t get as far as taking their coats off.
Our transfer activity this summer has again been pretty limited, with more players departing than arriving and losing dependables (albeit subs) in the form of Ballack, Joe Cole and Belletti, has to leave us wondering what we’d have in reserve if stretched. Certainly Yossi Benayoun would be a more than capable player to bring on and once Ramires arrives we’ll get a better idea of where he’ll fit in, but 17 year old Kalas is much more likely to go out on loan somewhere than make up the numbers.
All of this pretty much leaves us depending on the same squad we’ve depended on for several years now, unless Ancelotti really does bring through our younger players – a risk maybe, but he was certainly bold enough to bring Jeffrey Bruma on at 2-0 down to United in the Community Shield, so who are we to disbelieve him?
Anyway, back to what we’ve got to get us through another long, physical, season and it’s pretty much as you were. We’ll still be relying on Didier Drogba to provide the goals and with the groin injury sorted in the summer, there’s no reason to doubt he’s capable again. This time, we’ll be hoping Anelka comes a little closer to Drogba’s ‘Golden Boot’ because as lively as he is, Kalou just doesn’t look a strong enough forward for us.
Hopefully Lampard will still give us his customary 20-goal return, or at least he will if he gets back to banging our penalties in anyway and the way Malouda looked despite the lack of service in the Community Shield, there’s no doubt at all he’ll be pulling a lot of the strings in our attack again. Not forgetting the return of Michael Essien of course and if we can keep him away from international games, once he’s fully fit, it’ll be an enormous boost for our midfield.
So I suppose I do the lads a disservice really, assuming the pre-season means it’ll be all doom and gloom. Of course, there was only a point separating us from United last season and they keep telling us that was down to their injuries and a certain ref but from what I remember, we might have been missing the odd player ourselves here and there, and I’d say the difference in the end was more down to winning all our games home and away against the ‘big four’ rather than some perceived edge on decisions.
And Ancelotti managed that in his first season, so I guess the question is, was that just the honeymoon or will this particular union go the distance?
Ask me again in May!
From the author of the popular Chelsea blog, The Chelsea Blog.