And so it dawns – a rebirth, the second coming. José Mourinho has spectacularly returned to Stamford Bridge, where he’ll take his rightful place in the home dugout against Hull City Tigers. People used to say never go back, but Jupp Heynckes did and won it all. Kenny Dalglish did too and won the League Cup. How will José fare? The bookies have already placed Chelsea as firm favourites for the title. Mourinho has the team, experience and the mentality of a winner to deliver the title. Here are my thoughts on what to expect.
The signing of Mark Schwarzer seems to be somewhat of a coup for Chelsea. Petr Cech was back to his best last season, but he has struggled with niggling injuries and neither Ross Turnbull or Henrique Hilario ever convinced as his deputies. With magnificently talented Thibaut Courtois spending another year in Spain, the experienced Premier League stalwart Schwarzer has been brought in as the number two. Chelsea now have an option to rest Cech.
Whilst on paper Chelsea had one of the best defences in Premier League, in reality on match day they never looked assured and had their blushes spared too many times by the outstanding Cech. We gave away too many points to teams, being unable to hold on to leads against likes of Southampton, Newcastle and Reading due to inept defending.
Sure, Mourinho will steady the ship; dare I predict he might even get another top season out of John Terry. Questions remain when it comes to the other three defensive positions. At left back, Ashley Cole has long lost his world class status and Ryan Bertrand doesn’t quite convince. At right back, there is our outstanding defender of 12/13 season Cesar Azpilicueta, but it would seem Mourinho will place his trust in Branislav Ivanovic there. Branislav doesn’t contribute enough in the attacking third for me and is often a liability with his persistent fouling.
And who will partner John Terry at centre back? Gary Cahill, who after his promising start to Chelsea career seems out of his depth. His inability to close down an attacker and lack of pace are very worrying; or the enigma that is David Luiz, who improved vastly under Rafa Benitez but questions remain whether Mourinho rates him and/or whether David Luiz wants to leave for Catalunya.
Chelsea have an abundance of talent to choose from. Eden Hazard has been widely tipped by fans, experts and pundits to set the league alight in his second season at the club. Juan Mata will look to continue where he left off last season after picking up Chelsea’s player of the season award again. Oscar will look to replicate his Brazil form and his performances in Europe for Chelsea in Premier League. Meanwhile, Dutch talent of the year Marco Van Ginkel will add a touch of class in central midfield. Frank Lampard might be on the wane, but he’ll still score goals and win games whilst passing on the knowledge to the younger generation. Werder Bremen’s player of the year Kevin De Bruyne and Victor Moses will be pushing hard for a starting 11 place.
We are less than a week away from the start of the season and I am not sure even José knows who will start up front against Hull. Romelu Lukaku has scored the goals in pre-season and looks like the man to lead the line for the up-coming season, but he is still raw and relatively inexperienced at this level. Will Mourinho drop the £50 million man Fernando Torres, with the shadow of a huge price tag still hanging over him and the club? Demba Ba will remain on the periphery as he is still struggling to fit in at Chelsea. Let’s not forget the two bids for Wayne Rooney that Manchester United have had rejected already. The Red Devils would be stupid to let Rooney join a league rival, but can they afford to keep an unhappy player and risk upsetting the dressing room?
Under the guidance of Mourinho, Chelsea are serious contenders for the title but will face stiff competition. Both the manager and the club’s fans will be looking for a bright start to the league campaign in order to pull away early from their rivals and build up a lead. Manchester City’s squad is looking even better than last year, but it remains to be seen how quickly they can gel and of course, you’d be stupid to rule out the reigning champions Manchester United. They are still expected to make a statement in the transfer market and Robin Van Persie will score goals regardless of how well United are playing. With all that said, anything other than the title heading back to Stamford Bridge would be a major disappointment. There are plenty of reasons to be cautiously optimistic.