Too much too soon for Chelsea football club?
No amount of money spent in a summer will guarantee the league title in the following season. PSG, Bayern Munich and Manchester City are all evidence of that. You know what, throw Real Madrid into that mix too. But many would be overestimating Chelsea’s title credentials even at this stage.
We’ll never run away from the fact that Chelsea have spent impressively this summer. Their Champions League win threw them back into the running for Eden Hazard and perhaps helped in a big way to land Oscar during his Olympic duty with Brazil. But this team still need to face a number of obstacles before they can be deemed genuine title contenders.
This past weekend, Andrew Luck, who was drafted first overall by the Indianapolis Colts, threw a 63-yard touchdown in their pre-season game. The hype has already been elevated around this quarterback, who is often spoken about in the same sentence as Peyton Manning. Yet it was only a pre-season game. Chelsea, however, have struggled in pre-season, losing 3-1 to Brighton with a fairly strong squad. Does that mean we should discount their worth in a title race off of that result alone? No. Just like I won’t be expecting Andrew Luck to drive this Colts team to the Super Bowl.
But Chelsea are faced with a number of other problems before they can establish themselves as real title-contenders again. The most obvious at the moment is what to do with the striking options at the club. I’m firmly in the group, however small it may be, of those who want to see Fernando Torres given time as the first-choice striker at Chelsea. Floating in and out of the first XI as he did last season was no good, and he really needs to know he’s the in-house replacement for Didier Drogba.
Yet, are we going to see the Torres who dinked the ball past Costel Pantilimon in the community shield on the weekend; the Torres who scored a couple of excellent goals in the Euro 2012 match against Ireland; or will it be the Torres who missed the open goal at Old Trafford last season and who struggled for most of the campaign?
There’s no use in dragging the player in and out of the line up if he fails to deliver. The £50 million spent on the player needs to go much further than just a handful of goals in a full league season, but will he find his scoring boots on a consistent basis? Will Torres be the primary source of goals for Chelsea we know he can be?
It’s also a problem for the club that they’ve bought a number of players who will need to adapt to the team’s philosophy, as well as English football. Roberto Di Matteo is likely to change the tactics of the squad to better suit the newcomers and help facilitate Torres’ drive up the scoring charts, but how long will that take? Furthermore, what happens to the Frank Lampards and John Terrys who are perhaps not accustomed to playing under a new focus? A high defensive line clearly didn’t work for some of the players last season, but the likely shift to a much quicker and possession-based game needs mobile defenders.
There’s no use in suggesting Chelsea will struggle, because it seems extremely unlikely. But this isn’t a settled squad, and many of the key players are young newcomers. The veterans in the side will help, as other clubs are often questioned for lacking experienced figures. Yet the squad still have a way to go.
Roberto Di Matteo may also need to answer a few questions of himself. Winning the Champions League in the manner he did won’t help him in a 38-game league season. Besides their European heroics, Chelsea were unpredictable and at times terrible in the league while the Italian was in charge.
The 4-1 loss to Liverpool stands out, and the manager will need to avoid any similar score line differentials so as not to cast doubt over the project. I still have my reservations about Di Matteo, but there is obviously something there. The FA cup and Champions League wins are proof that he can handle the pressures of the Chelsea job, but like players who are new to the league, I’d like to see what he’s capable of over an entire season.
Again, I’ve never been too concerned with what goes on in pre-season, and Chelsea, like most, are looking for fitness ahead of results prior to the season kicking off. The summer losses to lesser teams should be brushed under the carpet, and the Community Shield game is nothing more than a friendly or reserve fixture. At least that’s the way the FA see it. But Roman Abramovich wanted a change in playing style and he’s clearly funded the operation. This is a club in transition, and they’ll need to get their new stars fully accustomed to the demands of title-challenging Premier League football.
Manchester City are still the favourites for the title. But with Chelsea, they’ll have to do more than just spend heavily on a few talented youngsters. The league champions are confirmed in May, not in the summer months via impressive captures in the transfer market or pre-season friendlies.