Chelsea come into the season looking to continue their impressive form which saw them wrap up a domestic double for the first time in club history. This off-season has seen much change at Stamford Bridge with notable players such as Michael Ballack, Deco and Joe Cole leaving Chelsea and Ramires and Yossi Benayoun the only two players of note that Ancelotti has brought in.
With free-spending Manchester City assembling a star-studded squad along with usual suspects Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal sure to be in or around the top come May, this season is shaping up to be as exciting and as close as last season. Here are 5 things Ancelotti and Chelsea must do to ensure that success is maintained at the Bridge.
1. Stay injury-free
Injuries were the bane of Chelsea last season with several key players out for extended periods and this season the injury bug has struck again with Jose Bosingwa still absent following a long-term knee injury and Petr Cech and Alex rushing in a race against time to be fit for the season opener against West Brom. With all of the departures at Chelsea this season, it is essential that key players in the squad are kept injury free for Chelsea to be able to mount a successful defence of their Premier League title.
I’m sure this won’t be a problem for Chelsea fans but we must get behind John Terry and Ashley Cole. Terry and Cole’s confidence must be at an all time low following England’s dismal performance in South Africa and the two have carried their World Cup hangover into Chelsea’s pre-season. The boo-boys have definitely been out in force for the duo and their performances against Manchester United will have given them much pleasure. We all know the quality that Cole and Terry possess and it is up to us fans to ensure that they have all of our support so that they can put in the quality performances that we know they can produce.
3. Give youth a chance
Much has been made about Chelsea’s ageing squad but there are some quality youngsters coming through the ranks at Stamford Bridge and Ancelotti would be wise to use the club’s quest for trophies on all fronts as a means of blooding some of his young charges. Gael Kakuta has been drawing rave reviews as a result of his Golden Ball winning performance at this summer’s European U-19 Championship and has shown the potential to be a future star for Chelsea. Daniel Sturridge played excellently for Chelsea on Sunday after coming on in the second half and looks to be a livewire of a player. Other players such as Jeffrey Bruma, Fabio Borini, Patrick van Aanholt and Josh McEachran are highly-prized at Stamford Bridge and some first team action, maybe in the Carling Cup would prove hugely beneficial to the development of these young players.
With a number of experienced players leaving Chelsea this season, it is more important than ever that some of the squad players at Stamford Bridge look to raise their game. Salomon Kalou has managed to frustrate and delight in equal measures in his time at Stamford Bridge and this season, Ancelotti must look to get more of the latter out of the enigmatic Ivorian. Kalou has shown flashes of brilliance during his four seasons in West London, most notably during the tail-end of last season where Kalou scored a hat-trick in Chelsea’s rout of Stoke City. Kalou has attempted to carry over this good form into this season and impressed during Chelsea’s disappointing 3-1 defeat to Manchester United on Sunday. Hopefully, he can maintain this form and be a weapon for Ancelotti in the upcoming season.
Ancelotti will also be looking at Yuri Zhirkov to show more for Chelsea after failing to impress in pre-season with the Russian culpable for a suicidal back pass which led to Chelsea’s eventual defeat to Hamburg.
5. Draw on the experience in the squad
Chelsea’s core squad has remained together and they have experience of winning trophies that cannot be underestimated. Chelsea have bred a habit of winning and many of the players have won multiple honours while at the club. This has fostered a strong team unity that has shown through the team’s ability to bounce back after defeat to Inter last season threatened to derail our title push. Only Manchester United can draw on the experience of that kind of success that is present in the Chelsea squad.