Chelsea’s pursuit of John Stones is no doubt a move with a view to the future. Reported to be Jose Mourinho’s chosen man to replace Stamford Bridge icon John Terry, the deal to bring the young Everton defender to London looks like it will drag along all summer. The Blues’ activity in the summer sales so far have reinforced the title winning squad of last year, with Colombian striker Radamel Falcao and Stoke City ‘keeper Asmir Begovic joining their ranks. Falcao, Begovic and potentially Stones are quality additions, many teams would kill to have them lining up in their first elevens, but they are unlikely to make a huge impact on the Stamford Bridge starting XI.
Are Chelsea suffering champions syndrome? Fellow Premier League titans Manchester City have twice failed to navigate a post title winning summer transfer window, falling behind their rivals. The understated approach employed by the Portuguese manager is a stark comparison to the activity of their would-be challengers at home and abroad.
Of course, wholesale changes are not needed in West London. Boasting stars such as Eden Hazard, Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas, Chelsea have the power to valiantly defend their Premier League title. However, at times last season Chelsea looked a little lacklustre. They were functional rather than fantastic, a fact painfully exposed in the Champions League loss to PSG.
Blues boss Jose Mourinho is not a man to go too long without a Champions League victory. It has been half a decade since he lifted the famous trophy with Italian giants Inter Milan. Football fans have learned never to write off the scheming former Real Madrid manager, and those who do act at their own peril. However, comparing the Premier League champions to top European rivals is not pleasant reading. Are additions to the squad really going to elevate them to the level Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich were playing at last term?
To challenge for the Champions League is no doubt Chelsea’s aim. Having secured a league and cup double in his second stint, Mourinho will look to win the top prize with his beloved London side. The current crop of signings are unlikely to take the club from a quarter final loss to PSG to winning the title.
Even in England, where they looked so dominant last year, Chelsea run the risk of letting their challengers close the gap in quality.
The two Manchester sides have improved their first teams, United in particular. Louis van Gaal has added star quality and exciting youth prospects to the stuttering Red Devils team we saw last year. Almost £50m brought Liverpool winger Raheem Sterling to Manchester City, with Kevin De Bruyne reported to be on the way. Even Arsenal are linked with huge money moves for top players.
Radamel Falcao has arrived to presumably act as second fiddle to former Athletico team mate Diego Costa, though should he get his form back then the Londoners are in for a treat. That is a huge if after last season at Manchester United. Begovic takes the gloves of iconic shot stopper Petr Cech in a back up to first choice Thiabaut Courtois. Cech’s move across London to the Gunners is likely to bank his new side extra points in the title race already. Even before a ball is kicked, a title rival are strengthened and the Blues are weakened.
An understated approach adopted to this edition of the summer sales appears to be the theme running through SW6. It is commendable, but Chelsea are unlikely to push on should they not add more star quality to their side. Never write Mourinho off, but the rapture may be well on its way.