It’s turning into a crazy summer. Manchester United are burning up the track with transfers and so are Liverpool. Even Manchester City and Arsenal fans will be happy with their business so far, although they’ll probably be hoping for a little more.
But Chelsea have been quiet. Radamel Falcao has arrived but as for actual first team strengthening, there hasn’t been much. The Colombian striker looks like a shell of his former self but Mourinho thinks he can get the best out of him. The Falcao who humiliated Chelsea in the 2012 Super Cup with a first half hat-trick would do nicely for the Blues.
We shouldn’t forget that Asmir Begovic is now a Chelsea player too. A veritable Mr Consistent for Stoke over the last few years, he’s a reliable shot stopper. That’s enough to make him a perfect back-up to Courtois, because Chelsea can rely on him to keep shots out at least. He might challenge the big Belgian for the number one spot, but it’s unlikely. At least Thibaut will be on his toes though.
They’re hardly inspiring signings, but you have to ask yourself, ‘what do Chelsea actually need?’
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And on the evidence of last season, you’d say, ‘not much’. Though that’s a dangerous game. Chelsea won the league at a canter, so clearly they’re superior. But all of the teams around them have strengthened already. In effect, the goalposts have moved for Mourinho and his men. (Insert joke here about Falcao not being able to find them even before they moved.)
But that’s a good thing in itself for Chelsea. They won the league last season playing like a typical Mourinho team plays a single game. Get a lead – not necessarily a huge one – and then see the game out. Although they conceded a few goals, they won the league by defending and that’s why City, United and Liverpool are paying substantial amounts of money on attackers. Arsenal may yet follow them. The hunting dogs have their tails between their legs.
It’s not a good thing that their rivals are strengthening to a greater degree than they are, but it is a good thing that Chelsea were so dominant that the rivals think they need to. Mourinho has caused so much panic at the top of the Premier League that players upon players are coming into rival clubs – that and Manchester City paying astronomical money for Raheem Sterling.
So Mourinho has his rivals on the run. They may be stronger now than they were last season, and they may be tougher to see off when it comes to next May, but there’s a satisfaction in knowing that you have them running scared. Psychologically that must be worth a new signing for the Blues.
But there’s a very real need for a physical, actual, in-the-flesh new signing, not just a psychological, placebo, pretend new signing.
Every season you need to build. That doesn’t just mean adding bit-part players, backup players or squad players. It means adding starters. You can’t win the league twice in a row with the exact same players. Footballers are only human and get tired, especially when they’ve just won at the top level. That takes energy and effort, but it takes mental effort too. You lose a chunk of motivation after you complete a task, and you can’t get it back without freshness.
True, Falcao and Begovic will challenge Diego Costa and Courtois. But last season they had Didier Drogba and Petr Cech too. They’ve simply replaced their backup. They haven’t added something fresh and new.
It’s a strange thing – Chelsea are in a wonderful position, but if they don’t act they could find themselves in a very hard one. All they need is one new signing, a fresh one, a starter.
But Mourinho seemed to have the ultimate faith in a select group of players last season. Hazard, Costa, Fabregas, Matic, Willian and Oscar played the majority of games as a front six. And although it might be incredibly hard to say to one of those players, ‘I’m terribly sorry, you won me the league and you did absolutely nothing wrong, but I’m bringing in a new player to take your place. You’re more than welcome to fight for it, but you’re no longer my first choice.’ Simply given his loyalty to that group of players last season, it stands to reason that Mourinho would find that difficult too.
But that’s what he needs to do. Find a position they can improve on, add something different to, and freshen the starting XI. And then Chelsea will be totally in the ascendancy again. It doesn’t mean they’ll win the league easily – the other teams still have great players too. But it does mean that Chelsea will come out of the summer stronger too.
So what do Chelsea need to add to their squad? Nothing. Except freshness. And that, I’m afraid, means adding a new player. There’s no footballing reason to add Antoine Griezmann, for example. He might be slightly better than Willian or Oscar, but there’s no real need other than to add a new threat to the squad. It’s purely psychological.
It’s been a quiet summer, but Chelsea are still in a good position. They just can’t get to September and realise that they have the same starting XI as last season. If they’re freshened up a bit, then they’ll be the team to beat yet again.