Successfully defending the Premier League title has become a much tougher challenge than it once was.
Indeed, no club has claimed the English crown in back-to-back campaigns since Manchester United in 2008 and 2009. In the mean time, Manchester City and Manchester United have both failed to defend it twice, whilst Chelsea represent the first and last winners of that six year period.
So although the Blues may have strolled their way to the Premier League title rather emphatically last term, finishing eight points above the second-place Citizens, history tells us they’ll inevitably struggle with the ever-difficult ‘second album’ in the coming campaign.
But we at Football Fancast have always been more concerned with the present rather than the past – and we believe the west Londoners have what it takes to become the Premier League’s first title retainers in six years.
To prove we haven’t plucked that prediction out of thin air, here’s FIVE reasons why.
Many have questioned Chelsea’s lack of activity in the transfer market this summer, thus far spending just £12.5million on three additions to the squad rather than the starting XI in Asmir Begovic, Radamel Falcao and Brazilian hotshot Nathan.
But clearly, Jose Mourinho is working upon the adage of not fixing what isn’t broken and Chelsea were by far and away the best team in the Premier League last season, claiming the league title with three games to spare and eventually finishing eight points ahead of Manchester City – so why mix up the formula purely for the excitement of a Paul Pogba or Gareth Bale arriving at Stamford Bridge?
Furthermore, the Blues’ squad is relatively young overall – in fact, it’s average age of 25.4 years is the third-lowest in the Premier League after Liverpool and Tottenham – so it will improve as the younger players naturally mature.
The confidence provided from Eden Hazard winning the 2015 PFA Player of the Year award, for example, will only propel the Belgium international closer towards the realms of Ballon d’Or. And that theory resonates throughout a team possessing many members who claimed the Premier League title for the first time next season.
It all suggests Chelsea will approach the campaign with even more quality, confidence and familiarity than last term – so if they were tough to beat last year, they should now be bordering upon unstoppable.
Once again, I bring up the issue of Chelsea’s limited activity on the inward front this summer – but once again, I wish to dispel the myth that they’re giving Arsenal, Manchester City and Manchester United the chance to overtake them via the transfer market.
Indeed, although the Blues have spent the relatively small sum of £12.5million (plus whatever fees were paid to Monaco to loan Radamel Falcao) in my opinion, the Premier League champions have bought relatively well.
Asmir Begovic may not be at the levels of Petr Cech just yet but he unquestionably represents the best possible outcome from a difficult situation. The Bosnian international would be the No.1 at most clubs in Europe, so signing him as back-up to Thibaut Courtois is an underrated but fantastic coup.
Likewise, Falcao’s been written off by the majority of pundits following his rather underwhelming loan spell at Manchester United last season, netting just four times across all competitions. But it wasn’t long ago he was revered as the most clinical finisher in world football, boasting 155 goals in 200 appearances throughout his spells with FC Porto, Atletico Madrid and Monaco.
The Colombian international moved to Old Trafford following an injury that ruled him out of the World Cup and the Red Devils’ style of play wasn’t particularly befitting of a poacher who has always lacked physical presence.
But the 29 year-old will be surrounded with blistering pace in the Chelsea starting line-up, through the likes of Willian, Eden Hazard, Oscar, Victor Moses and Ramires to name a few, and the Blues’ style of play is far more similar to the Diego Simeone philosophy Falcao flourished under at Atletico.
Rather than Chelsea signing a has-been, think of it more as the west Londoners investing in a world-class striker when his stock’s at its lowest.
In my opinion, it’s a very shrewd move on Jose Mourinho’s part, because if he can restore Falcao to half the striker he once was, he’ll be a fantastic signing for the Blues.
Although it must be complimented with consistent results on the road, historically, home form has always been the pivotal factor in successful Premier League title bids – with every champion from the last ten years also finishing on top of the Premiership’s home table.
And there’s no doubt Stamford Bridge has become the Premier League’s top fortress since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement ended Manchester United’s stranglehold of that unofficial moniker – in no small part to Jose Mourinho’s west London return.
Throughout his 78 home fixtures in the Premier League, Mourinho has lost only one; a shock defeat to Sunderland during their dramatic escape from relegation at the end of the 2013/14 campaign. Previously, the Portuguese had gone 77 home matches undefeated (excluding penalty shoot outs) across all competitions at the Bridge.
And this is by no means exclusive to his Blues tenures. Between 2002 and 2011, The Special One didn’t lose a single home game, spanning spells with Porto, Chelsea, Inter Milan and Real Madrid, until the sequence was broken by Sporting de Gijon at a rather incredible 150. After that, he went another 45 games unbeaten at home until the 2-1 affair with the Black Cats.
Once again, Chelsea won’t successfully defend the title without picking up points on the road. But if they go another season undefeated at home – as they have done on the three previous occasions in which Mourinho lifted the title – it will be practically impossible for Arsenal, Man City or Man United to catch them.
Of course, having the best player in the division would be a huge boost to any title bid, so it’s a good job Chelsea boast Eden Hazard – currently the indisputable flagship talent of the Premier League.
Indeed, although the other title contenders offer some world-class players of their own, such as Arsenal duo Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil, Manchester City pair Sergio Aguero and David Silva, and Manchester United skipper Wayne Rooney, the Belgium international is the only Premier League star truly capable of one day toppling Lionel Messi and Cristano Ronaldo’s Ballon d’Or dominance.
The winger hasn’t always shown that level of potential throughout his Stamford Bridge tenure. But he really came into his own towards the end of last season, with every Chelsea move passing through him and games increasingly gravitating around him, and now 24 years of age Hazard should be verging upon his footballing peak.
As previously stated, his role in Chelsea claiming the Premier League title and his subsequent PFA Player of the Year award will only further fuel the former Lille prodigy’s confidence.
The introduction to this article discussed the fact that no side has successfully defended the English crown since Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United in 2008 and 2009 – largely due to the rise of Manchester City making the Premier League’s summit considerably more competitive over the last six years.
But interestingly enough, only two managers throughout the Premier League’s history have accomplished that feat – one being Fergie, the other being Chelsea’s Jose Mourinho.
Indeed, the Blues claimed the title in back-to-back campaigns during the Portuguese’s first spell at Stamford Bridge. And although many would argue Mourinho’s Chelsea mark I is still ahead of Mourinho’s Chelsea mark II in terms of overall depth and quality, there’s no doubt ‘The Special One’ knows what it takes to be crowned champions in consecutive seasons.
When lifting the title, you suddenly everybody’s favourite team to beat – from Arsenal to Watford, every Premier League side will want to claim a scalp on the champions next season.With the added pressure of expectations, it’s no surprise the Premier League has gone so long without a dominant force at the top end of the table.
But in comparison to Louis van Gaal, Manuel Pellergrini and even the Premier League’s longest-serving manager Arsene Wenger, Mourinho has the important and incredibly unique experience of recording the triumph before to fall back on.