When Jose Mourinho says that his team will be ready to win the Premier League trophy next season, you better believe him. The ‘Special One’ has a knack for predictions, and he wouldn’t suggest this if he wasn’t supremely confident, both in his and his playing squad’s abilities.
Whether he genuinely believes the views he has been touting all season – that Chelsea are not capable of winning the league this season – is anybody’s guess. His team sit second in the league, knowing that a victory over Liverpool at Anfield in 10 days will all but seal the league title.
Initially, the rebuilding process took some time. Tinkering with his first XI, and changes of formation made producing the types of balanced displays he was looking for harder to come by. The likes of Oscar and Eden Hazard lit up the early stages of Chelsea’s season, but a leaky defence undermined a lot of improvements that the attacking players had made.
Since the turn of the year, Chelsea have conceded just five goals in the Premier League, as opposed to 20 from August-December. In the process they have won 11, drawn two, and lost two. The free-flowing, attacking football Mourinho was pining for in the early stages of the season has been put on the back-burner for a more efficient, defensively aware approach. And right now, they’re reaping the rewards.
When Chelsea announced Mourinho’s homecoming, most people believed instant success would follow. He had the nucleus of a hugely talented squad, with a good mixture of experience – John Terry, Petr Cech, Frank Lampard, Branislav Ivanovic – along with a number of extremely talented, yet relatively inexperienced attacking players, such as Hazard and Oscar.
He’s gone about adding to this group, bolstering their attacking force with Willian, Andre Schurrle and Samuel Eto’o in the summer, and dipping once more into the transfer market in January for Nemanja Matic and Mohammed Salah. Swift and effective action in the market – pouncing on the sell-on value of a few of his own players – has allowed Jose Mourinho to almost fully construct a side in his mould.
Many of Chelsea’s longer serving players understand the way the Special One operates, and the younger ones are beginning to catch on to the Mourinho-fever at Stamford Bridge. Eden Hazard has become a more-defensively conscious player in recent months, whilst Willian and Schurrle have begun to show their talents as the squad has gotten used to the particular demands of Mourinho’s fast-moving, high-energy, and extraordinarily efficient brand of football.
Mourinho’s very public disquiet over the quality of the strikers in his squad will prompt him to plunge straight into the transfer market once it opens. And you should expect something big. With the talk of a move for Atletico Madrid’s in-demand striker, Diego Costa, it seems as though Mourinho has his man in his crosshair.
Chelsea’s current trio of Fernando Torres, Samuel Eto’o and Demba Ba all lack the edge that a player such as Diego Costa would provide. Torres, for all his hard work and contribution to the build-up play, seems to lack the mentality to recover from what has now been three barren years. Eto’o has shone in small patches, but he lacks the sharpness of the man who tormented defences at Barcelona. Demba Ba may have the physical presence that both his colleagues’ lack, but he is cumbersome and doesn’t contribute to possession play in the way Mourinho would like.
Diego Costa would solve these problems, and more. The Spanish-Brazilian is a physical beast, and has a stamina level to match his strength. He has been one of the driving forces behind Atletico’s successes this season, and is yet to relent. He has 34 goals in 44 games and is one of the world’s most feared marksmen. He is good on the ground, strong in aerial duels, he’ll run himself into the ground, and possesses a nasty streak much like Didier Drogba.
This summer Mourinho will have money to strengthen. The addition of a star striker, plus any money gained from offloading the likes of Torres, Ba, and David Luiz – not to forget any profits from their substantial grade of loanees – will see Chelsea step up another level next season.
This Chelsea side already has the mentality to drive them on to glory next season. Their comeback in the Champions League semi-final against PSG demonstrated this. So does Mourinho’s record against the top English clubs. Couple this with another year of Mourinho, and some more sensible squad additions, it is hard to see the 2014-15 Premier League crown heading anywhere other than Stamford Bridge.