Chelsea FC: 5 Bold Predictions for the 2012-13 English Premier League Season
For the first time in their history, Chelsea enter the new Premier League campaign as European Champions.
With a host of exciting new signings and Roberto Di Matteo now firmly in control of the squad, this season has the potential to be one of the most memorable at Stamford Bridge in recent years.
Fernando Torres Will Return as the Best Striker in England
This season will be the "Return of the King," Fernando Torres. It’s been no secret that the striker has struggled since arriving at Stamford Bridge, but with Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka now plying their trade in China, it seems the stars may have aligned for the £50 million man to finally flourish in West London.
Fernando Torres is a lone wolf, a typical striker and the quintessential No. 9. However, Chelsea have not played to this style for a number of years and have largely been a team where midfielders have been the dominant goal scorers.
This year is a different story, with Di Matteo playing a formation that will allow the Spaniard to float up front while Chelsea’s midfield playmakers “fill the hole” and provide a steady stream of balls for the Iberian marksman.
This will be a 20+ goal-scoring season for Torres. If it’s not, don’t expect to see him around much longer. He is said to be the only member of the playing staff with Roman Abramovich’s personal number, but the Russian would be hard pressed to remain patient for much longer.
Chelsea Will Finish Third at Best in the Premier League
Last season Chelsea showed that they are far from the consistent performers that they had been in the Jose Mourinho years. The once fortress of Stamford Bridge was regularly under siege while inconsistent performances resulted in a deserved sixth-place finish in the League.
Although spending over £60 million this season to bring in the likes of Eden Hazard, Marko Marin and Oscar—all the signings have an average age of under 21, and with the exception of Marin, all come from leagues outside the Big 4 of Italy, Spain, Germany and England.
This is not to suggest that the new signings will not perform with distinction in the Premier League, it just means that they must be given time to develop and adapt to Chelsea’s style of play and the pace of the Premier League.
Chelsea’s Style Will Evolve, Slowly.
When Roberto Di Matteo took charge of Chelsea last season, he adopted a defensive style based on flawless organisation at the back while relying on the brilliant touch of Didier Drogba up front.
This was in stark contrast to the methods employed by Andre Villas-Boas and the attacking formation that Di Matteo experimented with while at the helm of West Bromich Albion.
Chelsea is all quality at the back. John Terry, Ashley Cole, Branislav Ivanovic and David Luiz are four of the best defenders in Europe, as they showed in the Champions League last season.
What is different from last year is the apparent free licence to roam that Di Matteo has given his midfielders, creating a kind of lateral movement as part of a 4-2-3-1 formation that will open up the field for Fernando Torres, but that can also drop deep to control the game from the back.
The attacking midfielders will introduce some much-needed pace and flair at Stamford Bridge, but expect to see plenty of movement dominated by the back four.
This Will Be the Last Year of Roberto Di Matteo
Last season was a truly remarkable one at Stamford Bridge as the Blues' won their fourth FA Cup in six years and claimed a historic Champion’s League win.
Yet all the talk at the end of last season was of whether or not Abramovich could entice former Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola to London, while Di Matteo was not prepared to play what would essentially be a caretaker role as Guardiola embarked on a year-long break from football.
Although Di Matteo has signed a 2-year deal, I would not be surprised to see him make way for Guardiola at the end of this season if the Spaniard decides to return to club football in Europe.
Di Matteo is a fan favorite and club legend at Chelsea, but Guardiola would bring a kind of pedigree that is almost unrivaled in the modern game.
Liverpool Will Remain Chelsea’s Fiercest Rival
Chelsea and Liverpool have met each other 36 times in the past 10 seasons, creating a lasting rivalry that has been played out dramatically both domestically and on Europe's biggest stage.
Despite spending over £100 million on new players last season, Liverpool had their worst season in 18 years, finishing eighth in the Premier League.
Although still winning silverware with the Carling Cup and playing in the FA Cup Final against Chelsea, they are far from the team that they used to be, having last won the League in 1990.
Liverpool will likely dangle at the middle of the table this season, but expect to see them step up for their matches against the Blues. The history is now very deep—it may not be the same as a Merseyside Derby, but each match always proves to be something special.
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