Chelsea continued their preparations for the 2014-15 Premier League season by beating NK Olimpija Ljubljana 2-1 at the weekend. Double training sessions have been employed to ensure that the squad is in top condition for next season, which the Blues will begin at Burnley in three weeks. B/R World Football Tactics writer Sam Tighe put Jose Mourinho’s men at the top of his early Premier League power rankings, and Aaron Flannagan at The Mirror reported that they are odds-on favourites for the trophy.
It is easy to see why.
Last season, with a squad he would not have chosen to start his second spell at Stamford Bridge, Mourinho managed to push for the Premier League title until the final weeks. Their eventual failure to bring back any silverware was entirely their own doing, as the strikeforce failed to take their chances against the likes of West Ham, Crystal Palace and Sunderland.
That will be different for the 2014-15 season.
Diego Costa scored his first goal for Chelsea on his debut against NK Olimpija Ljubljana. The quality of his finish from a Cesc Fabregas through ball was in stark contrast to Fernando Torres’ typically ridiculous miss from three yards, and certainly bodes well for next season. Although the competitive nature of the Premier League is hardly comparable to a pre-season friendly in front of a Slovenian-record crowd of 16,000, the Blues will have another proven goalscorer to back Costa up.
Didier Drogba’s return has gotten a lot of Chelsea supporters very excited. Despite his advancing age, Mourinho believes that the striker can still offer the same threat that terrorised ‘keepers in cup finals for eight years running, as he told the official Chelsea website:
We want to win matches and win titles and Didier is one of the best strikers in Europe, still very adapted to the needs of the Premier League and we are thinking about it in a non-emotional way. I have brought him back because as a player he has certain qualities to make the team stronger. The team is not about the 11, it is about the different options.
Both new strikers will link up well with the attacking midfield, which has been a mixture of youth and experience this pre-season due to players’ involvement in the World Cup. Eden Hazard, Andre Schurrle, Willian and Oscar will return to further strengthen the attack, but Mourinho has revealed that several youth players will be involved with the first team next season, per the Chelsea website:
We are going to have (Andreas) Christensen and (Nathan) Ake, who are coming from the Academy. We are going to have training with us, but also playing for the Under-21 team, (Dominic) Solanke, (Jeremie) Boga and (Izzy) Brown.
That blend of young talent and experience will serve the Blues well, but Mourinho’s influence will be just as important.
The Special One has had a very different approach to his second spell in charge at Chelsea. Unlike when he joined in 2004, there is no open chequebook, and the win-at-all-costs mentality has been tempered by a decade of consistent success. He has shown that he is not afraid to sell important players to ensure Financial Fair Play compliance, and the integration of youth will also help the cause.
Mourinho spoke a lot about last season being about the transition, but there can be no doubt that he is fully focused on winning titles this year, per the Chelsea website:
Football is about competitiveness every weekend and that only happens in the Premier League. At Chelsea, if we didn’t think we could win the league, or didn’t think we had the quality to do it, we wouldn’t be here working so hard. We respect our opponents and their ambitions, because they have the same ambitions as us, but we want to win the Premier League and we are ready for that.
Looking at the strength, experience and versatility of the Blues’ squad, it is difficult to disagree with Mourinho that they are ready—and able—to win the 2014-15 Premier League.