Can Chelsea Really Challenge On All Four Fronts?

Nick JohnstonCorrespondent IAugust 5, 2008

"Big Phil" Scolari has claimed that he believes Chelsea can and will challenge on all four fronts this season and claim an unprecedented quadruple. Sir Alex Ferguson has claimed that Chelsea are too old to present a significant challenge to his side.

Who's right? How will Chelsea fare this season after the disappointment of last year.

Ferguson's claim that Chelsea are too old has been dismissed by many who have delivered statistics to prove that the two sides both average an age of 28, these are sides including Edwin van der Sar (37) and Petr Cech (26) as keepers, a position in which age is far less important and one in which United have youthful backup in the shape of Ben Foster.

Similarly, United's top scorers last season, Ronaldo, Rooney and Tevez are 23, 22 and 24 respectively, so would be expected to be still developing and at the height of physical fitness.

Chelsea meanwhile saw goals coming from Lampard, Ballack and Drogba, all of whom have passed 30 and are likely now to be declining in ability and fitness. Of course, they are far from spent forces and perhaps their best is still to come, but Chelsea cannot rely on these players to play 60 games between August and May whilst continually coming up with the goods.

Arsenal, on the other hand, despite selling some of their best players over the summer, have a youthful team with the ability and the legs to challenge any side in the world this season. If they can find their feet early on and stay largely free from injuries, I can see them winning the title. But it’s a big if.

But age is not the only factor in mounting and sustaining a strong challenge in the hunt for multiple trophies. Depth is needed. Chelsea lack depth. Losing Makelele, Sidwell and Sahar will not change the starting XI but may impact on long term fortunes.

With Drogba, Kalou and Shevchenko all missing the start of the season through either injury or, in Kalou's case, the Olympics, leaving Chelsea with one striker to start the season: Nicolas Anelka. Immediately their depth will be tested.

In defence, who is ready to step in when Bosingwa, Terry, Cole or Carvalho is injured or needs a day off? Juliano Belletti? Wayne Bridge? I can't see them scaring the new Torres/Keane partnership.

And who is Branislav Ivanovic? Signed for nearly £8 million in January, he didn't play under Avram Grant and I don't see Scolari changing that in a hurry.

Talking of Scolari, he has been widely hailed as the man to pick up where Mourinho left off without the fragile arrogance of his predecessor but one. But he has not proved himself in Europe at club level.

Scolari won the World Cup with Brazil, but failed to do anything special with a talented Portuguese squad at his disposal. He was sporadic whilst with Gremio and Palmeiras in Brazil, but as with international football, that was a very different environment from that which he is about to enter.

Abramovich and the fans will give him no time to settle in and will expect results from day one. It could be a tough year for him.

If Chelsea are to challenge on all four fronts, August is going to have to be a busy, and probably expensive, month for them. They need youth and depth to add to the experienced and intimidating starting XI assembled by Abramovich's billions.

Another centre-back, a striker or forward to accompany Didier Drogba and a left midfielder to replace the sinking Florent Malouda.

But look at Liverpool. With talented cover in every position, youthfulness and a manager who has proven his ability both domestically and in European competition. They have almost all the strengths that Chelsea do with far fewer weaknesses.

They have made few changes to their squad of last year, but I can really see them challenging both Manchester United and Chelsea this year in the league, as well as pushing for glory in Europe.


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