In the 2007/08 season, Manchester United stole its second consecutive Premiership title and slipped away, literally, with a shootout win in the Champions League title game. Leaving captain, John Terry, in tears wondering what might have been.
Manchester United have nothing to prove. Terry and the Blues do.
Where to start?
Grant out, Scolari in. The beautiful game in London sounds a bit far fetched, but there is no denying this teams overall talent. With so much talent available we could be seeing history in the making or a complete and utter mess. Can you say Grand-Slam or bust?
But I digress.
Championships always start and end with defense, and Chelsea have that. With the addition of Jose Bosingwa this team may be better defensively and offensively than in previous campaigns. Returning players Ricardo Carvalho, Alex, Ashley Cole, Wayne Bridge, Paulo Ferreira, and captain Terry this team can play defensively with any team in the world. Loaded with international team players, no one is lacking experience in this group.
The problem here is the midfield. With the signing of Deco, the make-up of the offense changes automatically. He and Frank Lampard should make for a formidable pair in the center of the pitch. They will be able to dictate pace against most of the teams in the Premiership and probably in the Champions League as well.
Michael Essien seems to figure in the first team plans as he has been signed to a longer term deal leaving the rest of us to ponder who the fourth midfielder could be. Whether or not the club gets Robinho or Kaka is irrelevant since they already have too many quality options. Joe Cole, Michael Ballack, Flourent Malouda, John Michael Obi, and Shaun Wright-Phillips are all in the bullpen.
Early indications point surprisingly to Wright-Phillips. He has impressed Scolari in training and in game situations with his pace and attacking ability from the wing.
Could we finally see what everyone else saw when he was brought in as a wide-eyed youngster? I hope so. It was rumored early that he was about to be transferred, but the team may have no option but to hold on to him.
At this point I don't think you can cry over any of the players listed above. This really may be the best fit in the four-four-two formation that has been proposed. The big question is where does Joe Cole fit?
If the four-three-three set-up catches steam, then Cole could figure in a more forward position on the left attacking side. He also could figure in a potential transfer before the end of August sending him to possible suitors Liverpool or Aston Villa.
They could go to a Three-Five-Two to take advantage of all the midfield talent, but how likely is that? That would also waste the talent they have on the back end.
By now your thinking that all these players are great, but who is responsible for putting the ball in the back of the net? Well I will tell you.
In the absence of Didier Drogba, Nicolas Anelka has filled in with marvelous enthusiasm. In five preseason games he had six goals—netting four against Italian powerhouse AC Milan. If he can gain a cohesive partnership with Drogba, watch out.
With Drogba's power and peskiness and Anelka's speed on attack, they could be lethal this year. However, you could also get last years Anelka. You know the one who couldn't pick up his captain by slotting home a penalty in Moscow to extend the teams hopes for a Champions League title. Yeah, that one.
If this does not work out there are options. Solomon Kalou has played well in preseason and looks to be perfect for the teams new attacking style.
Behind him pick your disappointment. Andriy Shevchenko and Claudio Pizzaro have not shown a glimpse of what Chelsea had hoped they were getting when they put up the funds to bring them to The Bridge. Pizzaro may not even be here by the end of the transfer window, as he is the most likely target to get chopped.
The player to watch this year is Franco Di Santi and his progression with the first team. The youngster is playing well and scored a goal in his first action with the Blues. As with teams like AC Milan, Inter Milan, and Barcelona, youth seems to be the word of the day.
AC Milan's Alexandre Pato, Inter Milan's Mario Balotelli, and Barcelona's Bojan Krkic are all looking to be used more prominently in there teams plans. It is time the Premier League teams catch on to this. I think they will with players like Theo Walcott and Di Santi possibly making an impact this year as well, but if youth is not cultivated and featured more, this league has no chance of competing with the flair of the Spanish and Italian leagues.
All in all, Chelsea have a solid shot to contend in the Champions League, the FA Cup, the Carling Cup, and the Premiership. So a Grand-Slam is possible with all the talent and options, however, it is very unlikely. You can't blame a guy for dreaming. Hopefully none of these title runs ends in a shootout.
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