Category Archives: Features & Analysis

Chelsea Transfer Review (Summer 2015): Which Players Are In, Out & On Loan

Transfer deadline day wasn’t one to remember for Chelsea fans, and many view the summer’s business as mixed at best. The main focus seemed to be on the players who didn’t join, rather than the ones who actually arrived. Big money moves never materialised, and some of the signings were far from the household names that were rumoured early on.

On top of that, there were some high profile exits, and once again a barrage of loan departures. With the current number of Chelsea’s farmed out reserves hitting 30, we felt you may need reminding of just who left the club this summer. Here we have a run-down of all the summer’s transfer activity, plus reaction to all the completed moves, and those which remained uncompleted.

Transfers in

  • Pedro – Barcelona, £21 million
  • Asmir Begovic – Stoke, £8 million
  • Abdul Baba Rahman – Augsberg, £14 million
  • Kenedy – Fluminense, £6 million
  • Papy Djilobodji – Nantes, £2.7 million
  • Michael Hector – Reading, £4 million
  • Total: £55.7 million

Despite signing just one player who is likely to start more matches than not, there’s quite a bit to get through in Chelsea’s incomings this summer. Pedro is the big name, and he looks like a fantastic piece of business. The others, are a mix of squad players, youngsters and complete unknowns. Djilobodji is an odd signing, he was turned down by Sunderland, QPR and Aston Villa before moving to Stamford Bridge. He must have thought the offer was a wind up. Michael Hector seems like an even stranger move, signing the 23-year-old for £4million, before loaning him straight out.

John Stones was the big miss this summer. The club were open about wanting to sign him, but they just could not get Everton to part with the centre-half. They chased him for most of the summer, before turning their attention to Marquinhos of PSG. They had two deadline day bids rejected for him, while they were also rumoured to be after Paul Pogba.

These moves could be setting the table for a massive summer next year, as that’s how modern transfers have moved. Many deals take over a year to complete, very rarely does a big player move in the space of days or weeks. Look at the build up to signing Diego Costa last year, that type of deal takes a while. Maybe it’s better to not waste money this year, to get the likes of Pogba and Stones over the line next summer?

Transfers out

  • Thorgan Hazard – Borussia Monchengladbach, £5.8 million
  • Gael Kakuta – Sevilla, £2.5 million
  • Petr Cech – Arsenal, £10 million
  • Josh McEachran – Brentford, £750,000
  • Didier Drogba – Montreal Impact, free
  • Filipe Luis – Atletico Madrid, £11 million
  • Oriol Romeu – Southampton, £5 million
  • Total: £35 million

Many of these departures were failed young starlets, who recouped the club back some profit while hopefully moving on to play more games. Those can’t really be argued with. Neither can Drogba’s move; he has given the club everything he could since first signing in 2004, and he deserves one final year playing regularly.

The same could be said for Cech, although it is disappointing to see him in an Arsenal shirt. Every Chelsea fan knew the Czech stopper was too good to sit on the bench, but few are happy seeing him at the Emirates. While it doesn’t seem to have helped Arsenal too much so far, it has fixed a position that’s worried Arsene Wenger for years.

Luis didn’t really do much in his year at Chelsea, but his move to Atletico seems like a waste. Given Branislav Ivanovic’s poor early form, it’s likely the Brazilian would have forced himself into contention. Adbul Baba Rahman could prove to be a great replacement, but it does feel like an unnecessary risk.

Chelsea’s Legion of Loaned Players

  • Christian Atsu – Bournemouth
  • Lewis Baker – Vitesse
  • Mario Pasalic – Monaco
  • Andreas Christensen – Borussia Monchengladbach
  • Isaiah Brown –Vitesse
  • Nathan – Vitesse
  • Marco Van Ginkel – Stoke
  • Victorien Angban – Sint-Truiden
  • Tomas Kalas – Middlesbrough
  • Jordan Houghton – Gillingham
  • Kenneth Omeruo – Kasimpasa
  • Patrick Bamford – Crystal Palace
  • Wallace – Capri
  • Danilo Pantic – Vitesse
  • Ulises Davila – Vitoria
  • Dominic Solanke – Vitesse
  • Joao Rodriguez – Sint-Truiden
  • Todd Kane – NEC Nijmegen
  • Mohammed Salah – Roma
  • Matej Delac – Sarajevo
  • Alex Davey –Peterborough United
  • Christian Cuevas – Sint-Truiden
  • Nathan Ake – Watford
  • Juan Cuadrado – Juventus
  • Marko Marin – Trabzonspor
  • Cristian Manea – Royal Mouscron Peruwelz
  • Jeremie Boga – Stade Rennais
  • Lucas Piazon – Reading
  • Victor Moses – West Ham
  • Islam Feruz – Hibernian
  • Michael Hector – Reading
  • Nathaniel Chalobah – Napoli

Even the most ardent Chelsea fan would have trouble keeping track of these players and the feeder clubs they join. Keeping 30 players on your books at other clubs might not be breaking any rules, but it does feel wrong. Does this really benefit any of the players? Will they actually ever get to play for Chelsea? And will this put off the next generation of wonder-kids from coming to the Bridge?

Of this huge number of players we’ve seen go, a few names stand out in particular. You have to wonder if Jose Mourinho would have let Andreas Christensen or Nathan Ake leave if he knew he wouldn’t get Stones. It’s hard to see Djilobodji as that much better than either of those two youngsters. Their progress this season will certainly be worth keeping an eye on.

The same can be said for a few others, including Nathaniel Chalobah. The youngster had a poor spell at Burnley last season, but now he faces a massive step up, as he moves to Napoli and Serie A. Given that they are looking to make the Champions League, this could be the making of the midfielder.

Mario Pasalic is another one to watch out for, after he moved to Monaco. The highly rated Croatian should get some chances there, and hopefully he can return ready for the first team. Izzy Brown is one of the many Blues at Vitesse this season, but keep tabs on his displays this year. He’s a highly rated striker, and you’d hope he will be able to prove himself in Holland.

Falcao: Is It Too Early To Write Him Off?

Maxisport / Shutterstock.com

Maxisport / Shutterstock.com

Andrei Shevchenko. Fernando Torres. Radamel Falcao? Chelsea fans probably saw the club heading down a well-worn path last week when they announced the capture of the Colombian forward, a once fearsome, now injury hit big-name striker. Many are expecting him to join the ranks of Torres and Sheva, two famous examples of clinical strikers turned Blues duds.

There are a few differences this time around, most notably the lack of fanfare. Falcao has joined with a mixture of grumbling and faint hope, but for years reports of him making a move to Stamford Bridge piqued the interest of most fans. A year ago the former Atletico man joined Manchester United on loan on deadline day, prompting excited chatter that he’d fire them to the title.

The Red Devils spent over £20million in loan fees and wages on Falcao, and in return they got 16 shots on target in the Premier League. Obviously, that underperformance means there’s little reaction matching other big name signings of recent years. Instead, many see the forward as finished, suggesting this is Jose Mourinho’s ego gone out of control. But, should we really just accept that Falcao will be a disaster? Here is why it’s too early to be writing him off.

It’s impossible to argue that Falcao was a disappointment for United last season, scoring just four times in the league. When you’re paying a forward upwards of £200,000 per week, you’d expect a much higher return than that. He did head to Manchester with baggage, after injuring himself in 2014 with Monaco. He missed the World Cup last summer, and he never really looked at full fitness last term.

Given that he missed a large part of preseason last summer, that’s hardly surprising. Many experts say it can take a year to return to your best after recovering from an ACL injury, Falcao wouldn’t have been back near his best until the tail end of the season, having already played for months. Now, with a good break and a preseason to get himself ready, he should be in perfect shape for another crack at the Premier League.

The league is one that many foreign stars take a while to adapt to, given the huge culture change. It didn’t help that the Colombian moved to Manchester not really knowing anyone there, dumped into a United side in the middle of a transition. He came through that year, and now his season at Chelsea should be a lot easier. He has compatriot Juan Cuadrado, plus former Atletico teammates Thibaut Courtois, Diego Costa and Filipe Luis.

Those four should make his move to London a lot easier, and he’ll have a more familiar feel to life than he did at Old Trafford. Monaco’s Vice President accused Louis van Gaal of not giving Falcao enough encouragement, that shouldn’t be a problem here. With Mourinho and his former teammates in his corner, hopefully the Colombian can reproduce the performances that earnt his reputation.

When asked about signing the striker, Mourinho told South American TV, “If I can help Falcao reach his level again, I will do it. It hurts me that people in England think that the real Falcao is the one we saw at Manchester United.”

He’s got a point. While no one can deny he struggled last season, his track record at Porto, Atletico and Monaco is incredible. During his spell with those three, his record was 104 goals in 139 league appearances. He played 42 times in Europe for those three, scoring 38 times, which shows his impact at the highest level. That is the player Mourinho sees, and that’s the one he believes he’s just signed.

It’s a much needed signing, too. No matter what you think about Falcao, there’s no denying that the Blues were a forward short before he joined. This time, unlike the Shevchenko and Torres deals, the issue was more quantity than quality. In Diego Costa, Mourinho already has a world class forward, and Loic Remy is a capable replacement. Didier Drogba rounded out a solid front three last season, stepping in when Costa had his injury problems.

Costa established himself as top dog last season, and Mourinho isn’t the type to reward that by dropping him to the bench. Any striker who comes in has to accept that they’re second choice, and that they’re basically a replacement for Drogba. While he’s a legend at the club, the Ivorian only scored four times in 28 league games last year. That’s a record that Falcao is capable of beating.

Of course, he’ll need to do more than beat that record to prove to be value for money. The good news is, Chelsea won’t be wasting quite as much money as United. They were out a fortune after loan fees, wages and bonuses, with the Colombian on a rumoured £285,000 a week. Reports say that he’s taken a 50% pay cut to come to Chelsea. While £140,000 per week isn’t anything to be sniffed at, that’s a huge drop for the player to take while still in his prime, at least in age terms.

Of course there are still problems here, many point out that the club could be in trouble if Costa’s injury problems rare up again. But, that’s the case no matter who comes in. Replacing what the Spaniard can do up front is almost impossible. All Mourinho can really do is hope Costa stays fit, while having a decent back up or two for the likely suspensions and extra exertions of the cups.

It is hard to view this as anything other than a one year spell. Mourinho would have to work miracles with Falcao to justify triggering his £35million buy-out clause next summer. But, just because this deal will expire doesn’t make it a bad one. Signing a player who has a world class record as back up on reduced wages could easily be a masterstroke. While it could all go horribly wrong, this is the kind of test that Mourinho will relish – and who are we to doubt The Special One?

Season Highs And Lows: How The Title Was Won

As the old cliché goes, the league table doesn’t lie. Having dominated the Premier League standings throughout, Chelsea lifted the title on the final day of the season against Sunderland. Three weeks after winning the league, Stamford Bridge erupted as the champions were crowned, before they paraded their success around the streets of west London the next day.

The destination of the trophy was known for a while, as a 16 match unbeaten run from January until May helped them to glory. None of their rivals were able to keep pace, but it’s important to remember that things weren’t always so clear cut. We’ve gone back through the campaign, to pick out the season defining games that led to the Stamford Bridge side being crowned champions. We’ve charted the highs and lows across a record breaking campaign, covering all the twists and turns in one of the most one sided title races in Premier League history.

18th August: 3-1 v Burnley (A)

The opening weekend saw the Blues head to newly promoted Burnley, as they started the season as title favourites with bookies and pundits alike. It’s hard to imagine a time when Diego Costa could have been considered a flop, as he opened his account for the club with a goal in his first league game. Andre Schurrle and Branislav Ivanovic were also on the score sheet, as Jose Mourinho’s team became the first and only league leaders in the 2014/15 season.

5th October: 2-0 v Arsenal (H)

Seven games into the season and the Blues first took a five point lead over Manchester City. This win over the Gunners was enough to send the leaders further clear, with Eden Hazard and Costa on target to continue an unbeaten start to the season. At this stage, many were already talking about Chelsea running away with the trophy, and there were murmurs about a possible unbeaten season on the cards. They did manage to go unbeaten against their top four rivals, a feat they achieved for the second season in a row.

6th December: 1-2 v Newcastle (A)

That unbeaten run came to an end after 15 games of the season, as the leaders lost at St James’ Park against Newcastle. This was far from the Toon team who were destined for a relegation scrap. Here, under Alan Pardew, they gave Chelsea a tough test, one that the leaders couldn’t pass. This result came on the back of a 0-0 draw at Sunderland, which were the first signs that City could still force themselves into the title race. As we approached the half way point, the gap at the top was reduced to just three points.

1st January: 3-5 v Tottenham (A)

After losing their unbeaten record, Chelsea once again suffered defeat on New Years’ Day. They went to local rivals Spurs and started very well, but a poor defensive display saw them fall apart and suffer a 5-3 defeat. City moved level on points with the leaders earlier in the day, and that result gave them identical records, meaning the Blues were ahead only thanks to the alphabet! From having the title wrapped up, we now looked set for an incredibly close run in, with the momentum firmly with the defending champions. After losing that lead, it looked like Mourinho’s men were about to fall behind for the first time all season.

31st January: 1-1 v Manchester City (H)

Fast forward to the end of the month, and once again Chelsea were in complete control. A 2-0 win over Newcastle and a 5-0 win over Swansea put them back in charge after City dropped points. The champions visited Stamford Bridge with a five point gap to make up, and they knew a defeat would effectively end their hopes of getting back into the race. In the end, the points were shared, despite Loic Remy opening the scoring for the hosts. They ended January five points ahead, and they were once again firmly in control of their own destiny.

22nd March: 3-2 v Hull (A)

The league leaders were firmly in control after the 29th game of the season, as they saw off Hull at the KC Stadium to go six points clear at the top with a game in hand. The visitors already had the League Cup in the bag, and they started in good style here with Hazard and Costa giving them a 2-0 lead within 10 minutes. A fightback from the hosts complicated things, but Remy’s winner had Chelsea sitting well clear at the end of March. With only nine more games to play, it was hard to see anyone else getting near the pacesetters at the top.

3rd May: 1-0 v Crystal Palace (H)

Of course, the title win was confirmed in May, with three games to spare. A collapse from Manchester City saw them fall way off the pace, with Arsenal, who mounted a strong late push, the main challengers to the Blues. Hazard’s penalty was enough to seal a narrow win over Alan Pardew’s side, which made Chelsea uncatchable at the top. They had finally sealed their first league win in five years, which was a fully deserved success. This win put them 13 points clear of the dethroned Man City, showing just how dominant they were after losing to Spurs at the start of 2015.

The final games against Liverpool, West Brom and Sunderland became somewhat of an irrelevance after the Palace win, with the title in the bag. By the time they lifted the trophy, Chelsea had been top of the table for a record 274 days, beating both Arsenal’s Invincibles and Man United’s treble winners. No one can argue that it was anything other than a fantastic season for Chelsea, and they were as motivated by their defeats as they were inspired by wins. They bounced back well from potentially damaging defeats before winning the title, with that fantastic unbeaten run from January to May central to their charge to glory. Looking back, it’s hard not to be impressed by how dominant the champions were.

Premier League Title Race – Analysing the Run-in

With Chelsea comfortably clear at the top of the Premier League, they’re firm favourites to wrestle the title away from current champions Manchester City. But there is still over three months of the season left to play, and we’ve already witnessed City clawing back a similar gap earlier this term back in December, after Chelsea’s squad was stretched to breaking point after the festive period fixture pile up. In short, it isn’t quite all over.

With multiple fronts for the Blues to compete on over the next few months, could they throw away another lead? City have roared back to title wins in recent seasons, we even saw it last term when they overtook Liverpool late in the campaign and clinched the title on the final day. City will fight as long as they can to keep their trophy, but who has the advantage in the run-in? Here we take a look at the final 10 games for both sides, to see what challenges face the champions and the challengers.

The big thing that stands out from each side’s final 10 games, is that Chelsea have the home advantage. The Blues are at home in six of their last ten, while City have five home and five away games in the final stretch of the season. That makes things easier for Chelsea, and it cuts down on their traveling, which is one of the obstacles that often gets overlooked. In fact, the league leaders have seven of their last eight games in London, which is surely going to help them, especially if they’re still in the Champions League by then.

As we mentioned, fixture congestion could play a part in the title race, with both sides currently in the Champions League and looking for a good run in the competition. While that isn’t much of a factor in the early part of the run-in, if they reach the quarter finals of Europe’s elite competition they face the prospect of five games in 14 days. If they’re going to do well in both competitions, a strong squad and regular rotation is clearly essential.

While Manchester United may be some way off the top of the table, they could well have a big say in the title race. That’s because they come head to head with the top two in the space of a week in April. City face a trip to Old Trafford on the 11th April, then the weekend after the Red Devils head down to London to face Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. With Louis van Gaal’s side pushing for the Champions League, they can’t afford any slip ups either.

While the game against neighbours United is big for City, Chelsea’s meeting with the Red Devils kicks off a crucial part of their campaign. They have a possible Champions League quarter final a few days after that, and the following three league games contain tough fixtures, including those against Arsenal and Liverpool. That stretch, between the middle of April and early May, could be when the league leaders put the title beyond doubt… or falter and let City back in.

City have a few tough games of their own, and their run of games in May looks quite difficult. They face Tottenham and Swansea away, plus a home game against Champions League-chasing Southampton on the final day. The later games in the season are hard to call, because we don’t know where teams will be in the table and what form they’re going to be in, but if Spurs and Saints are both pushing for the Champions League in May, City will have a big task to win those games.

The one thing we’ve seen from City in their last two title wins is that they tend to finish the season well. But, just what does it take to clinch the title in the run-in? We looked at the last 10 games from each sides recent title wins, looking at just how well they did on their way to lifting the trophy.

Interestingly, Manchester City’s record in the final 10 games was identical in their two title winning seasons. They won seven of their last 10 in each, drawing two and losing one. As for Chelsea, under Mourinho in 2005 they didn’t lose in their final 10, drawing three and winning the rest. 2006 was a different story, as they lost their two games after sealing the title, meaning they won just six of their last 10, losing three in total. Their most recent title win came in 2010, when they won eight, drew one and lost one in the final stages, lifting the trophy on the final day.

While it’s unlikely to come down to the last day, given the current gap between the sides, this does show us roughly what it takes to lift the title. Both sides have a 70% win ratio from their last 10 games of title winning seasons. If Chelsea could do something similar to that, then it’s likely City would have to win all of their remaining games to retain their title. With three of their last four away games against bottom 10 sides, and six home games in their last 10, you’d have to imagine Chelsea can get close to that win ratio.

There will of course be twists and shocks along the way, as there tends to be in any Premier League season. Teams at the bottom will be fighting for their lives, while some teams will already be in holiday mode. How the fixtures fall can play a key role, but it’s up to each side to go out and win them if they want to be champions.

At the moment, it all looks to be in the Blues’ favour. They have an advantage at the top, more home games, an easier run of fixtures in May and their away games don’t require too big of a trek. While Champions League progress and injuries will play a part, everything’s falling Chelsea’s way as things stand. Having lead the table from day one, it’s only going to be their fault if they’re not there come 24th May.

Juan Cuadrado

Juan Cuadrado – Profiling The £23 Million Man

Juan Cuadrado

Image Credit: salajean / Shutterstock.com

Jose Mourinho constantly repeated that there was going to be no transfer business at the club in January. After Mark Schwarzer left to join Leicester City, Mourinho said there would be no new signings, he was happy with his squad and no one would be leaving. But, just as it did last season, an offer came in for a second choice player that was too good to turn down.

Andre Schurrle left for Wolfsburg for a rumoured £23m, which gave the World Cup winning winger a chance to return to his native land and get more first team football. That money was reinvested in the team, and Juan Cuadrado arrived at the Blues for a fee of just over £23m, with Mohammed Salah going the other way to Fiorentina on loan until the end of the season. The new signing is sure to lift everyone around the club, but who exactly is Cuadrado? Here is all you need to know about our new number 23.

The 26 year-old winger is a Colombian international, and he’s been capped 37 times by his country, scoring five goals. Long before he was a successful footballer, his life was hit with tragedy. When he was just five years old he had to hide under his bed when gunmen burst into his house and killed his father. He grew up in a very rough part of Colombia, and through football he was able to move him and his family out of that situation.

If you’ve heard his name before, it’s probably due to the busy summer he had. Our new boy made quite an impression on the World Cup this summer, helping Colombia reach the last 16. He scored once and registered four assists, the joint highest in the tournament. He was heavily linked with both Manchester United and Barcelona in the summer, but neither side met Fiorentina’s asking price.

One of the reasons Manchester United were likely after him is because he can play in a variety of positions along the right flank, and he could well have been their wing back on the right hand side. It’s unlikely Chelsea have spent so much on him to put him at right back, but the ability to play there is surely something which Mourinho will rate. He expects his creative wingers to still do a job defensively, and Cuadrado should be able to adapt to that a lot quicker after experience as a defender.

As for his style of play, he’s a very pacey player, whilst also being very direct. He’s more of a traditional winger than anyone Chelsea have had in the past few seasons. While at Fiorentina, he was nicknamed the Vespa by Luca Toni because of his ability to weave in and out of traffic on the pitch. During the World Cup he was used as an outlet for a Colombian side that defended very deep, with his pace taking them up the pitch quickly when they got in possession. That should bode well for any tight games were the Blues need to park the bus and play deep.

John Square, (his names’ literal translation for those that liked Johnny Kills, aka Juan Mata!), got his big break when he moved to the Colombian top tier at 20 years old. He played for Medellin for two seasons, before moving to European football with Udinese. He struggled in his first couple of seasons there and didn’t do too well while on loan at Lecce, but another loan move to Fiorentina turned his career around.

He joined Fiorentina in 2012 on loan, and helped the club to secure a fourth place finish in Serie A that season. After that, he moved to the club on a permanent deal for €5m. After scoring 11 times in 31 starts last season, he scored four goals in 17 league games this term before securing his transfer to Chelsea.

He had been scheduled to face Spurs later this month with Fiorentina in the Europa League last 32, but instead, he now has the chance to face them on March 1st with Chelsea, as he looks to secure the first silverware of his career in the League Cup final. While he has never won a trophy, the Colombian was a runner-up in the Italian Cup last season, and his side were also runners-up in the Colombian top flight in 2008. After his move to Stamford Bridge, he’ll be looking to finally start winning some trophies and we don’t think he’ll have too long to wait.

Despite the fact that he played for Fiorentina in the Europa League this season, he is available in the Champions League for his new side. UEFA rules allow clubs to register one player who already featured in the Europa League in their Champions League squads, and the Blues have taken up that opportunity. That means he could get his first taste of Champions League football in the last 16 clash with PSG – not a bad start!

As well as being a replacement for Schurrle, Cuadrado could also be seen as a replacement for David Luiz. The Brazilian was seen as the joker of the Chelsea pack until his move to Paris in the summer, but the new signing seems to be of a similar mould. During the summer he and Real Madrid midfielder James Rodriquez were an internet hit as a vine of them hiding in teammate Pablo Armero’s room before scaring him went viral.

While he has not yet hit the very top level as a player, Cuadrado does come to the Bridge with an excellent track record. He did well on the world stage in Brazil during the summer, and he sounds like he’s ready to make the step up at Chelsea. Adapting to the Premier League, Champions League and developing the winning mentality that the squad currently has will take time, but the raw talent and application is certainly there.

Given his impressive assists record during the summer, he could well add goals to this Chelsea team. His approach is certainly different to that of the main goal creators in the team, Cesc Fabregas and Oscar, and that will be important as the league leaders come up against more and more teams who play with 10 men behind the ball. Given his defensive and attacking attributes, this looks to be yet another impressive piece of business by Mourinho and the club and we can’t wait to see good old John Square in action!

Chelsea FC: The Season So Far (January 2015)

In mid-January, we’re just over the halfway point in terms of the Premier League, and we’re currently around the halfway point of the season as a whole. So, just how has this campaign gone so far? And what is to come? Here we are going to look back at the highs and lows of 2014/15 so far for Chelsea, and see just who and what stands in the way of success.

First up, the Premier League. It’s been quite a ride, including talk of an unbeaten season before Manchester City roared back into contention. The Blues made it in to December with an unbeaten record, but that came crashing down in a defeat at Newcastle. After opening up a lead at the top that was so large Paddy Power paid out on Chelsea winning the league, City came back to become joint leaders. The low point certainly had to be the 5-3 defeat at Spurs on New Year’s Day, which saw City go level at the top, and left Jose Mourinho red faced with anger.

After all the victories this season, picking a highlight is difficult. The 6-3 win at Everton was probably the most entertaining game thus far, with both sides playing some brilliant attacking football, while the wins over Liverpool, Arsenal and Spurs all had very impressive performances. All in all, with Diego Costa leading the scoring charts and with Chelsea leading the way at the top, it’s been a very good season so far. With all but one of their away games against last year’s top 10 played, things should be a little more comfortable in the run in – in theory at least.

The Champions League is currently having its winter hibernation, but it’s been an impressive European season so far for the 2012 winners. They secured qualification to the last 16 and top spot in the group after just five games, and they made it through the group stage unbeaten. They did it in impressive fashion, too, scoring 17 goals and conceding just three. The highlight was undoubtedly the 5-0 win at Schalke, which saw the Blues book their place in the next round. With PSG up next, there’s certainly a big challenge ahead.

Mourinho won the League Cup twice in his first spell, and he’s in with a chance of winning it again this season, with his side through to the semi final stage. Bolton, Shrewsbury and Derby have been seen off in the competition so far, and we’ve seen strong line ups selected throughout despite the relatively easy matches. We’ll need to see that again, with a two legged clash against Liverpool up next set to bee a much tougher challenge, starting at Anfield.

The other domestic competition, the FA Cup, has only just got under way, but Chelsea won their first game in this season’s competition against Watford in the third round. It was a comfortable 3-0 win in the end, and given how well they’ve done in this competition in the last few years, there’s a good chance that they’ll be going a lot further. Its lower league opposition up next as well, as League One Bradford come to Stamford Bridge.

While the team have been fantastic this season, there’s been more than a few stand out players. Picking a top three was close to impossible, but here is an attempt at singling out the best performers of the campaign, although naturally enough some that many people might have included didn’t quite make it.

It really was a toss-up between two players to complete the top three, with Cesar Azpilicueta and Eden Hazard coming close after they both have had great seasons. They’ve made a good combination on the left hand side, but Hazard just sneaks it due to his impact going forward. Moments like his goal at Southampton meant it was just too hard to leave him out. He’s becoming a threat from the left just due to his presence, freeing up space for the others to exploit.

Next up, is Cesc Fabregas. The former Arsenal man joined from Barcelona in the summer, which hardly endeared him to the Chelsea faithful. Despite that, he hit the ground running, getting an assist in his first game, and he hasn’t looked back since. He’s already equalled the highest assists tally in the league from the entirety of last season, and he’s well on course to break Thierry Henry’s Premier League assists record of 20 in a single campaign. He’s added a new dimension going forward, and his link up play with Oscar and Hazard has been nothing short of brilliant at times.

But, Chelsea’s best player this term has been Nemanja Matic. The Serbian has been great anchoring the midfield, whilst showing he can be a threat going forward, too. His main role has been breaking up play in the middle, and it was in his first absence of the season that the Blues lost their unbeaten record. He wasn’t at his best in the defeat at Spurs, but so far this season he’s dominated the midfield, and struck up a great partnership with Cesc Fabregas, offering brilliant balance to the side. Mourinho called him the team’s best player, and it’s hard to argue with that. Many will be amazed that Costa hasn’t made our list and we’d certainly give the forward a straight “A”, but such as been the Pensioners’ brilliance thus far it takes an “A-star” to make our top three.

After a good season to date, what is to come in the second part of the campaign? With four competitions to compete in, how will the Blues deal with the potential fixture pile up? We saw over the Christmas period just how a busy run of games affected the team, dropping points at Southampton and Spurs, and if the title favourites progress further in the cups, fixture congestion could become a real problem.

It’s unlikely that Mourinho will dip into the transfer market, so the current squad will have to make do. One thing that is going for them in the league, is how their away games have panned out. The big away games are almost all behind them, and the last eight Premier League games in April and May are all in London, bar one, so that should certainly help.

The Premier League title is going to be the big aim this season, but Mourinho isn’t one to turn down silverware. Both he and Chelsea went without a trophy last season, and that’s something they need to address. Capital One Cup success isn’t far away, while the Champions League looks more open than it has been in years. The FA Cup might be the one to suffer from the packed fixture list, but we know from history that the manager has to win one of the big two to keep himself in the job.

But, just how do you see the season going? We predicted back in the summer that there would be successes in the League and League Cup, with some strong showings in the Champions League and FA Cup. Do you think that’s realistic? Whatever happens, it’s shaping up to be the most exciting run-in in recent years and it’s great to see Chelsea leading the way as spring approaches.

Chelsea’s November Blues

Coming up to the end of 2014, many point to the festive period and its wall to wall games as the crucial period of the season. It is widely recognised as the section of the campaign that will make or break a season, stretching even the most resilient squad to its limits. While Christmas time is crucial for a team’s season, for Chelsea in recent years, their big test has been November.

The Blues have experienced some tough times in the penultimate month of the year, suffering quite a few setbacks which have gone on to affect their season overall. Many say you can’t win the title in November, and that is of course true… but you can certainly lose it, and in Chelsea’s case that’s been evident in recent times. November is when teams turn good starts into strong seasons, and build up momentum for the tough Christmas run of games.

The problem for Chelsea is that they haven’t been doing that very well in the last few years. Between 2010 and 2013, the Blues have played 16 Premier League games in November, and they’ve picked up just 18 points out of a possible 48. Here we look at how the month has gone for Chelsea in the last five years, and ask what the Blues need to do ahead of their final fixtures of the month.

November 2009

  • Chelsea 1-0 Manchester United
  • Chelsea 4-0 Wolves
  • Arsenal 0-3 Chelsea

The 2009-10 season saw the Blues’ best November in recent years, winning all three Premier League games, including two big clashes, which helped them on their way to winning the Premier League title. The Blues also got great away results in the Champions League, drawing with Atletico and beating Porto. Those results helped them top their Champions League group, and Carlo Ancelotti ended 2009 in a commanding position in his first season at the club.

November 2010

  • Liverpool 2-0 Chelsea
  • Chelsea 1-0 Fulham
  • Chelsea 0-3 Sunderland
  • Birmingham 1-0 Chelsea
  • Newcastle 1-1 Chelsea

Fast forward a year, and Ancelotti’s position becomes less secure. A month that started with the Blues five points clear at the top of the Premier League ended with the Blues down to second. They won just one of their five games as they ruined their fantastic start to the season. Their three defeats that month accounted for a third of their defeats that season, and they finished nine points off champions Manchester United. Carlo Ancelotti’s position was in question from about November onwards, and he was sacked by May.

November 2011

  • Blackburn 0-1 Chelsea
  • Chelsea 1-2 Liverpool
  • Chelsea 3-0 Wolves

While this was one of the Blues’ better Novembers, it was a far from impressive month. The reign of Andre Villas Boas wasn’t a long one, and this month didn’t help his cause. The Blues recorded two wins out of three, but they were lucky that they faced two sides who were on their way to being relegated that season. They lost to Liverpool at home in the league and in the League Cup, while two poor Champions League results almost eliminated the Blues from Europe’s premier competition, just months before the 2012 win.

A draw at minnows Genk, followed by a defeat at Bayer Leverkusen had the Blues worrying for their place in the knockout round. Of course, they did make it through, but these results made them sweat. Fast forward to 2014 and a draw at the group’s lowest seeds followed by a trip to Germany is exactly what the Blues have this month, and they’ll need to do better when they go to Schalke.

November 2012

  • Swansea 1-1 Chelsea
  • Chelsea 1-1 Liverpool
  • West Brom 2-1 Chelsea
  • Chelsea 0-0 Man City
  • Chelsea 0-0 Fulham

Chelsea began life as European Champions well under Roberto Di Matteo, but they began to fade away. The Blues where stuttering in the league and in Europe, and after a 3-0 defeat at Juventus, Di Matteo was sacked. Rafa Benitez replaced him, but the Blues where unable to turn their form around in November. Their only win of the month came under Di Matteo, a 3-2 win at home to Shaktar Donetsk, with those two away goals ultimately eliminating them. The four draws in the league were almost half of the draws the Blues had across the season (nine), and the Blues ultimately finished third that season.

November 2013

  • Newcastle 2-0 Chelsea
  • Chelsea 2-2 West Brom
  • West Ham 0-3 Chelsea

In 2013, the month of November started with a disappointing defeat at Newcastle, and the Blues almost lost their unbeaten home record under Jose Mourinho against West Brom. A highly dubious last minute penalty helped the Blues to a 2-2 draw, but this was the first sign of the troubles against smaller opposition that plagued them last season. The month was rounded out with an impressive 3-0 win over West Ham, and the Blues have continued in that vein.

This season’s November hasn’t been so bad for the Blues and they have beaten QPR and Liverpool in the league and they drew at Maribor. The win over Liverpool in their last game was the first good performance of the month, and the Blues will hope to maintain that in their last three games.

They face three crucial matches this month, against opposition that could prove extremely difficult. Next up for the Blues is West Brom, who they’ve beaten just once in their last five meetings. After that, they face a must-not-lose game against Schalke in the Champions League, against former boss Di Matteo. The Blues wrap up the month with a trip to Sunderland, to whom they’ve lost in their last two meetings.

While the Blues have a big advantage going into November, they also had one back in 2010. A Mourinho side is unlikely to lose a lead like Ancelotti’s did, but the Blues need to be focused for the rest of this month if they are to kick and get themselves into an unassailable lead in the title race. They currently look on course to win at least one trophy this season, and they’ll have a much better chance of doing that with a good finish to November.

Thibaut Courtois v Petr Cech: Comparing their Chelsea Starts

Almost from the moment Thibaut Courtois starred in Atletico Madrid’s win at Stamford Bridge that sent the Spanish side in to the Champions League final at Chelsea’s expense, the Belgian was rumoured to make a return to the club.

After his loan ended and he returned to the Blues, the debate began over who would take up the number one spot. We now know that Courtois is the club’s first choice, meaning club legend Cech has started just three times all season. The situation is remarkably similar to how Cech started his Stamford Bridge career, with both joining at 22 and competing with a 32-year-old rival, with both newcomers taking the number one spot.

But, while their arrivals at the club have been so similar, how do their starts compare? Here we take a look at the stats from Cech’s start in ‘04 and Courtois’ start in the last few months. Obviously, Cech won the title with Chelsea that season, something Pensioners will hope is a good omen, and his performances in goal helped them to that title in record breaking style.

The draw with Manchester United, where Courtois picked up the man of the match award just before conceding a late equaliser, was the Belgian’s 10th full game in the Chelsea goal. He has made 11 appearances, but after coming off early against Arsenal that game couldn’t really be counted.

Both players split their opening 10 games between Premier League and Champions League, playing eight times in the league and twice in Europe. In his first ten games for Chelsea, Cech conceded just twice, keeping eight clean sheets as Chelsea won eight and drew two. That left the Blues 2nd in the Premier League table, but of course they would go on to win it, setting all kinds of records along the way.

In Courtois first ten games, we’ve seen a lot more goals. The Belgian has conceded 10 goals in his opening ten, keeping just three clean sheets. The Blues have won seven and drawn three of his first ten games. Of course, that has seen the Blues go top of the Premier League and take control of their Champions League group.

Given that Cech conceded just 15 league goals in his first Chelsea season, he seems to be far in front of the current number one. This season the Blues have struggled for clean sheets, which has led to unnecessary draws against the likes of Schalke, Man City and United. Courtois has conceded nine so far in the league, but that’s not completely his fault. When looking at both players’ starts, you have to consider how much the league has changed in ten years.

Chelsea’s total of 72 goals last season was considered not good enough to win the title, given that Liverpool and City, who finished above them, scored 101 and 102 goals respectively. Chelsea’s title winning sides that Cech played in in 2004/05 and 2005/06 scored 73 and 72 goals in the league on their way to the title. Even Arsenal’s “Invincibles” in 2003/04 managed just 73 goals, and they were roundly praised for attacking football.

While Courtois’ stats don’t compare to Cech’s, racking up that many clean sheets and winning games 1-0 doesn’t seem to work in the Premier League anymore. The competition is much more competitive and far more attack minded. Moreover, this team doesn’t quite match up to the trio of John Terry, Ricardo Carvalho and Claude Makelele that Cech had in front of him.

Winning the league now takes an attacking side who can score goals, and that wasn’t Chelsea’s strong point ten years ago. Last season’s disappointments have seen Jose Mourinho change his team to be more attacking, primarily through the additions of Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa. While that seems like a necessary step to take, it is having an effect on their defence, which explains why their backline today ships so many more goals than ten years ago.

Even still, Courtois’ performances have more than certainly been up to scratch. He’s playing in a less experienced, more attacking team, and it’s hard to blame him for many of the goals that Chelsea have conceded this season. You can see that those extra goals haven’t harmed the Blues this year, given that they’re higher in the table than they were ten years ago, and they’ve made an unbeaten start. Just as importantly, the young Belgian stopper is yet to make a mistake in the Chelsea goal.

The main test for Courtois will be in a few months’ time in the run in, when he’ll need to provide big performances. While they’re scoring enough goals at the minute, in the latter stages of the league and in the cups they’ll need to protect narrow wins, and that’s when the keeper needs to be at his very best. Thus far the impressive keeper has shown all the attributes he needs and we’re convinced that when the going gets tough, Courtois will really prove his worth.

Choosing between Cech and Courtois is no easy task and thankfully not one we had to make. It’s a tough decision that Mourinho faced but what a wonderful problem to have and Blues everywhere should be delighted with the goalkeeping strength at the club right now.

Chelsea Transfer Review (Summer 2014): Which Players Are In, Out & On Loan

The transfer window slammed shut on Monday evening with Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho taking up nothing more than a spectator’s role after his side finalised their summer dealings with plenty of time to spare. The big signings were tied up early, with the only business at the end of August being shipping unwanted players out, and finding a replacement for Fernando Torres.

If you’re struggling to remember all of the Blues’ business in the last few months, this is your guide to Chelsea’s ins, outs and loans over the summer. Here you’ll find all the moves, and a look at just how well this window went for Mourinho and Chelsea.

Players Coming Into Chelsea in the Summer of 2014

Total: £85.3 million

While Chelsea had a considerable outlay of over £85 million, they did manage to strengthen in key areas. Three new forwards were brought in, a completely new forward line, to address the goalscoring problems of last season. Diego Costa, Didier Drogba and Loic Remy are far better options than the blunt strikers from last season, Fernando Torres, Demba Ba and Samuel Eto’o, all of whom have been moved on.

Cesc Fabregas has also added another dimension to Chelsea’s attack, and his vision and range of passing has been one of the main factors in Costa’s great start. Fabregas has been fantastic since signing, and he looks a real bargain at £27 million. Even better, he recently claimed to have just returned to full fitness, so we should expect even more from him in the future.

  • For a more detailed look at the various signing who have joined Chelsea this summer, check out our player transfer profiles article.

Players Leaving Chelsea in the Summer of 2014

  • David Luiz, PSG – £50 million
  • Samuel Eto’o – Everton, free
  • Henrique Hilario – retired
  • Sam Hutchinson – Sheffield Wednesday, free
  • Ashley Cole – Roma, free
  • Frank Lampard – New York City, Free
  • Demba Ba – Besiktas, £4.7 million
  • Patrick Van Aanholt – Sunderland, £1.5 million
  • Romelu Lukaku – Everton, £28 million
  • Isak Sswewankambo – NAC Breda, free
  • Daniel Pappoe – Brighton, free
  • George Cole – Brighton, free
  • Bill Clifford – Walsall, free
  • George Saville – Wolves, £1 million

Total: £85.2million

What has made Chelsea’s transfer business even better, is the fact that they’ve almost broken even. With a net spend of just £100,000 the Blues have managed to improve their squad, and that’s happened by selling on players at inflated prices. David Luiz is the obvious example. While the defender had a great rapport with the fans, he also had too many mistakes in his game. Getting £50 million for your third choice centre half is great business, especially when you can replace him in-house.

Romelu Lukaku went for £28 million, another good fee considering he didn’t seem to be part of the manager’s plans. With the strikeforce that Chelsea have now assembled, it is unlikely Lukaku will be missed too much.

The main departures of the summer, however, were club legends Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole. They both left after their contracts expired, as Chelsea begin to build a new team in a different style. Their exit will likely have lifted a load off the wage bill as Chelsea look to cut costs for the Financial Fair Play rules.

Players Chelsea Have Loaned Out in the Summer of 2014

  • Tomas Kalas, FC Koln
  • Wallace, Vitesse
  • Thorgan Hazard, Borussia Monchengladbach
  • Bertrand Traore, Vitesse
  • Mario Pasalic, Elche
  • Lucas Piazon, Eintracht Frankfurt
  • Ryan Bertrand, Southampton
  • Gael Kakuta, Rayo Vallecano
  • John Swift, Rotherham
  • Oriol Romeu, Stuttgart
  • Joao Rodriquez, Bastia
  • Kenneth Omeruo, Middlesbrough
  • Christian Atsu, Everton
  • Stipe Perica, NAC Breda
  • Victor Moses, Stoke City
  • Josh McEachran, Vitesse
  • Marko Marin, Fiorentina
  • Patrick Bamford, Middlesbrough
  • Fernando Torres, AC Milan
  • Marco Van Ginkel, AC Milan
  • Islam Feruz, OFI Crete
  • Nathaniel Chalobah, Burnley
  • Matej Delac, Arles-Avignon
  • Ulises Davila, Tenerife
  • Jamal Blackman, Middlesbrough

One again, Chelsea have a basically a whole squad of players out on loan. A total of 26 have made temporary moves away from the club, and it remains to be seen just how many actually have a future at Stamford Bridge. Macro Van Ginkel should come back from his spell at AC Milan ready for the first team, but one who has no future is Fernando Torres. While he’s only on loan, his contract expires in 2016, so it is doubtful that he’ll ever come back to Chelsea.

Middlesbrough have picked up a few young talents of Chelsea, due to their manager having connections with Mourinho from their time at Real Madrid. Patrick Bamford and Kenneth Omero seem to be rated by Mourinho, so it will be interesting to see how they do in the Championship.

Given all of the summer business so far, it is hard to see Chelsea doing much in the winter transfer window. It may be a similar situation to last season, that they’ll only move if they get a great offer for a player who asks to leave. Even still, they should be more then equipped for the next few months after an excellent, and prudent, summer window.

Chelsea 2014/15 Season Predictions

Despite the return of Jose Mourinho, last season saw no silverware brought home to Stamford Bridge for the first time since the 2010-11 season. After a busy summer of exits and arrivals, with over £80 million spent on new stars, Chelsea know they certainly need a trophy this season. Anything else would be considered a failure. With that in mind, here’s our look at the season ahead, including some potentially inspired (or embarrassing) predictions for the coming nine months.

League Cup

Let’s start with the first silverware of the season, the League Cup. Last season Chelsea crashed out in the quarter finals, losing 2-1 to Sunderland in extra time. That was the point last season at which Mourinho switched from an attacking style to a more defensive one, as it became apparent the Blues’ strikers just couldn’t finish.

That shows that the Capital One Cup isn’t just a vehicle for youth players, he wants to win it. He won the trophy in two of his first three seasons at the club, and he has said it is a great way of building a winning mentality in the run-in. We most likely will see a rotated squad for most of the competition, but such is Chelsea’s strength in depth that shouldn’t be an issue.

LCN League Cup Verdict: Winners

FA Cup

Next up, the FA Cup, a trophy that Chelsea dominated between 2007 and 2012, winning it four times. Having gone out to Manchester City in the last 16 last term, they’ll be looking to improve on that this season.

It’s a competition in which Chelsea regularly field a strong side, and we expect this year will be no different. But, with five or six teams potentially looking to challenge for the title, the FA Cup could become a back up to those who are out of the race by February. An FA Cup win would be a great start for Louis van Gaal at Manchester United or Mauricio Pochettino at Spurs, for instance.

If Chelsea are still in the Champions League and Premier League in the final months of the season, then this competition will likely be the one that suffers. Even with a deep squad, we think the Blues will fall short in this one as they look to other targets.

LCN FA Cup Verdict: Quarter finals

Champions League

After a run to the semi finals last season, the Champions League is a very realistic target for Chelsea this season. They did look set for the final at one stage, but a second half collapse in the second leg against eventual winners Atletico Madrid saw them crash out.

After winning the Champions League in 2012 and the Europa League in 2013, another Champions League win in 2015 isn’t beyond belief. The only issue here is that while Chelsea have strengthened, many of Europe’s best have added real quality to their ranks.

The holders Real Madrid have gone out and signed World Cup winner Toni Kroos and the tournament’s top scorer James Rodriquez for a combined total of over £90 million. Bayern Munich have added Robert Lewandowski up front. Barcelona have improved the most, adding Luis Suarez, Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Thomas Vermaelen, Ivan Rakitic, Jeremy Mathieu and Claudio Bravo.

That Barca side looks a lot stronger than the one that went out in the quarter finals last season, and they look like the favourites to win it. If there was any other team that could stop those three this season, it would be Chelsea with Mourinho at the helm, but we think this is a season too soon for Chelsea with so much competition to face.

LCN Champion League Verdict: Semi-finals

Premier League

Finally, the Premier League: the trophy Mourinho lifted in his first two seasons at Stamford Bridge… and there is no doubt he will want to claim a third success this season. He said several times last season that Chelsea weren’t ready to win the title. He called them the little horse of the title race, even though they beat their competitors home and away.

While they did finish off the pace in the title race, it was due to defeats against the likes of Sunderland, Crystal Palace and Aston Villa. Had they been able to find a path through packed defences, they’d have won the title last year with room to spare.

In Diego Costa, Mourinho may just have found that path. The Spaniard (Brazilian?) looks like the perfect Mourinho player. He’s strong, aggressive, inventive and hard working. While he looked lost in Spain’s tiki-taka team at the World Cup, the fast-paced nature of the Chelsea side should suit him, as should the physical style of the Premier League. With the squad looking balanced and Costa at the front, Mourinho’s side aren’t the little horse any more. With the strongest squad in the league, Chelsea will have their eyes firmly set on the title this year.

LCN Premier League Verdict: Winners