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.