Chelsea Season Guide
Nickname: The Blues
Ground: Stamford Bridge, London, SW6 1HS
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|Last Season - Wind of change||Position: 2nd|
Former boss Claudio Ranieri was undermined almost from the off, with new owner Roman Abramovich photographed meeting England coach Sven Goran Eriksson. There was a cloud over Ranieri for the entire season, with barely a day going by without one newspaper speculating over the manager's future. Chelsea looked serious title contenders, especially after their victory over Manchester United at the end of November. But their form stuttered after that point, with Arsenal also getting the better of the Blues in the FA Cup. Chelsea emerged as leading candidates for European glory in the Champions League, and as they booked a place in the semi-finals Ranieri was beginning to look like he could hold onto his job. But a decision to bring on Juan Sebastian Veron in the first leg against Monaco back-fired in catastrophic manner. Frank Lampard was the real success of the season, starring both domestically and in Europe to become one of the world's best midfielders.
|Transfers - In and Out|
Ricardo Carvalho (Porto) - £19.85m
Paulo Ferreira (Porto) - £13.3m
Arjen Robben (PSV) - £12million
Petr Cech (Rennes) - £7million
Didier Drogba (Marseille) - Undisc.
Mateja Kezman (PSV) - Undisclosed
Nuno Morais (Penafiel) - Undisclosed
Cardoso Tiago (Benfica) - Undisc.
Jesper Gronkjaer (Birmingham) - £2.2m
Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink (Boro) - Free
Mario Melchiot (Birmingham) - Free
Neil Sullivan (Leeds) - Free
Bolo Zenden (Middlesbrough) - Free
Carlton Cole (Aston Villa) - Loan
Hernan Crespo (AC Milan) - Loan
Joe Keenan (Westerlo) - Loan
Sebastien Kneissl (Westerlo) - Loan
Kevin McKinlay (Ross County) - Loan
Alexis Nicolas (Brighton) - Loan
Craig Rocastle (Hibernian) - Loan
Juan Veron (Inter Milan) - Loan
Marco Ambrosio - Released
Winston Bogarde - Released
Marcel Desailly - Released
Jurgen Macho - Released
Mario Stanic - Retired
|First Choice XI|
GK Carlo Cudicini; RB Paulo Ferreira, CB John Terry, CB Ricardo Carvalho, LB Wayne Bridge; RM Arjen Robben, CM Claude Makelele, CM Frank Lampard, LM Damien Duff; CF Mateja Kezman, CF Didier Drogba.
|The Gaffer - Jose Mourinho|
Only 12 months ago few people had even heard of Jose Mourinho but now, following FC Porto's remarkable success in the Champions League, he is a household name in charge of one of the most ambitious clubs in the world. After defeating Celtic in the 2003 UEFA Cup final, Mourinho shot to prominence in March by masterminding the shock defeat of Manchester United in the first knock-out round of the Champions League. Mourinho, once a translator for Sir Bobby Robson, opened up a war of words with Sir Alex Ferguson, and his victorious march up the Old Trafford touchline following Porto's last-gasp victory was one of the most memorable moments of 2003/04. But Mourinho, a man compared to Narcissus, has been left in no doubt that Abramovich expects trophies. He has already spent big in reshaping the Chelsea squad in his own mould and he will have to adapt to life in English football very quickly. The media battles with both Ferguson and Arsene Wenger could be legendary.
|Player to Watch - Didier Drogba|
Drogba became the most expensive striker in the history of British football when signing for a reported £24million from Marseille last month. It's a huge price tag for a player of such limited pedigree, and there are many that believe Chelsea have paid way over the odds. Until 2002/03, Drogba was nothing more than a bit-part striker with a goalscoring record that Diego Forlan would have been proud of. But that season, with Guingamp, he finally hit form, bagging 17 goals and earning a £3.3m move to Marseille. Drogba enjoyed a fine season in the south of France, starring both domestically, in the Champions League and UEFA Cup. But £24m is a huge fee for a player with such a short track record at the age of 26. He will be under great pressure to hit the ground running, alongside Mateja Kezman, and his performances may be the difference between success and failure for Chelsea.
|Young Gun - Robert Huth|
It's increasingly difficult for any of Chelsea's youngsters to make a breathrough, with not one teenager in their first team squad (both Huth and Glen Johnson turn 20 this month). In German defender Huth they have a player who was highly rated by the former coaching staff at the club. If Steve Clark, the only member of the backroom staff still at Stamford Bridge, is one of his supporters then he should get a fair share of first team action. Although the signing of Ricardo Carvalho means he is the fourth choice centre-back, Mourninho is likely to shuffle the pack to provide him with opporunities. Huth started eight Premiership games in 2003/04, and in truth he failed to impress. The left-sided player will need to make progress this term if he is to realise his dream of a long-term future at Chelsea.
|From the Terraces|
Another season, another mini revolution - this year's theme being a little more about desire, hunger for success and a 'squad of players desperate to prove themselves on the big stage' as opposed to last year's slightly more 'we're good on paper but mostly here for the silly money' delegation from Argentina who proved such a disappointment.
I like the squad, I like Mourinho, he seems intent on letting performances count and with a squad of 23 there is little doubt that most players will get a chance to show him and us what they can do.
They are young, desperate for medals and I think a more solid looking group of players than we started with last season. I expect players like Cole, Gudjohnsen and Parker to thrive in that environment and I think Kezman could score goals (I haven't seen enough of Drogba to comment but £24million? Christ, they saw us coming eh?
And here's a question if Juventus offered £12m, why did we have to outbid them by another £12m? I mean that's not how it works on ebay is it? You don't see a figure and double it. It's not like Marseille were going to say 'no, we like Juventus' £12m better.
Will we win the league? No bloody idea but I hope so. Arsenal are going to be hard to overcome and like most non-Arse fans I kind of hope that a) they won't be able to maintain the form they showed last season b) They won't be so fortunate with injuries and c) Vieira goes to Madrid.
Manure will be stronger than last season, they always come back hard and frankly people who write Roy Keane off as a spent force are stupid. And Liverpool have perhaps made the best signing of us all in bringing in Benitez, all of a sudden they look like a proper team again if they get a run going will be contenders.
Other teams have bought well, notably Boro, Birmingham and Newcastle but my buy of the summer goes to Man City who have opted to shore up their leaky defence with Danny Mills.
As for youngsters to watch? I would have said, before this money thing started, to keep an eye on Huth and Keenan but Keenan -who has had a bad run of injuries and was on loan in Belgium last season - isn't currently fit and not in the squad so instead I'll offer up the much maligned Joe Cole. Yes I know, hes' been brimming with potential for about a decade but he's 22, Mourinho will play him in position and he may just be the difference
For the second year running, it has been all change at Stamford Bridge. But unlike last season, when many Blues fans weren't expecting instant success, this year is different. That reason, is a certain Jose Mourinho?
Mourinho arrives in West London on the back of an unlikely Champions League success with FC Porto. He claims that it could take him as long as four years to bring the title to Stamford Bridge. But when he says things like "At Porto there was God, then after God, me" you expect great things!
His transfer market dealings have also been fairly shrewd, in the sense that he is got rid of much of the dead wood and brought in some real up and coming stars. He may have spent in the region of £80 million, but the early evidence suggests that it is money well spent.
If the team can adapt to Mourinho's style of play, it could be a great season at Stamford Bridge. But if things don't go so well, how long can Jose expect to stay in the hot seat?
As another summer winds down, Chelsea fans can look back on a second consecutive break filled with event and news. Only two months ago, we were waving goodbye to Claudio as Leeds trooped dispiritedly off the Stamford Bridge pitch, and now we have another new-look squad, a new manager, and another slice of boundless optimism.
Roman Abramovich certainly doesn't believe in doing things by halves, and 2004's 'holiday' has given the tabloids yet another excuse to throw vitriol at us. With the spending on players now well past the £200m mark, it's chapter two in the most astonishing story in modern football history.
Many of the indifferent players of last year have been released or loaned, hopefully giving us a leaner and meaner squad. As for the new purchases, they've already started to make their mark.
Mateja Kezman has fired in four goals in three games in pre-season. Didier Drogba scored a neat tap-in on his debut against Roma and a towering header against Milan. Arjen Robben has been blistering in his pace and accuracy of passing, while Petr Cech has, by all accounts, had little to do in the Chelsea goal but has looked comfortable.
Tiago's injury has kept him away from pre-season but Carvalho had a strong game against AC Milan in our final American match: despite the late winner from Andriy Shevchenko, Chelsea had dominated the possession and, most pleasingly to Blues fans given his comments in recent weeks, had kept Hernan Crespo thoroughly quiet throughout the game.
Conducting training matches in front of thousands of soccer-starved Americans is hardly an ideal way to build up to the new term, but it's all grist to the Chelsea mill as we look to extend our profile worldwide. We fans may sneer a little at these tours, but deep down we understand their importance in developing our celebrity.
And what of the manager... this self-assured, supremely confident figure who has waltzed onto the European scene after some spectacularly successful seasons with Porto. Not a single Chelsea fan I've spoken to has expressed concerns: they seem to think that he knows how and where he wants players to work, and with the multitude of talent we have at our disposal we certainly need a strong hand at the helm.
|Best - Champions||Worst - Champions League|
Chelsea move into what is essentially a second year of transition with Jose Mourinho at the helm, and while the championship is without doubt the ultimate aim the Blues will have to find a team ethic early if they are to win silverware. In Drogba and Kezman they have a new strikeforce with a fine record on the continent but, as seen with Adrian Mutu last season, that does not guarantee success in English football. Mourinho has seven new faces, all from the continent, to bed in the to side following the departure of several well-known faces. While Abramovich may expect success, it may be too much to ask, in the Premiership at least, this season.