Chelsea Preview 2011/12
Chelsea failed to retain the English Premier League title last season, but hung in there until the end, finishing in second place. That wasn’t bad considering they went through a terrible mid-season slump where they failed to pick up many points and any ground on Manchester United.
This year’s edition hasn’t changed much from last season’s, at least player wise. Manager Carlo Ancelotti left after last season and was replaced with former Porto boss Andre Villas-Boas. Ancelotti was a pretty good manager, but when it came to a do-or-die game against Man United late in the year he failed to field his best lineup and paid dearly for it. The team did lose Yuri Zhirkov in the offseason and it looks like they’ve picked up 19-year-old striker Romelu Lukaku from Anderlecht. .
Chelsea’s billionaire owner Roman Abramovich is well known for his impatience and there’s been a revolving door policy when it comes to mangers at the London club over the past few years. However, he appears to give his players a little more time to prove their worth. If he didn’t, his $80 million flop Fernando Torres would have been sent packing during the summer.
Villas-Boas has enough firepower up front to produce some goals even with Torres shooting blanks. He’s got Nicolas Anelka and Didier Drogba up there and perhaps the most underrated striker in the league in Daniel Sturridge, who was loaned out to Bolton last year for some strange reason.
They also get goals from the wings and midfield with Frank Lampard, Florent Malouda, and Salomon Kalou scoring the majority of them. They also have one of the best and most underrated players in the league there Yossi Benayoun, who missed most of last season due to injury. Young Josh McEachran is also a gem who could evolve into an excellent player. Michael Essien will be missing from the midfield again though with another injury.
Chelsea’s not too bad in defence with the ageing John Terry and Ashley Cole along with David Luiz, Jose Bosingwa and another underrated player in Paulo Ferreira. With Ramires, Mikel, Alex and Gael Kakuta also in the side, it’s easy to see the club has a lot of depth.
They’re set in goal with Petr Cech, but if he’s lost to injury they have Ross Turnbull and Henrique Hilario to back him up.
The problem with Chelsea is their best players, such as Sturridge, Ferreira, McEachran, and Benayoun are often left on the bench or not even dressed at all. This is to allow big-name stars such as Torres to try and justify his obscene weekly wages and the ridiculous amount of money he was bought for.
It’ll be interesting to see how Villas-Boas manages this group of players and if he plays them on their merit or their names. If he fields players based on merit, Chelsea could end up second again. If Manchester United slip up along the way, they could actually sneak in and nab the league close to the end of the season.
Odds and Prediction
Chelsea is in the best position to battle Manchester United down the stretch and at +282, taking a chance on Chelsea isn’t a bad bet. Especially if Andre Villas-Boas fields his best players, rather than his most expensive ones.