Premier League preview: Why Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea will do the double
Jonathan Hogan is tipping defending champions Chelsea to win the Premier League and the FA Cup this season
The defending champions are the team to beat and go into the new campaign as strong favorites for good reason. That is, in part, due to the stability at Stamford Bridge whereby there will likely be few changes to the Chelsea first string from the side that won the league so convincingly last term. With a nucleus that forms a formidable backline in front of one of the outstanding goalkeepers in the league, the Blues look the safest bet defensively. Elsewhere questions linger at the heart of both Manchester rivals’ defensive setups, and while Arsenal’s addition of Petr Cech should improve the chances of the Gunners, it remains to be seen whether they can match their London rivals’ consistency. The consistency, earmarked by defensive solidity, which marks Chelsea out from their rivals could prove the difference in the, albeit closer, title race – should Jose Mourinho inspire a similar consistency throughout this campaign to that which seen his side dominant last season, they will be very difficult to overhaul.
Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal, Manchester City.
It has been a busy summer at Old Trafford, which has seen the Red Devils strengthen the midfield which appeared so weak at times in recent years. Bastian Schweinsteiger and Morgan Schneiderlein should add a combativeness, and Memphis Depay some pace and trickery, to draw Louis van Gaal’s side closer in the title race – but they may still be a player or two short. There is still time before the transfer window slams shut to address their lack of a proven centre-half and/or add a striker to relieve the reliance on Wayne Rooney, but until then there are too many unknowns to a squad that needs to gel fast to compete for the crown. That said, I suspect they could offer more than the rest over the course of the season to mount the most serious challenge. Equally it is surprising that Manchester City have not yet strengthened defensively and should they continue to leak goals they could struggle – with probably just enough fire power to hold on to a Champions League qualification place. Meanwhile, Liverpool have a lot of signings to embed post-Steven Gerrard and following the departure of Raheem Sterling. Like Tottenham and Everton, they should prove difficult opposition on their day but all three are probably trailing the top four when all is said and done.
Watford, Norwich, Leicester City.
It will be interesting to see how long the appointment of Claudio Ranieri lasts at Leicester, who aren’t helped by the loss of Esteban Cambiasso. I expect the Foxes to struggle, perhaps falling victim to second season syndrome. Elsewhere of the promoted sides, I suspect at least one will survive and plump for Bournemouth to manage that with Eddie Howe at the helm. With a new manager and 11 signings, Watford could be anything, but it isn’t a reliable formula for Premier League survival while Norwich are low on quality. It could also be a rough season for Aston Villa, following key departures, and Sunderland, although the latter have recruited well.
FA Cup winners
The FA Cup has seen something of a resurgence of late so it will be interesting to see how serious the major clubs take it early on – certainly Mourinho could set out to right the wrongs of last year. With the depth of the Chelsea side boasting Remy and Falcao as probable cup starters, the Blues could make it a double. Elsewhere, with no European football on the schedule, fans of both Newcastle and West Ham will be hoping their sides can have a crack at cup success so I’d expect one of them to reach the latter stages, especially if Steve McClaren can get the Toon Army behind him.
Signing of the season
Manchester United’s new number seven could be a massive hit this season if he can carry his form from last season’s Eredivisie into the Premier League. In tandem with Wayne Rooney and Juan Mata, the Dutchman has the tools and confidence to displace all memory of Angel Di Maria. Another new signing that could run close is Bournemouth’s acquisition of Max Gradel, following 17 goals in Ligue 1 last season. If he manages even half that to help steer Bournemouth to safety, it will have been a very good piece of business.
Alan Pardew’s side finished last season strongly and should only improve with the acquisitions of Yohan Cabaye and Patrick Bamford, on loan from Chelsea following a strong showing in the Championship last term. With a number of options going forward, the Eagles should be a dangerous side who cause a few upsets throughout the season. A top-half finish is viable.
Flop of the season
This is a prediction that could backfire quite spectacularly but having moved from Liverpool to Manchester City for a mind-boggling £49m, there will be a lot of attention on Raheem
Sterling this season. It’s almost a certainty that the value of the player would be much less if he wasn’t English and moving between domestic rivals. To justify that money, Sterling will need to vastly improve his goal output and overall decision-making with the final ball. Should City struggle to mount a serious title challenge or make an assault in Europe it could be seen as a flop come the season’s close.
Most looking forward to…
Bournemouth in the Premier League. The Cherries were one of the most exciting teams to watch last season and it will be fascinating to see how they – and LMA manager of the year Eddie Howe – cope with the step up.