In a few short hours, defending Premier League champions Leicester City will kick off against newly promoted Hull City (who are having some sort of identity crisis at the moment, despite the massive windfall of cash they’re getting this season), and the 2016-17 Premier League will be underway.
Chelsea play last in this first round, hosting cross-town rivals West Ham United under the Monday Night lights at Stamford Bridge. Until then, we’ll get to see all sorts of new managers, new signings, and renewed ambitions in action. Many will try to win the league, all but one will fail.
For Chelsea, it will be a season of modest ambitions as we try to put the horror-show of last season in the rear view. Like Eden Hazard, we could call it a fresh start.
"Everybody needs to be the same player as two years ago. We tried to find a lot of excuses for why we didn't play well last season, but we don't know why. Maybe some players were tired, but we need to be focused and train hard to be ready.”
“It's a fresh start. We have one objective together, to do better than last season. We try to forget last season and be ready for the future."
But as Antonio Conte said in his pre-match press conference, the key isn’t to forget and ignore, the key is to learn and be better.
"I think my role will be almost the same, maybe I will have more freedom, maybe I need to defend more, but the most important thing for me is to get on the ball and score goals and make the difference.”
"The manager speaks a lot to the players and brings a lot of confidence, because we know last season was not good enough and we are trying for a new dynamic and to start the season well."
-Eden Hazard; source: Sky
There is cautious optimism in the SW6 despite last season’s drama, and despite a transfer window that once again failed to yield much needed defensive reinforcements (though it did usher in one massive signing in N’Golo Kanté). Maybe it’s just the honeymoon period with the new manager. Maybe it’s something palpable and real and significant and true.
The core of the squad that won the league two seasons ago is still here. A little older, a little wearier, yet much wiser. Will that be enough to get back into the top four?
We’re about to find out.