2014/15 was one of the most successful seasons in Chelsea history. The league title was secured with a minimum of fuss and a trip to Wembley saw the Blues lift the League Cup after a routine 2-0 win against Tottenham Hotspur. There were low points — the Champions League loss to Paris Saint-Germain still hurts, and the less said of the farcical display against Bradford in the FA Cup the better — but on the whole it’s difficult to complain. It had, after all, been five years since Chelsea had looked anything like this good in the league.
Where do we go from here? The 2009/10 title was followed by four seasons of under-performance punctuated by a legendary (and legendarily unlikely) European Cup win, and this time the follow-up has to be better. Fortunately, the pieces seem in place to ensure that the pattern of 10 years ago can repeat itself. Chelsea have a young, strong team, plenty of money to spend if necessary, and one of the top managers in the history of the game. Now they must turn those ingredients into a sustained reign atop English football.
That’s easier said than done, and although the Blues had by far the best team in the country last year, the Premier League has been difficult to hold onto of late. No club has retained the title since Manchester United in 2009, and Sir Alex Ferguson is the only manager who’s even come close. The new television deal has allowed the lesser clubs to dramatically increase their wage bills, and we’ve slowly witnessed a strengthening of the bottom half of the table that no other league can claim. The title contenders, too, are improving — United might have a midfield this year, and Manchester City are finally realising that buying and improving young stars is the key to long-term success.
Jose Mourinho’s task is therefore extremely difficult. Chelsea have done little to pull away from the chasing pack this summer, and we can therefore expect a much tougher fight than last season’s stroll to the Premier League summit. "More difficult", however, should not be taken as impossible. This is more or less the same team (it’s certainly the same starting XI) that cantered to a double in 2014/15, and the onus is on everyone else to prove they’ve done enough to match the Blues.
Europe is a different story. The Champions League was the one competition last season in which Chelsea very clearly regressed. A first knockout round exit, no matter the strength of the opponent, is hardly a result the club hierarchy will look favourably upon, and the expectation must be that the Blues go on a deeper run this year. All of which is to say that Chelsea should try to win as many games as possible, both in their domestic competitions and abroad.
None of that is new, and little about this team is new. The new core is a year older and a year wiser. Eden Hazard is now Premier League Champion Eden Hazard and Player of the Year Eden Hazard, and one suspects that Mourinho is hoping that that translates into Even More Transcendent Eden Hazard. Elsewhere, the likes of Nemanja Matic have even more Premier League experience, while Oscar and Willian should continue their development into two-way difference makers in the toughest games.
The departures of Didier Drogba and Petr Cech, especially the latter, sting, but they won’t have a manifest impact on the way Chelsea play. The club has moved beyond Mourinho’s first great team, and we’re witnessing what is perhaps the dawning of the more-flamboyant second. It’s on their shoulders to live up to the mark set by the departing giants of the club.
And we get to watch them try. Excellent.
We Ain't Got No History's 2015/16 season preview was edited by Joe Tweeds and designed by Graham MacAree. If you've enjoyed the work of the authors who generously donated their time to this project, please share with your friends and consider supporting The Chelsea Foundation as a way of saying thank you.Credits