Ahead of this Monday’s clash with West Brom, I spoke to AlbionTillWeDie.co.uk, outlining my predictions for the match and season ahead. Here are my thoughts:
It’s been a fantastic season for the Blues, culminating of course with clinching the Premier League title. How does 2014/15 compare to your other recent title triumphs?
As title triumphs go, this can surely be one of the more satisfying. To have it wrapped up with a good number of games to spare, and then see us given a Guard of Honour by our nemesis Liverpool, it capped off a fantastic season in which we were brutally efficient. It feels a long time ago when we last won in 2010 and even though we secured it with a 8-0 thrashing of Wigan, it was done on the last matchday, so this one is sweet. It also rewards the hard work of the players and manager so we can be equally proud of this one as Mourinho’s first in his return. After no silverware last season, we can confirm he is still special: the knack of being unbeatable at home, never losing the six-pointer games against your main title rivals, getting the job done with the 1-0s or 2-1s… Jose knows best.
Despite Chelsea’s dominance of the Premier League, you failed to progress past the last 16 of the Champions League. What do the club need to do to improve on that next season?
Mourinho blamed his side’s “mental toughness” when PSG eliminated us, which was a most peculiar excuse, for his sides tend to exert the most mental toughness! Mourinho teams always tend to have a psychological edge but it was strange to see us not defend better some sloppy goals. It did help our march for the Premier League crown, granted, but the Champions League is now a bigger motivation for next season now there is less pressure of Premier League again. The quality is certainly there and maybe the players, a la Courtois and Hazard, need to really understand what the big Champions League games are like. Other than that, improvements could be made in Mourinho’s strategy. It is not safe anymore going back to a home second-leg with a goal-less score-line in the away first-leg. You need that away goal yourself.
It appears that former Albion academy star Izzy Brown will be making his Chelsea first team debut at The Hawthorns on Monday evening. Does he stand a genuine chance of becoming a regular for the Blues long-term?
In the foreseeable future: no. Mourinho has publicly said he wants to place more emphasis on young Chelsea stars but it is hard to see this as anything but good rhetoric. A rough patch next half-way through next season and we’ll be back to the siege mentality approach of parking the bus! Brown, and the other Chelsea prodigies in Baker/Bamford/Loftus-Cheek etc, may get the odd minutes of the odd game, but I cannot see Chelsea as a club to progress youth. There is too much pressure and too much competition to afford game-time to blood youngsters anymore.
Highlight of the season?
It’s difficult to pick one main one out! The League Cup final win against Tottenham stands out, of course, because we attained silverware at the end of it. The title triumph is equally satisfying, but this was a culmination of months of hard work, so there is no main highlight to pin-point it on. The fact that we have been top of the league after every single match-day is a staggering feat that even I forgot going week by week but hard work pays off and the highlights will no doubt occur in a couple of weeks’ time when we pick up the Premier League trophy and look back on a very successful season.
Moment you would rather forget?
PSG was our worst game of the season. The strategy was all wrong and you somehow never sat comfortably. Ibrahimovic’s sending off didn’t appease any nerves and you just had that feeling an away goal (or two) would do it.
Other than that, Lampard’s equaliser for Manchester City to deny his true side all three points will long haunt the memory. Whilst rendering irrelevant all-told, it was a dark moment for Chelsea fans. All can be forgiven now.
Player of the season?
John Terry and Eden Hazard, I cannot pick one, because both do opposite jobs and both were so vital for the club. Terry is Mourinho personified, the leader on the pitch and no doubt the first name on the team-sheet. It helps he lives and breathes Chelsea Football Club and this passion exudes in his play and his team-mates’ play. And then we have Eden Hazard, who has come to life this season. £32 million was an absolute steal and he looks a genuine gem of a boy, no ego, married with kids, and he dug his side out a lot with his goals, assists, and all-round creativity. Both cannot go unnoticed, so the fight for Chelsea Player of the Year will be interesting!
Villain of the season?
Not sure anyone really put a foot wrong consistently over the season, or has caused anyone troubles. I always feel players should fight for their position and not chicken out and leave and Andre Schurrle opted to take this easy route back home, but he was a very worthwhile player in the first half of our season.
What team and tactics are we likely to see from Chelsea on Monday?
With nothing to lose or gain for both sides, I expect a very different, inexperienced Chelsea side. I imagine Cech and Terry at the back will steal mean it is a very disciplined performance, and perhaps we will see some (youthful) naivety with the likes of Loftus-Cheek/Brown who should get some game-time. I can’t imagine a thrilling game; it is probably just going to turn out to be a professional training session.
Prediction for and thoughts on the game?
1-1. Can’t imagine Chelsea really going for it, and cannot imagine a clean sheet as we are really for the taking here, if Mourinho does put as much youth out as possible. But we have earned that right to.
Post written by Martin Li. Martin has had four years’ blogging experience, writing for the likes of Bleacher Report and SWOL. He runs his own Chelsea blog — The Chelsea Chronicle — which has match reaction and analysis from every Chelsea match. You can follow him on Twitter.
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