We’re nearly there, people. Premier League football will be back in our lives in just a few days and not a moment too soon!
Champions Chelsea face a difficult second season under Antonio Conte, with all their rivals (except Tottenham) spending big this summer to take back the crown.
Here’s how the Blues are shaping up for the coming season.
7. Last Season
Chelsea were imperious last term, storming to the Premier League title with a record 30 league wins. It seems a long time since Chelsea suffered successive defeats to Liverpool and Arsenal in September, with many questioning Antonio Conte’s suitability for the Premier League at the time.
A switch to a 3-4-2-1 or 3-4-3 system reversed the Blues’ fortunes and saw the Italian’s dynamic side embark on a record equalling 13-game winning streak. Former loan exile Victor Moses was ingeniously deployed in a right wing-back role where he excelled and Conte moulded his side into a mercilessly effective counter attacking unit.
Tottenham were breathing down the necks of their London rivals into the season’s final weeks, finishing on 86 points, but for second half of the campaign Chelsea’s title credentials were never in doubt.
6. Transfers In
Conte was reportedly bitterly disappointed to lose out on proven Premier League goalscorer Romelu Lukaku to Man Utd when a deal looked all but done. The Italian settled for record signing Alvaro Morata for £60m, though it remains to be seen whether the Spaniard can adapt quickly to the demands of being a leading man in the Premier League.
However, the signings of Antonio Rudiger (from Roma) and Tiemoue Bakayoko (from Monaco), both look like savvy acquisitions.
Should Antonio Conte choose to deploy Cesc Fabregas in an advanced role in midfield as has been suggested in recent weeks, the prospect of a Bakayoko/N’Golo Kante partnership in middle of the park is incredibly intimidating.
5. Transfers Out
Chelsea youngsters Nathan Ake, Nathaniel Chalobah and Dominic Solanke were all offloaded in Chelsea’s traditional youth prospect wholesale. However, there’s every chance at least Ake and Chalobah will be back, should the Blues choose to buy them back for double the price in a couple of years. Ruben Loftus-Cheek has also left but only on loan to Crystal Palace.
Backup keeper Asmir Begovic departed for Bournemouth, to be replaced by Man City’s Willy Caballero, whilst club legend John Terry took his final bow.
The boys in blue were solid without the ball last season, with a defensive record second only to Spurs and just five defeats and three draws all season.
The robust deep-lying midfield duo of Nemanja Matic and N’Golo Kante meant Eden Hazard, Pedro and/or Willian were released from much of their defensive duties, and waited for service just behind Diego Costa.
The Blues were mercilessly effective on the counter attack, with Marcos Alonso and Victor Moses overloading the opposition full-backs on either side.
In short, a second gear. Diego Costa had an uncanny knack for arriving in the right areas but often left much to be desired where his link up play was concerned.
Chelsea fans will be hoping Alvaro Morata can provide a more versatile option up front, and help to bring others into the game with his back to goal.
The West Londoner’s reliance on Eden Hazard, for an attacking outlet is understandable given his world class ability but could prove disastrous should his injury problems drag on into the new season.
2. Key Man
You could argue N’Golo or even David Luiz, but it has to be Eden. The Belgian finally looked himself again last term after a torrid time in the 2015-16 season. The former Lille star scored 17 goals, seven assists including a masterful solo goal against Arsenal.
The Belgium captain has reaffirmed his commitment to the club, and is reportedly close to signing a whopping £300,000-per-week contract extension with Chelsea.
Potential Breakout: Andreas Christensen.
Title challengers. Provided Morata can supply anything close to the 20 goals Diego Costa managed last season, there’s no reason the Blues can’t challenge again.
Whilst all other clubs in the top six still seem to be building, Chelsea are a team of veteran campaigners and league winners. The Blues’ stubborn ability to play extremely poorly for long periods of the season whilst nabbing results is the envy of their rivals.
Final Position: 1st