Friday, August 10, 2007

EPL Previews: Why Chelsea #1?

Ok, so the English Premier League kicks off its 2007-08 season tomorrow, so everyone and their second cousin is running out their predictions for how everyone will finish. I haven't really been thinking that much about it, but as I read more and more people listing Chelsea as their pick to finish on top, I get more and more confused.

Naturally as a Manchester United supporter, I think that they will repeat as champs. They finally did something about some of the dead weight this season by moving Richardson, Smith and that Italian American who I won't name. Further more, United finally did something that it hadn't done in quite a while, it brought in a number of reinforcements. These guys are going to finally allow Sir Alex Ferguson to do what Jose has been doing in London, which is rotate players in and out and not see Giggsy get gassed half way through the season or have a scoring slump when Wayne gets tossed from a match for spewing fourth 100 F-Bombs at a linesman in 30 seconds.

I think that Teves, Hargreaves, Nani and Anderson, mixed in with Carrick, Scholes, Ronaldo, Rooney, Saha (if he is ever healthy), Park and the rest will be a much stronger side this season. That said, I don't think the new additions to Old Trafford will be the reason that Chelsea do not win the EPL Championship. They won't win because of who they won't have.

Chelsea really haven't set fire to the transfer market as they have in the past, which might actually be a good thing as it means that the Special One's side has mostly a year's worth of chemistry together. However, that chemistry might not hold up if some of those returning players don't even make the starting 11.

First off, look at their Field General, John Terry. Terry's health the last 12 months has been anything other than stellar. He was almost decapitated like a cast member of Highlander in the Carling Cup Final last year; he broke his foot against the LA Galaxy this summer and is now out for a month due to a knee injury. His defensive role can be covered by possibly the best signing Chelsea have done this summer with Israeli international Tal Ben Haim, but his lack of leadership is going to be sorely missed the beginning of the season.

Second, as of right now, the wonder cog of Chelsea's side last season, Arjen Robben seems to be heading to Real Madrid. If that actually does happen, who is going to be the kick start that Chelsea needs, which Robben provided last season? Granted if Chelsea storms every match they play and is up 3-0 by the 20th minute, then they might not need a spark like Robben, but considering my third reason for Chelsea not winning the title, I think that they will need him badly.

Third is because of the African Nations Championship. Chelsea's stand to lose Drogba, Essian, Obi Mikel & Kalou for an entire month. Chelsea will be facing matches against Reading, Tottenham & Liverpool over the same time that they might be without these guys. Drogba and Essian are the two largest losses here. Without these two, who will Jose put into their positions?

Considering the amount of pressure that Jose has been put under to win the UEFA Champions league, added to the midseason absence of his African players, I really cannot see how Chelsea will be able to keep up with Manchester United for the EPL title. United have routinely used the late December/early January time frame to make their run at the title. I see it happening again this season.

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