The team to beat: Chelsea

No big buys but Mourinho could get best out of Falcao

Chelsea celebrating with the Premier League trophy in May. They will aim to become the first side to win back-to-back titles since Manchester United's hat-trick from 2007-09.
Chelsea celebrating with the Premier League trophy in May. They will aim to become the first side to win back-to-back titles since Manchester United's hat-trick from 2007-09.PHOTO: ACTION IMAGES

LONDON • Chelsea have yet to make a marquee signing this summer. But the club have already agreed terms for a four-year contract with the man who is most vital to their Premier League title defence: Jose Mourinho.

The Chelsea manager is expected to ink an extension in the coming days, and John Terry believes that represents the best piece of business the club could have done.

"I think it's the best signing we could make," said the Blues captain. "It's excellent news for the squad of players because it brings stability to the club."

Continuity does that. So too Mourinho's preference for a smaller squad.

Last season, the Portuguese used fewer players than any other Premier League manager. Chelsea led the pack from start to finish, winning by an eight-point margin.


  •  1. First-choice striker Diego Costa
    needs to stay relatively healthy. He
    has a history of hamstring problems
    and an extended period on the
    sidelines could spell trouble.
    2. New signing Radamel Falcao, once
    one of the world's most-feared
    strikers, needs to return to his
    3. Getting another big campaign out
    of captain John Terry, who turns 35
    in December. The centre-back
    played every minute of every league
    game last season.


  • 1. It has been six years since a team
    won back-to-back Premier League
    titles. Can Chelsea end that run?
    2. Can the Blues stay unbeaten at
    home in the league for a
    second-straight season?
    3. Will Jose Mourinho continue with
    his park-the-bus tactics in big
    away matches or will he send out
    a more adventurous side?

This term, he is trusting the same players to get the job done again.

While Chelsea's closest rivals have spent and upgraded, the Blues have effectively stood still.

Chelsea's two new boys - striker Radamel Falcao, on loan from Monaco, and goalkeeper Asmir Begovic, an £8 million (S$17 million) acquisition - were brought in to replace Didier Drogba and Petr Cech respectively.

In contrast, Manchester United have splurged £83 million on Bastian Schweinsteiger, Morgan Schneiderlin, Matteo Darmian and Memphis Depay, while Manchester City forked out £49 million for Raheem Sterling alone. Yet, few newcomers have been labelled a gamble as much as Falcao has.

Once one of the world's most sought-after strikers, the Colombian has struggled to overcome a knee injury suffered last year. He flopped at United during his loan spell last season, completing 90 minutes on only six occasions and scoring just four goals.

Mourinho's decision to rehabilitate Falcao is likely to come under the microscope the moment first-choice striker Diego Costa, who is regularly bothered by hamstring trouble, is sidelined.

But former Chelsea midfielder Michael Essien believes that Mourinho is the manager to instil confidence in Falcao.

"He knows how to get the best out of his players, how to say the right thing, how to motivate them," he told The Guardian. "He will get him back to the Falcao (whom) everybody knows."

What is certain to Terry is that Mourinho's presence in the dug-out gives Chelsea a psychological advantage over many of their rivals.

The Portuguese has a stellar record against Manuel Pellegrini, Arsene Wenger, Louis van Gaal and Brendan Rodgers.

Since returning to Stamford Bridge for his second spell at Chelsea, Mourinho is unbeaten against Arsenal, Liverpool and both Manchester clubs in 16 league matches - winning nine, drawing seven.

"He has a lot of great records against clubs and other managers," Terry said. "It must play on their minds."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 03, 2015, with the headline 'No big buys but Mourinho could get best out of Falcao'. Print Edition | Subscribe