Perhaps the best thing to come out of Sunday’s disappointing Community Shield defeat to Arsenal was the realisation that retaining the Premiership will be a greater challenge than winning it in the first place.
As they lost 1-0 to Petr Cech and his new teammates, Jose Mourinho’s side appeared tired, unfit and, having returned from a tour of North America, even jet lagged. Despite moments of continued possession and inventive approach play, it was clear that it was their opponents that were more prepared, and whose will to win was far greater.
Whether or not this will become a pattern for the defending Premiership champions, one will have to wait and see- it would be folly to predict as such when the season hasn’t even started- but what is certain is that the team still has flaws and that its rivals will not allow the trophy to return to Stamford Bridge as easily as they did in 2015.
The biggest worry from the Sunday is the chasm left by Diego Costa, and what effect another season of the Spain international’s hamstring playing up could have on the team’s ability to take chances. Neither Loic Remy or Radamel Falcao looked likely to fill the void, there were times when both looked utterly of their depth in terms of finishing and movement in the penalty box.
Whilst Costa’s current injury doesn’t appear to be serious, the outcome of a serious recurrence should worry all Chelsea fans. If Jose Mourinho gets the chance to sign another top quality striker, even if it was a similar situation to the deal that brought Samuel Eto’o to the club in 2013, then this writer at least advises him to take it.
That being said, the other below par performances of Sunday- Fabregas, Hazard etc- aren’t too much of a concern as one imagines they will regain sharpness when the season gets going, but Chelsea’s fragility up front means it is likely they will come to rely on those two outlets of creativity once again, and without another increase in those two players’ incredibly high standards it is possible Chelsea will fall short in Europe again.
Last year’s defeat to PSG, a rare low point, demonstrated all Chelsea’s flaws and worst habits: an inability to dispense with the best teams when the chance arises, and being all too willing to give away the initiative being the most prominent.
It is easy to remember that along with the ease with which Chelsea won the league and say Europe should logically be the team’s priority, but that would be to underestimate the strength of competition at home, as well be ignorant of Chelsea’s lack of activity in the transfer market. Only when Chelsea have fully maintained a dominance in England, which they did briefly in Mourinho’s first tenure as manager, should they seek out the Champions League.
A near fanatical desire to win in Europe brought about the end of many managers, including Mouinho himself, and damaged the club on the pitch as well its image. Too avoid that happening again it is important Chelsea structure their ambitions as well as be patient. The first ambition, as always, should be to win the Premiership, and there is little reason to think that it will not happen, despite Sunday.
Chelsea remain the strongest side in the league, and with Mourinho in charge they have the perfect man to give the club the consistency and leadership it needs to remain strong domestically. There are obvious improvements that can be made to the team, but little reason for pessimism ahead of the first match against Swansea City on Saturday.