The new Premiership season got off to a stormy start for defending Champions Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.
Jose Mourinho has largely kept faith with the title-winning squad with Radamel Falcao and Asmir Begovic the only significant additions. Ironically, it is the departure of Petr Cech to London rivals Arsenal that is giving the Blues’ boss a few headaches in the early stages of the new campaign.
Chelsea were far from impressive in pre-season and were unable to beat Cech in last week’s Community Shield, losing Mourinho’s proud unbeaten record against the Gunners under Arsene Wenger. Thibaut Courtois was the reason behind Cech’s move to Arsenal and the Chelsea goalkeeper was at fault in their opening game against Swansea.
The Blues were leading 2-1 after fifty-five minutes when Courtois was shown a red card after bringing down Gomis in the area. The striker converted from the spot against Begovic with the Champions forced to settle for a point. It was not the ideal start to the new season, one which Mourinho has warned will be difficult for his team.
Arsenal are expected to mount a serious challenge this season while both Manchester clubs have strengthened their squads during the summer. Chelsea got off to a flying start last season but the pressure is already on as defending champions. They now face a difficult trip to face Manchester City and defeat there would certainly start some alarm bells ringing.
Mourinho trumped his rivals in last summer’s transfer dealings when capturing Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa, both being instrumental in Chelsea’s run to the title. His decision to allow Cech to join Arsenal and the gamble of offering a second shot at Premiership football to Falcao look risky propositions.
Skipper John Terry was one of the first to warn that Cech could be worth 10-15 points to the Gunners during the course of the season. Falcao was a major disappointment at Old Trafford who decided not to take up their option to sign the striker. Mourinho believes that he can rekindle the flame that made Falcao one of the top strikers in the world a couple of seasons ago.
The surprise departure of Felipe Luis has also weakened Chelsea’s defensive options and their pursuit of Everton’s John Stones remains unresolved. With Courtois now facing a three-match suspension, the Champions are looking vulnerable in the early stages of their title defense.