After the international break it is back to the proper football with a return to Premier League action. It feels like ages since the deadline day signings arrived, but Saturday’s televised fixture with Chelsea is the first opportunity for the supporters to see the new boys in action.
Ahead of the fixture we have spoken to Graham, editor at Chelsea website We Ain’t Got No History to get his views on Chelsea, Everton, the new Premier League season and most importantly the weekends match.
So the Special One is back, how have the Chelsea fans taken to Jose’s return? Has he lived up to expectations in the opening 4 games?
In general there’s a lot of optimism around Jose Mourinho’s return. He’s obviously the most successful manager in the club’s history and he brings with him an aura that I’m not sure anyone else manages. Perhaps there’s too much optimism — a club that finished 6th and then 3rd in the Premier League just went to Old Trafford and secured a 0-0 draw, and some elements of the supporters were complaining! Mourinho’s going to disappoint those who thought his return meant a clean sweep in every competition, but I have to think that the most reasonable fans are pretty happy with what’s happened so far. There’s room for improvement, but there always is.
You are my tip to win the Premier League, what are your hopes for the new season?
I mentioned the poor domestic finishes over the past two seasons and the hope has to be to reverse that. Not necessarily winning the league, but a serious title challenge feels like a must this campaign after those two years of relatively poor play. Chelsea can’t keep falling into the race for the top four, not with the amount of money that’s being spent on the squad.
The club have tasted European success in each of the last two seasons, is the focus still on Europe or is it about reclaiming top spot domestically?
I think that the focus has to be on domestic play. Not because it’s any more valuable, but because the Premier League season’s probably a better reflection of the quality of the team in the long haul than a cup run is, and Chelsea’s lack of sustained quality relative to the Manchester sides is what Mourinho’s been brought in to address.
The club made a number of signings, further strengthening the midfield and wide areas, who do you expect to make the biggest impact?
I think that the biggest summer acquisition wasn’t a signing at all but a loan recall. Kevin de Bruyne has already made several starts and shown why he was considered one of the most dangerous attacking forces in the Bundesliga last year, and adding him to the attacking midfield options means that the others will be better rested all season. He gives Chelsea the ability to rotate players without losing much in the way of quality, and I think that will have a big impact come winter when we’re playing twice a week. I wish I could be more excited about the Willian signing, but I’m a skeptic of that one right now.
We signed Lukaku on a season long loan on deadline day, tell us a little bit about him? Do you think he will be a success at Everton and do you see him having a long-term future at Chelsea?
I’m a huge fan of Romelu Lukaku. It would be a stretch to say that he has it all, because his technique and finishing need work, but his power and speed, especially at his age, are unbelievable. So is his growth — he’s the most committed, focused young player I’ve ever tracked at Chelsea, and that means he’s always working hard to get better. I expect that he’ll be a hit at Goodison Park, and that he’ll lead the line for Chelsea in the not-too-distant future.
Chelsea were the only side to beat Everton at Goodison in the whole of last season, what were your thoughts on Everton last year?
Everton seem to be one of Chelsea’s bogey sides. Not in that you always beat us or anything, but you seem to always prevent us from outplaying you, and that makes for some very close-fought games. I had a lot of time for David Moyes’ Everton. They worked very hard to shut down the opposition and had quite a bit of sting going forward on top of that. Not a fun team to play against.
We are under a new manager for the first time in 12 years, what are your thoughts on Roberto Martinez?
I think Roberto Martinez is an impressive manager. Considering that his Wigan team was essentially set on fire every summer and then left to fend for itself, it’s a miracle that they stayed up as long as they did and won silverware on top of that. He definitely makes the most of what he’s got, but that said he favours a very different style to Moyes, and tends to take a couple of months to figure out how he wants his team to run tactically, so I’m glad Chelsea are running into him this early.
Where do you think Everton will finish this season?
7th is the safe bet, and I’m afraid I’m going to be boring and take it.
Which Everton player if any would you like to see at Chelsea?
I can’t say Lukaku, can I? If not, I’m a fan of a number of your players — Leighton Baines, James McCarthy and Ross Barkley spring immediately to mind. There’s a lot of talent on the team.
On the Premier League
Who do you think will be…
Manchester City. Mostly because I don’t want to get my hopes up.
The surprise package?
Aston Villa have played pretty decently so far, even if they’ve only grabbed three points from the opening games. I can see Paul Lambert getting them back in the top half if everything goes well.
Hull and Crystal Palace are probably going to be in trouble. Outside of those two, Fulham and Sunderland have started poorly… but the season’s only three games old.
The best signing?
Mesut Ozil. He’s brilliant.
Player of the Year?
On the fixture
What is your score prediction?
1-0 Chelsea. Forgive me a touch of Mourinho-fueled optimism, please!
What do you expect to be the Chelsea starting XI?
Petr Cech; Ashley Cole, David Luiz, Gary Cahill, Branislav Ivanovic; Frank Lampard, Ramires; Eden Hazard, Oscar, Juan Mata; Fernando Torres. Bear in mind that I’m rubbish at the lineup-prediction thing.
Which Chelsea player should we look out for (excluding Frank Lampard, we are all aware of him, he scores against us every year)?
Oscar. He’s been Chelsea’s most dangerous attacker so far this season and is really starting to come into his own.