As the dust settles on a largely uninspiring transfer window and with the first international break of the season now out of the way, focus once again returns to the Premier League and this weekends visit of champions Chelsea. The timing of the fixture couldn’t be more appropriate given the national media’s obsession with Jose Mourinho’s summer long and ultimately unsuccessful pursuit of Everton centre half John Stones. The way in which Chelsea and in particular the self named ‘special one’ have conducted themselves during the entire saga has left a bitter taste in the mouths of Evertonians and the former Porto, Inter Milan and Real Madrid manager is sure to receive a hostile welcome from the Goodison faithful as well as a rendition of the now infamous reworking of an old Beatles classic. But will it be Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea or John Stones’ current employers Everton who come out on top this Saturday lunchtime?
After a plethora of transfer rumours and links to international stars such as Andriy Yarmolenko, Bernard and Denis Cheryshev, somewhat underwhelmingly only Aaron Lennon and Ramiro Funes Mori were welcomed through the gates of Finch Farm on transfer deadline day. The capture of a number ten that Roberto Martinez so publicly prioritised on more than one occasion failed to materialise and so he must now find solutions to the ongoing problems Everton come up against when trying to break down opposition defenses within the squad he has already assembled.
The undoubted triumph of the summer transfer window was the retention of twenty one year old England international John Stones who will now be offered a new contract with hugely improved terms. The constant disruptful media speculation regarding his future eventually coming to nothing, much to the frustration and disappointment of the national press who even after the window has closed continue to stubbornly link the player with a move away and suggest that any new contract Everton offer the defender would have to include a get out clause set at the fee Everton have already rejected from Chelsea.
Seven players were added to the squad this summer and while not all of them will have an immediate impact on the Premier League, just as Roberto Martinez promised the Evertonians, the squad is undoubtedly stronger than when the window opened at the beginning of July. Tom Cleverley had added energy and determination to the midfield before suffering a frustrating injury in the last outing against Tottenham at White Hart Lane that will keep him out for the next couple of months. His enforced absence from the upcoming fixtures will have to be addressed by Roberto Martinez. But the Everton boss now has an abundance of wide midfielders to choose from having added both Aaron Lennon and Gerard Deulofeu to his squad this summer. They join Kevin Mirallas, Aiden Mcgeady and Steven Pienaar who can all operate on the flanks. Aaron Lennon proved during his loan spell for the club last season he can add pace and work rate to the team when selected and his full time addition to the squad is a welcome one.
Having also added to the options in central defence with the signing of twenty four year old Argentine international Ramiro Funes Mori and with Tyas Browning and Brendan Galloway in the shadows waiting for their opportunity in the heart of defence it would appear that Martinez now has ample options to choose from in both those areas of the park. The Spaniard already has several options in central midfield although many would argue he is yet to come up with the correct balance in this particular area. And when fit Leighton Baines and Seamus Coleman are assured starters in the full back positions. But it would appear there are still concerns over three positions in the squad.
Tim Howard continues to guard the Everton goal with little or no competition it would seem. Joel Robles has shown fleeting glimpses of his ability but with no sign of Roberto Martinez showing any real faith in the Spaniard and Howard not getting any younger the goalkeeping position needed strengthening during the summer. At the other end of the pitch Romelu Lukaku is undoubtedly Everton’s first choice striker and rightly so, his return of forty goals in eighty five appearances is outstanding. But it would seem that like his American colleague Tim Howard, Lukaku has little or no competition for his starting place in the team. The arrival of twenty two year old Uruguayan Leandro Rodriguez is a welcome addition but as yet he is an unknown quantity in the English Premier League and his signing has done little to change the opinion that a proven striker should have been added to the squad.
Perhaps the biggest requirement of the transfer window if Roberto Martinez was to be believed was the addition of a creative playmaker. Many names were mentioned but ultimately none arrived. Because of this it would be no surprise at all to now see Ross Barkley deployed in the number ten role, a position many believe he is tailor made for. The England international has shown fleeting glimpses of the form that propelled him in to national focus in Roberto Martinez’s maiden season at the club this season and last week he joined a select group by becoming the twenty third Everton player to score for England whilst netting his third goal of the season against San Marino in the European Championship qualifier in the Olimpico Di Serravalle. His form could well be the timely boost Roberto Martinez is looking for as he juggles with his team selection to come up with a winning formula with the players he has available. On paper at least he now has several options.
Chelsea have not had the start to the season Jose Mourinho would have envisaged this summer and if they are to achieve the Portuguese’s objective of retaining the Premier League title they so convincingly won last season results and performances must improve quickly. The West Londoners campaign got off to a low key start when they had to settle for a point at Stamford Bridge with the ever improving Swansea City. Things weren’t about to get much better either when a victory at the Hawthorns against West Brom was sandwiched between two hugely disappointing defeats. Crystal Palace became only the second team to beat Chelsea at Stamford Bridge under the stewardship of Jose Mourinho and that defeat followed on from from a three nil drubbing to a rampant Manchester City at the Etihad.
Jose Mourhino’s much publicised and ultimately unsuccessful pursuit of Everton centre half John Stones was indicative of a frustrating summer for Chelsea. While Manchester United, Liverpool and Manchester City once again spent freely and often it would seem the West Londoners put all there eggs in one basket while courting the the young Englishman and when it became apparent his signature could not be attained the club were left scrambling on the last day of the window looking for suitable back up to John Terry, Gary Cahill and Kurt Zouma. Twenty six year old Senegalese international Papy Djilobodji was brought in from French club Nantes for a fee of three million pounds but he is unlikely to become a regular feature in the Chelsea rearguard any time soon. That is not to say that Chelsea didn’t spend money this summer though. Djilobodji was one of nine recruits at Stamford Bridge.
Radamel Falcao joined on a season long loan from Monaco and after an uninspiring season at Old Trafford will be hoping to make more of an impression this season. After controversially selling goalkeeper Peter Chech to Arsenal for ten million pounds Asmir Begovic was was an eight million pound capture from Stoke City. He will act as back up to Thibaut Courtois. But perhaps the best bit of business was the addition of Pedro from Barcelona. Mourhino paid twenty one million pounds for the Spanish international seemingly gazumping rivals Manchester United in the process just for good measure. Undoubtedly a class act the former Barca man adds even more class to Chelsea’s already impressive midfield options.
Despite their poor start to the season though Chelsea’s squad is hugely impressive and it’s reasonable to assume their run of poor form will quickly turn. With goal threats all over the pitch and a water tight defensive set up they ran away with the title last year. The Portuguese special one may not be universally liked but theres no question he has once again assembled an impressive squad at Stamford Bridge and they will again be Manchester City’s main rivals for the Premier League title this season.
As always after an international break several players have picked up knocks while on duty with their respective countries. Seamus Coleman missed the Republic of Ireland’s European Championship qualifier against Gibraltar with a tight hamstring but subsequently played the full ninety minutes of threir victory over Georgia at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. James Mccarthy will also have to be assessed after picking up a knee injury in the same game although he is expected to be available. Tom Cleverley will be out for six to eight weeks after damaging ankle ligaments in the game against Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane. Darron Gibson has returned to light training but the Chelsea game has come too soon for him. Brendan Galloway could be available after missing the last two games with a knee injury but if not Ramires Funes Mori could be handed his debut at left back. Bryan Oviedo though could be set for yet another spell on the sidelines as his retched luck with injuries continues. This time having to withdraw from the Costa Rica squad in midweek with a knee injury.
Asmir Begovic could start in goal for Chelsea after Thibaut Courtois suffered a recurrence of the knee injury he picked up in the warm up before the recent Swansea City game. Captain John Terry returns after serving his ban for the red card he recieved at the Hawthorns against West Brom last month, the fifth of his career in all. Oscar remains a doubt for the West Londoners while Baba Rahman could make his first appearance in defense.
Predicted team 1. Howard 2. Coleman 3. Galloway 4. Jagielka 5. Stones 6.Barry 7. Lennon 8. Mccarthy 9. Lukaku 10. Barkley 11. Kone.
Chelsea start the game as favourites despite finding themselves sitting behind their hosts in the fledgling Premier League table. Everton head in to the game after a steady if unspectacular start to the campaign but they will take confidence from the fact that their recent home record against Chelsea is infinitely better than than the one at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea have won the last three meetings between the two sides overall but Everton have won four of the last six meetings at Goodison Park. Roberto Martinez will be looking for a much improved defensive display after conceding six to the blues last season. There could be plenty of goals once again in this one and expect the odd piece of drama too.
Last three meetings Chelsea 1 v Everton 0 Everton 3 v Chelsea 6 Chelsea 1 v Everton 0.
Score prediction Everton(9th) 3 v Chelsea(13th) 2