Why It's Naive to Think That Chelsea Are Strong Premier League Title Favourites

It wouldn't take much for Chelsea to be firm favourites, perhaps just one marquee signing to boost their strongest team and keep every player on their toes. But without it, Chelsea will struggle. You'd be foolish to think any different.

When journalists, pundits, fans and whoever else make their predictions for the 2015/16 Premier League season, most will probably plump for Chelsea to finish top of the pile for a second year in a row.

The Blues are also the bookmakers' favourite and all the hype is quite understandable given how they tore up the competition in 2014/15, leading the way from start to finish. But is it not rather naive to think that Jose Mourinho and his players will have things all their own way again so easily a second time?

Chelsea ultimately secured the trophy with games to spare at the end of 2014/15. They started the season on fire and were without question the best team at the halfway stage. Those first few months are how the campaign as whole is being remembered, but the run-in was far from assured. Cast your mind back to April when Chelsea could and perhaps should have been mathematical champions much sooner than they were.

The second half of the season was characterised by wobbles and nerves. Between February and May they certainly weren't the best team and were often dragged out of holes by individual efforts, most notably by the contributions of Eden Hazard.

People are quick to write it off now, but at that time Arsenal's form meant that they were seen as a genuine threat for at least a few weeks in March and early April. Even Manchester United's late resurgence was only crushed by a single Hazard goal in a Chelsea win at Stamford Bridge - a game during which Louis van Gaal's men were arguably the better side for large portions of the contest.

The Premier League trophy is becoming notoriously hard to retain - no club has successfully defended a title since Manchester United claimed a third consecutive crown in 2008/09. Prior to that, the last team to do it were Chelsea themselves in 2004/05 and 2005/06, during Mourinho's first spell at the club. The reason why no one has been able to retain it in the last six years is because every champion has failed to suitably strengthen after winning.

Manchester City's two terrible attempts at a defence are prime examples. In order to win in 2011/12, City had added Sergio Aguero, Gael Clichy and Samir Nasri to their squad - all significant improvements that gave them the additional quality needed to be champions. After winning the league, the Sky Blues failed to strengthen further, adding flops Jack Rodwell, Maicon, Javi Garcia and Scott Sinclair. They therefore quickly came unstuck the following campaign while fierce rivals United ran away with the title, thanks to key signing Robin van Persie.

City's purchases of Fernando, Frank Lampard and Bacary Sagna after being crowned champions in 2013/14 screamed that nothing had been learned from the first failure at a defence. As a result of resting on their laurels, they found themselves playing catch up again and it is a trap that Chelsea now look to have fallen into.

To win the title in 2014/15, Chelsea bought Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas. Six months earlier they had also signed Nemanja Matic and those three players made all the difference. So far this summer, only a back-up goalkeeper (Asmir Begovic), a failed back-up striker (Radamel Falcao) and two teenagers, both of whom have already been sent out on loan, have walked through the door at Stamford Bridge.

The only other individual who looks at all likely to sign at this moment in time is 21-year-old Augsburg full-back Abdul Rahman Baba - a player who will initially, at least, serve as a back-up.

In short, Chelsea have not improved. They are naive to think they were so much better than the rest last season that they don't need to respond to Arsenal signing Petr Cech or Manchester United's captures of Memphis Depay, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Morgan Schneiderlin. He's had his critics, but Raheem Sterling will also give Manchester City a pacey attacking edge they lacked last season.

Chelsea have virtually stood still and the fact that Mourinho has already got the knives out before the season has even kicked off suggests he is getting a little worried.

He's had a dig at United and Van Gaal, commenting, "All of them, they are buying the title. And it is up to us to be strong, to fight them and obviously to win it again, even without the big investments." More recently, he targeted Arsene Wenger and Arsenal, telling journalists at a press conference to "get a calculator" and literally add up sums that various clubs have spent on players in the last two years.

It wouldn't take much for Chelsea to be firm favourites, perhaps just one marquee signing to boost their strongest team and keep every player on their toes. But without it, Chelsea will struggle. You'd be foolish to think any different.

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