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Monday, 10 May 2010

Chelsea are champions as summer of signings beckons


Chelsea's squad celebrate winning the Premier League
Chelsea celebrate their first Premier League title for four seasons

Alan Hansen
By Alan Hansen
BBC Sport football expert

Chelsea are worthy Premier League champions at the end of a thrilling season full of twists and turns - but it is a campaign that ends with all of the major clubs needing a revamp of their playing staff.

Carlo Ancelotti's side won the day because they had just that bit more consistency than Manchester United and Arsenal, scoring a magnificent total of 103 league goals. In some respects, the Blues claimed the title because their rivals were not good enough, not because they were outstanding.

The Champions League is invariably a reliable gauge to the strength of your domestic football - and results there suggested that England's top teams were easier to beat than they had been in previous seasons.

Warning signs flashed when Liverpool went out at the group stage, while no Premier League side made it to the semi-finals, which have been dominated by English teams in the past. It will be the same next season unless improvements are made.

No-one can deny that Chelsea deserved to win the title... there is no doubt, however, that they were helped greatly by the failings of others

If the top four went backwards, then teams like Tottenham, Manchester City and Aston Villa made strides. Everton arguably played as well as any team in the Premier League from the turn of the year.

No-one can deny that Chelsea deserved to win the title. Their goalscoring was remarkable, especially as Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard got 50% of them. They also "acquired" a new player in Florent Malouda. He went from never looking like being a player to being exceptional.

There is no doubt, however, that they were helped greatly by the failings of others.

I said on Match of the Day 2 that it was a tribute to Manchester United that they were still in with a shout on the final day of the season because they were so bad for so long.

You can hardly believe how badly they have played this season, and yet there is something Sir Alex Ferguson has built into that club that keeps them fighting.

The season has also been a triumph for Chelsea coach Carlo Ancelotti, who has won the title in his first season and can claim the Double if his side beat Portsmouth in the FA Cup final. It is too soon, however, to suggest he has banished the ghost of Jose Mourinho.

The Portuguese was the man who brought back-to-back titles to Chelsea in 2005 and 2006 after a 50-year gap and more or less built the team that won the Premier League on Sunday.

Yes, he had money to do it, but plenty of managers have had money and wasted it. Mourinho built a team that stood the test of time, as the 8-0 thrashing of Wigan showed.

Carlo Ancelotti with the Premier League trophy
Ancelotti with the Premier League trophy

One spectre Ancelotti has managed to get rid of is the accusation - if indeed it is an accusation - that Chelsea have been boring, functional and methodical when collecting trophies. Not this season.

To score seven goals in three home games and eight in another is a wonderful feat. They have played some fine attacking football this season and, as I have said, are worthy champions.

The trick for Ancelotti is to demonstrate he has a great side by winning back-to-back titles - and I think it will be a frantic summer in the transfer market for all of those clubs chasing honours.

Chelsea will need to sign players who can go straight into the team. They need a quality keeper to put pressure on Petr Cech, who is not what he was four or five years ago, and central defenders to challenge the likes of John Terry, who has had an indifferent season.

I am not talking about players around the fringes, I am talking about players in their mid-20s, hungry and determined to get in that Chelsea team and stay there.

The same applies to Manchester United, who have struggled without Carlos Tevez and Cristiano Ronaldo, becoming too reliant on Wayne Rooney. Ferguson also has a squad that is ageing in some areas and will need freshening up.

It is one of the hardest things in football to break up a team and reassemble a new one, but Ferguson is the master. Never bet against him doing it again.

My old club Liverpool need a huge overhaul after a very poor season. But they face competition for players from Arsenal, Spurs and Manchester City as well as Chelsea and Manchester United.

The reality is that players, first and foremost, come to England for money. Then it is the lure of Champions League football. Liverpool have got neither.

On the other hand, Manchester City have almost limitless financial resources, while Spurs can dangle the Champions League carrot in front of potential signings.

As for Chelsea, they will justifiably bask in their Premier League triumph, but I do not expect them to rest on their laurels for long.

That means this summer should witness plenty of transfer dealings as England's elite jostle for prime position ahead of next season.

Alan Hansen was talking to BBC Sport's Phil McNulty.

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