Chelsea 2015-16 campaign has begun with a 4-2 pre-season loss to New York Red Bulls. The fact that Red Bulls dominated Blues with their reserve team is certainly tragic. But what are pre-season friendlies for? They are to warm up, expose weakness to strengthen, and remind your team that last season’s laurels are just last seasons’. This game perfectly did that by exposing Chelsea’s vulnerability. Chelsea’s first team and second team is loaded up with good players, but Mourinho’s scarce rotation policy is certainly poor leading to second team not getting adequate playing time and first team affected by fatigue quite often.
How do friendlies affect a team’s title challenge? Let’s look at the pre-season performance of the Premier League champions for the last 9 seasons – Manchester United (5), Chelsea (2) and Manchester City (2).
- 8 out of 9 champions did not win it all during their pre-season friendlies.
- 6 out of 9 champions have lost more than 10% of their pre-season friendlies.
- In fact, Manchester City, in 2013-14 had a disastrous pre-season losing 57% of their games. Still they managed to put the pre-season results away from their mind to march and win the Premier League title.
- The perturbing part is that 8 out of 9 champions have won a minimum of 50% of their pre-season friendlies. Champions show some intent at the minimum right from pre-season.
- The best part of the analysis however is, Chelsea’s best pre-season performance in the last eight seasons resulted in the worst league finish. 100% wins in pre-season should not be taken as an indicator for a solid season. The season is quite long to conclude even before it begins.
Setting these pre-season warm up friendlies aside, Chelsea’s FA Community Shield game against Arsenal will prove to be the first real action of the season. Isn’t it perfect to begin the footballing season with North London derby! It’s also a game where once-heroes-now-villains Cesc Fàbregas and Petr Čech come face to face for the first time since they exchanged jerseys. A win for Arsenal could be a great sign of intent from Arsène Wenger to challenge title this season. If José Mourinho tames Arsène Wenger, like he usually does, it’s going to be a challenging season again for Arsenal.