With the World Cup running deep in to the summer offseason, many Premier League clubs found themselves scrambling to get their players back from Brazil fit and ready to go. Chelsea FC were among the leaders in player representation at the World Cup and many of their biggest stars including Oscar and Eden Hazard made deep runs in to the tournament.
The deep runs by many Chelsea players, with one in Andre Schurrle winning the tournament, meant that many players arrived late in the preseason or did not participate at all. They have all joined the squad again but at varying levels of fitness, fatigue, and match sharpness.
This leads to an interesting selection dilemma for Jose Mourinho early on in the season. Does he select players based on who has been back the longest? Does he pick them based on the chemistry they developed in the preseason? Or does he just pick the best eleven players available? Well according to Mourinho himself he will pick “the team that is ready” based on their condition and having a proper preseason.
“This is modern football. It’s going in this tendency – more matches, more competitions, less time to work, even not enough time to have a real holiday for bodies and brains that top football players need. There’s not enough time.
In our case we had a group that had good holiday and a good pre-season, then we had another group because Spain was out in the group phase, and that allowed us to get five players before we expected. So that was good and created a medium group – but the final group is very late. Are they ready individually? No. But we have to be ready as a team for Monday.
Can it be a team of six guys not ready? No. It must be a team with the majority of the players that had a proper pre-season and they are in a better condition. So we have to make options, and probably the team to play the first two or three matches is more about the team that is ready.”
Source: Sky Sports
So perhaps that means players like Eden Hazard and Andre Schurrle will not make their season debut until several matches in to the season. This also means that players like John Terry and Nemanja Matic who were not involved in the World Cup will get the nod but they were likely to start anyway. Non-automatic first choices like Mohamed Salah may benefit as well from the fact that not everyone is available for selection and could see some extended playing time.
Whatever the case may be Chelsea certainly has the squad depth to overcome the fatigue factor that the World Cup may cause. However the importance to starting off the season properly cannot be understated as the team looks to gel in their hunt for a Premier League title in Jose Mourinho’s second season in charge.
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