‘Chelsea title defence hinges on avoiding injuries’
CHELSEA skipper Gary Cahill has suggested the side will have to rely on keeping players fit this season if the Premier League champions do not add to their depleted ranks.
Antonio Conte’s side, deprived of the injured Eden Hazard and with new signing Tiemoué Bakayoko sidelined after knee surgery, looked short of resources during their Community Shield defeat to Arsenal and Cahill was not the only person to notice that the squads listed in the matchday programme showed Chelsea could potentially select from 17 fewer players than their opponents.
Cahill suggested that, in their current form, Chelsea will need to avoid further injuries if they are to challenge on all fronts. “I don’t know, the back of the programme was interesting today,” he said when asked whether the squad appeared small to him. “But in terms of quality we’ve certainly got that and you just have to hope we don’t have too many injuries. Obviously the new players that have just come are going to be vitally important for us and the quicker they settle the better, but there’s no doubt we have added quality to the team.”
Antonio Rudiger has joined Bakayoko and Álvaro Morata at Chelsea but the latter pair are arguably replacements for Nemanja Matic and Diego Costa. Cahill reiterated that Chelsea’s present numbers would be stretched by Premier League and Champions League campaigns.
“They’re going to be tested, 100%,” he said. “We’ll see how that plays out, but we just have to keep everybody fit and keep everybody sharp. Rest is going to be important because we’re going to have a lot of games, and we players are in control of the way we prepare ourselves. The other stuff outside of that is none of our business.”
Chelsea have only won once in pre-season – against Arsenal in another friendly – and Cahill said the second-half sending off for Pedro Rodríguez at Wembley, which was swiftly followed by Sead Kolasinac’s equaliser, had been both harmful and unwarranted.
“It would be nice to finish a game with 11 men here,” he said. “The the last two games we’ve finished with 10 men [Victor Moses was sent off in the FA Cup final] and it’s obviously difficult. I’ve been told it was an orange card [for Pedro], and it seems to be that when we play here things go the other way if it’s a 50-50 decision. Up until that point, when we lost the goal and the man, I felt in control of the game.”
Cahill was the only Chelsea player to subsequently score a penalty and admitted he does not agree with the new “ABBA” format, saying it makes life tougher for a team who fall behind early on in a shoot-out. “First impression, I’m not a fan,” he said. We were a couple of goals down [2-1 behind], after one penalty so mentally that’s different from when you’ve got one, one, one, one. I went, and then obviously we were 2-1 or 3-1 down and mentally it’s different.”
Gary Cahill admits Blues squad strength will tested in season ahead.