Since they parted ways with the dislikable, arrogant and terrific Jose Mourinho, Chelsea have been a bit of a mystery. I wrote about Avram Grant a while ago - http://www.armchairgm.com/Article:Avram_Grant_is_Barry_Switzer_-_on_Chelsea's_problems – and he was really only keeping the seat warm last season. Appointing Scolari gives them a proper manager, empowered to and unafraid to take big decisions and capable of having a serious effect on the way they play. He’ll also presumably be backed with proper money to bring some talent in – not that the squad is exactly understocked.
Transfers: Bosingwa’s arrival should fix the right-back position and stop them needing to use Essien there in big games - in the Euros he looked very quick, though he’s built slimmer than most. He completes an outstanding back four with Ashley Cole, Terry and Carvalho (because even though Ashley Cole has lost a bit of pace and intensity he’s still a fine player). Petr Cech made a few errors last season, unsually, and a really big one in the Czech Republic – Turkey thriller this summer, but he’s still a great keeper.
Deco is an interesting arrival, because they’ve already got Lampard, Ballack, Essien and Mikel in centre-midfield. Makelele’s departure leaves them maybe needing some bite in there, and Deco certainly doesn’t offer that. What he does offer is a bit of dribbling, smooth passing and superb continuity, and his re-invention as a deep-lying player (after being a free-roving #10 at Porto) at Barca was interesting.
On Scolari: I seem to be the only person who isn’t completely convinced by Scolari. He won the World Cup with Brazil, but he had Rivaldo, Ronaldinho and the young-and-still-amazing version of Ronaldo in the side, all of whom are once-in-a-generation talents for most countries. And with Portugal he’s done okay, but really no better. In 2004, playing at home in Portugal he started with Figo and Rui Costa and lost the opening game. He then completely remade the side for the second game, which you can take either as a brave willingness to react to circumstance or a bit of a mess. I tend to think a manager should know what he’s going to do in a tournament. Then in 2006 the England game in the quarter-finals was interesting. With Rooney sent off England went super-defensive, and Portugal not only failed to break them down but had the better chances created against them (mostly by the indefatigable Energiser-bunny-style performance of Owen Hargreaves). So it’s not as if he’s obviously maximised the talent he’s had, and he’s failed to take in hand some obvious problems – Portugal have been a lightweight, short team that struggles on set-pieces for ages, and yet come the Germany game this summer they conceded twice in exactly that circumstance. For all people like the idea of Scolari as a tough manager, his Portugal side were contact-shy when he joined and contact-shy when he left. They lacked strength and snap in the centre too, with Moutinho and Deco not doing a very good job defensively at all. It will be fascinating to see how he gets on, because this summer his silky, skillful, talented side (Portugal) went out of the tournament to a big, powerful, tough side that’s good in the air (Germany), and if there’s one thing the Premiership’s got, it’s big tough physical sides that are good in the air (hello, Bolton and Blackburn). If Scolari brings in players (like Deco) in the image of his international sides, they could struggle with that, but with the power, talent and experience that’s there in the squad already they’re unlikely to fall too far. Scolari also has a bit of a history of volatility, punching an opposing player in a qualifier a while back, and backing off the England job when our insanely intrusive press scared him; both of those things have to be a worry in the pressure of the Premiership.
Chelsea have got the talent to run Man Utd close this season (they'd still be MUCH better off if they'd kept Robben, mind), and if they can get Anelka AND Drogba playing together to their potential they'll be frightening, but I'd be more surprised by them winning it than by them finishing third.