“..And Drogba may never play for Chelsea again, he will never be forgotten, he is immortal at this football club..”
Screamed the commentator, after Chelsea won the Champions league final in May. The prophecy came true. Drogba left Chelsea, followed by departures of Kalou and Boswingwa. Essien and Malouda are unlikely to play a major role in the forthcoming campaign (provided they stay). Lampard has eased himself to a deep lying midfielder contrary to what he offered week in, week out in the previous seasons. Marin, Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne and Oscar are the latest recruitments and if rumours are to be believed, Hulk or Cavani and/or Victor Moses will be making their move to the Bridge. The Chelsea team of 2011-12 season already looks like a thing of the past. The writing on the wall is clear, this season calls for a revolution at Chelsea.
Traditionally, Chelsea have never played eye-catching football. Mourinho’s Chelsea churned out 1-0, 2-0 victories efficiently. Ancelotti’s Chelsea were a tad better with effective goal scoring capabilities. In his first season at the Bridge, Ancelotti moulded Chelsea into flat-track bullies, they were brushing aside teams with ease. It wasn’t tiki-taka, it wasn’t emphasis on counter-attack. Chelsea were playing to their strengths i.e, Drogba and Lampard. Drogba latching on to high balls and Lampard doing what he does best. If you look back at the last season, it speaks volumes about changes in attacking prowess. Watching Ramires steamroll through defences was a new at Chelsea. The pace of Duff and Robben was never replaced at Chelsea until Ramires decided to take matters into his hands. Mata did well to take over playmaking duties from Lampard.
How are Chelsea going to line up?
Chelsea have a plethora of playmakers. But from the new developments we have seen, football calls for versatility. Mancini has showcased this by using Silva as a forward, winger and playmaker at City. Di Matteo will replicate the same model. Hazard/Marin might be pushed wide to play as wingers, Mata will be given the freedom to roam and Torres will be given a sidekick in Lukaku/Sturridge/Ramires. Mikel and Lampard will sit deep and dictate play. Oscar will have to fight for a place in the starting 11 from the bench. The style of play might suit Torres, but Chelsea will need a back-up plan for big-games. The departure of Drogba offers Chelsea room for experimentation. For eight years Drogba had been their talisman up front, winning games single-handedly. The partnerships of Drogba-Crespo, Drogba-Shevchenko, Drogba-Anelka, Drogba-Torres never worked for Chelsea. Chelsea can finally shift their base from the overused 4-3-3 to a conventional 4-4-2.
Do Chelsea have it in them to steal the Premiership from Manchester?
This team has a rightful blend of potential and experience. But at the same time, the new players are unproven and young. Youngsters have never been given a fair deal at Chelsea. Miroslav Stoch, Di Santo, Mancienne, Sinclair, Tal ben Haim, Kakuta never really made an impact. So, the sudden infusion of youth at Chelsea is a first. But you can’t win titles by buying a bunch of unproven diminutive youngsters and hoping they will synchronize as a team and win us titles. The reaction they can offer when they are a goal down against Stoke on a rain-soaked afternoon at the Britannia, will help you gauge the title-winning credentials of this team. The previous Chelsea teams have proved their mettle. Lampard and Terry will be imparting the same character in the new team.
The attacking prospects of Sturridge, Lukaku, Mata, Hazard, Oscar, Marin and Ramires with the diminished yet proven goal-scoring abilities of Torres will open up new dimensions at Chelsea. There won’t be any high-balls searching for Drogba, nor will there be a 9-0-1 formation. There is a new force rising in South-West London, the advent of a new dawn, a revolution and like all new things, this team has a lot to offer and we might very well be looking at the new generation of football. The potential this team has to offer is what excites me. Will Hazard be the new poster boy of Premier League? Will Torres stamp his authority on the new season? Will we see the future superstar in Oscar? And more importantly, will the red half of Manchester rise from the ashes? Will the blue half of Manchester be ready for new title challengers? I for one, can’t wait for the start of season.