After the pre-season spotlight hovered on Eden Hazard and his ability to thrive in the Premier League circus, other fundamental sub-plots seemed to have been slowly making their presence felt as Chelsea imposed authority in this opening phase of the season. Roberto Di Matteo hasn’t tinkered with his side as the likes of Sir Alex or his pretentious rival Roberto Mancini. The Blues manager may have done the right thing by letting the team dynamic flow and take its own shape. While other sides in contention for the league crown are still scratching their heads in developing a steady blueprint for the season, RDM banked on the sheer talent his squad possesses in these early stages of the competition.
Doubts surfaced early on in the media circles and in the Blue corner on how this ingenious trio of Juan Mata, Eden Hazard and Oscar will fit in the same system. Well, Roberto could have been tempted to be caged in a similar dilemma. Instead, he provided them an inventive freedom to waltz around that green turf and create mayhem in every opposition defence – the trio too, never let down their manager as a series of emphatic scorelines speak for themselves.
Hazard and Mata boast five assists each alongside their names, while Mata has also netted seven times this season. Oscar’s resourceful credentials open up endless possibilities on the attacking front for this ever improving Chelsea unit, while Ramires and Obi Mikel are doing their bit to act as a perfect foil to the defence.
This stark transition for a football club isn’t so surprising when we consider that every side wants to play a more possession-oriented model to increase their odds of excelling on the European front. Yet, when you see a side, which until the last season, was known for their relentless approach and physical dominance over the opponents, having young prodigies trade the ball as smooth and precise as brushstrokes on a canvas, it is increasingly captivating, and at times, immensely heart-warming for a football fan. It is still fresh in our memories how Chelsea were never, as a footballing identity (especially after the Poyet-Zola era), known for an attractive style of play – one that would demand the supporters to jump out of their seats in awe for more than one occasion in a game. It was good, no doubt, but largely termed as result-oriented. When you see those crosses, just a couple of seasons ago, from the Blue flanks that tumbled across the box, took a couple of deflections until someone got lucky with a tap-in on the far post, one could have never envisaged the radical change RDM and his boys have pulled off this season. The football Di Matteo has put up for the Londoners is surely not inspired from the British roots, but then not many teams are clinging on to it anyway, as far as they can win on all fronts.
While every other Chelsea team in the past few years has employed self-destructive methods around the month of November, this side looks to sustain all the pressures with a sense of assurance around the side. If Di Matteo can somehow avoid his side from being dependent on the goals from his centre-forward until the quick-fix January window, Chelsea can look forward to another promising season.
Even with the marauding start Chelsea have had to this campaign, there are several frailties that RDM needs to find urgent solutions for – an undisciplined back four, the Torres conundrum and the positional play when Chelsea don’t have the ball in their control. These are still some of the worrying signs that could dent their title ambitions this season.
Di Matteo still needs to use his squad in a more efficient manner before the midfield ammo runs out of gas during the business end of the season. The likes of Romeu and Sturridge could use some game-time, while Marin would be another encouraging inclusion in this youthful squad. With Romelu Lukaku’s return from his loan spell in January looking likely, the talks of Falcao move serves some more lip-smacking prospects for European Champions.
It’s still difficult to comprehend how Chelsea came out unscathed and with a European qualification after piling some of the most dismal performances in the Abramovic era. It certainly challenges a Hollywood script, when you talk about a side without a permanent manager, inspiring themselves to a couple of silverwares at the end of the season. It’s probably true that the glitzy stage of RDM’s current footballing exhibition at the Bridge, is built on those dogged defending bouts they conquered on those memorable nights at Barcelona and Munich. Whatever football has offered in the past year, there’s no reason why you wouldn’t be forced to love Chelsea – at least on the pitch!