Can Di Matteo's new look Chelsea team pass the test as Barcelona lite
22:42 GMT, 10 July 2012
For years they have been the heavyweights of the Barclays Premier League. With Didier Drogba bulldozing opposition defenders, Chelsea won three League titles, four FA Cups, two League Cups and a Champions League in eight seasons.
Now they are tearing up the rule book and starting again. It’s time for a mini revolution at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea are bringing in small, exciting players whom they hope can ape Barcelona’s tiki-taka passing style. Roman Abramovich and Roberto Di Matteo want pretty football – being efficient but unattractive to watch is no longer an option.
Viva la revolution: Chelsea's style will inevitably change next season
Out have gone much of the old guard.
Drogba is in China with Nicolas Anelka, Salomon Kalou has signed for
Lille and Florent Malouda and Michael Essien could also leave.
In their places have arrived Eden
Hazard from Lille and Marko Marin from Werder Bremen, with Oscar due to
join from Internacional. All three are creative players to sit behind
Fernando Torres, who needs service in a way Drogba did not.
You have been warned: Eden Hazard
Add Juan Mata and Ramires into the mix and you can see that Chelsea are thinking big by thinking small. They want to kill teams with passing, not strength.
The club are making sure their new
signings are getting special treatment as they prepare for something of
a culture shock at Stamford Bridge.
Indeed Abramovich’s personal bodyguards chaperone Hazard and Marin into
training each day. They are important members of the Chelsea squad,
part of the future for this team.
Di Matteo has been obsessive in his
approach to the season, beginning his day at 8am and finishing long
after the players have left the training ground.
It has echoes of the long hours
Andre Villas-Boas used to put in but the atmosphere at the training
ground is far more relaxed under the Italian.
He will experiment in pre-season,
using Frank Lampard in the withdrawn role in which he excelled during
the Champions League. He will sit in front of the back four alongside
John Mikel Obi or Ramires.
Then come the little men. The plan is
for Marin, Hazard and Mata to work behind Torres, providing the 50m
striker with enough chances to finally kickstart his Chelsea career. The
trio will have the licence to swap positions, making them difficult to
mark and track.
Next in: Highly-rated young Oscar from Brazil is close to completing a 25m move
Oscar, set to be the latest addition
to the revolution, can replace any of them. He will need to as
Chelsea’s fixture list will pile up with the campaigns in the Premier
League, Champions League, World Club Cup, FA Cup and League Cup.
Di Matteo knows this is the start of
another journey for Abramovich, reaching for the stars as the framework
is put in place to carry on competing with other European heavyweights.
Only this time they will be
heavyweights of a different kind. Chelsea have won the Champions League
with defensive might, now they plan to mesmerise.