Having won the Champions League and announced Roberto di Matteo as their new manager, Chelsea have set about transforming the side that finished 6th in the Premier League last season. The club beat Man City and United to Hazard, arguably the most sought after player in Europe, as well as securing the less high profile signing of Marko Marin. Chelsea have further been linked with Brazilian play-maker Oscar, who has undergone a medical with the club, Porto forward Hulk and several leading right-backs. All of this indicates that an exciting new dawn could be on the horizon for Chelsea.
End of an era
Chelsea have used this transfer window to move on several big name players, thus far; Drogba, Kalou and Bosingwa all leaving with several other players, most notably Malouda, Benayoun and Essien also heavily linked with moves away from the club. This in itself signifies how Chelsea may look to change. Without Drogba Chelsea will have to adapt their playing style away from the power house performances we are used to seeing from them and accommodate Torres in their new look formation. With some of these older players leaving an influx of younger, exciting players is likely to take place.
The new look side
In this regard Chelsea will probably finally move away from the 4-3-3 that they have used so religiously since Jose Mourinho was in charge of the club. RDM did change things to an extent using a slightly different 4-4-1-1 with Mata behind the striker and Kalou and Ramires as the wide midfielders. The main emphasis so far has been on bringing in attacking midfielders which indicates that Chelsea will play in a variation of a 4-2-3-1. The three fluid attacking players, most likely, Oscar (if signed), Mata and Hazard, who would slot in behind Fernando Torres. The side could line up like this:
Of course the three in behind Torres is fluid so the positions are not fixed, we could also see Hulk play on the right of the front three if Chelsea sign him. Hulk would also provide cover for the centre-forward position if Torres is injured or at times short of form. Currently only Lukaku and Sturridge are back-up to Torres and neither of them were tried out there last season in any remotely high-profile games and thus are not adequate to cover for injuries or form issues. Lukaku is likely to move out on loan whilst Sturridge has been linked with moves away from Chelsea.
The three attacking midfielders marks a stark contrast to Chelsea’s reputation as a methodical and somewhat boring side. All three of these players have a great deal of technical ability as well as an eye for goal which could make Chelsea an incredibly exciting team to watch. These three can move fluidly behind Torres, with little defensive regard whilst Ramires and Lampard hold their positions in behind. Some people are questioning how quickly Hazard can hit the ground running but this is a player who scored 20 league goals as well as getting 16 assists from a deep position last season.
With all three of them operating relatively centrally it will be the job of the full-backs to provide overlapping runs and stretch the play. As a result of this we have seen Chelsea linked with a number of more natural right backs than Ivanovic such as Maicon and more recently Cesar Azpilicueta from Marseille. Ivanovic is of course a very good right back but he is more naturally defence than what may be required in a 4-2-3-1 if Chelsea operate in this style next season.
We’d thus anticipate that Lampard and Ramires would sit in front of the back four and play a more disciplined role. Ramires spent large parts of last season as a right winger out of necessary but with the signings of more natural forward players we’ll likely see the best of him playing more centrally. Lampard played a holding role for RDM alongside Mikel very successfully in the second half of the season and with his good range of passing and tactical awareness there is no reason why he cannot continue to play this role. He started off the friendly against PSG playing in this role alongside Obi Mikel. He still remains a goal scoring threat from set-pieces and open play having scored 11 goals in 26 starts last season despite appearing in a more defensive position as well as sporadically under AVB.
Chelsea could, if all goes to plan, become one of the must watch sides of next season with an array of attacking talent on display. The 4-2-3-1 is likely to be the formation of choice for Chelsea having used a variant of this in their two pre-season games. The role of Lampard will be one to watch as Chelsea may want to bring in a new, more naturally defensive midfielder as both Lampard and Ramires are more inclined to get forward. If Chelsea do bring in a midfielder they’d need to shift at least two, Meireles and Essien probably. The side currently have 7 central midfielders competing for two positions. McEachran may well be loaned out, as might Romeu (which would be a shame as he was good when featured last season). The club also need to move on Benayoun who surely has no role to play next season.
Much will depend on how the new signings settle as well as how Torres adapts to the new formation. Torres’ form is not back to its best but he does look quite sharp having taken home the European Championships Golden Boot award despite only starting two games. The risk of his form not picking up might make Chelsea move for Hulk who could operate behind a forward or as the focal points for attacks. A number of younger players may as stated by loaned out. Including McEachran, De Bruyne as well as Lukaku may have better chances of first team football elsewhere.
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Stats are as always from whoscored.com