With some tweaking here and some prodding there, Simon Legg believes Roberto di Matteo now has a squad of his making at Stamford Bridge - and more success should follow
By Simon Legg
It has been an eventful off season for newly crowned European Champions Chelsea, as manager Roberto Di Matteo gradually puts his stamp on the squad.
With the departure of Didier Drogba and a whole host of players on loan and the issue of an aging squad, Di Matteo has chased young talent to fill previous positional gaps to bolster the squad.
Over the past decade, Chelsea has built from the back and has based their foundations on a sound defence. This stays the same, with the likes of Ashley Cole, Branislav Ivanovic, Gary Cahill and skipper John Terry all still there as well as the unpredictable David Luiz, meaning that their defence will not be any weaker than in the past.
It is the midfield depth that Di Matteo has looked to strengthen, bringing in Eden Hazard, Marko Marin and Oscar to give the Blues some much-needed pace and creativity.
Juan Mata is likely to benefit the most out of their arrival; he assisted an incredible 20 percent of the goals scored by the Blues last season - the highest of any player in the league - but will now get some much-needed support.
Hazard is the man who will excite Chelsea fans the most.
He scored 20 times in 38 matches for Lille last Ligue 1 campaign, also tallying 16 assists.
Hazard has impressed in his three appearances for Chelsea, in the Community Shield and the English Premier League, and has already gathered five assists and showed all the speed and guile that has made him one of the most exciting young talents in world football.
Marin is adept at running with the ball - something Chelsea has severely lacked in recent times. He is also strong on both sides of the body and can operate on both flanks. Chelsea fans are yet to see him in a competitive game but can take heart from his pre-season appearances.
|Marko Marin [Werder Bremen]
Eden Hazard [Lille]
Thorgan Hazard [Lens]
|Didier Drogba [Shanghai Shenhua]
Jose Bosingwa [QPR]
Salomon Kalou [Lille[
Romelu Lukaku [West Brom]
Kevin De Bruyne [Werder Bremen]
Josh McEachran [Middlesbrough]
Jeffrey Bruma [Hamburger SV]
Patrick van Aanholt [Vitesse]
Sam Hutchinson [Nott. Forest]
Thibaut Courtois [Atletico Madrid]
Oscar is similar to Frank Lampard in that he plays centrally, scores goals and also times his runs into the area well. He will also be a good foil for Mata, playing alongside the Spaniard behind Chelsea's striker at times.
Chelsea scored just 65 goals last season; well short of Manchester City and Manchester United, who scored 93 and 89 respectively. Given that they are likely to play one striker, it is important that these new additions, along with the likes of Lampard and Ramires, help out with the scoring load.
It was well documented that Chelsea claimed the Champions League in dour fashion, choosing to sit back against their better-credentialed opponents, but that looks as if it will change with these signings.
With Fernando Torres likely playing a lone role up front for much of the new season, it is critical that he is given plenty of quality supply. The new additions will also have to help the Spaniard out in the scoring department, along with midfield lynchpin Frank Lampard. Lampard, now 34, is expected to play a little deeper this season, a role which he played to great effect in the Champions League final.
The changes to the Chelsea system for this season have been noticeable in both the Community Shield and in the opening Premier League games against Wigan and Reading. The Blues opened up with a 4-2-3-1 formation, compared to the 4-3-3 system that they have used under previous managers Andre Villas-Boas, Jose Mourinho and Carlo Ancelotti.
This should allow for Torres to be the main man up front.
With the three attacking midfielders supplying the ball to him, he can be isolated deep to cause plenty of problems for opposition defenders, which is when he is most dangerous.
Chelsea fans will not want to see him dropping off to the wing to collect the ball like he did on so many occasions last season. That habit can probably be attributed to an over eagerness to stamp his authority on the side and to get into matches.
But a successful Euro 2012 campaign and goals in the Community Shield and Chelsea's home opener against Reading may mean that the Spaniard is getting back into form.
It adds up to a more positive outlook going into this season than last, when Villas-Boas remained untested and Chelsea's squad was considered creaky and aged.
But with change comes hope, and Blues fans will be pinning theirs to the likes of Hazard and Oscar as their side bid to challenge the Manchester teams in the title race.