By Chris Davie
Amid all the buoyant celebrations around Stamford Bridge on Wednesday evening, the news of Didier Drogba wanting to stay at Chelsea will come as a welcome relief to a club facing a summer of uncertainty.
Earlier this season, the Ivorian appeared destined to follow Nicolas Anelka out of the door for a lucrative career swansong in China, but after a colossal performance against Napoli, the Chelsea hierarchy may want to rethink their policy of a wholesale overhaul of the club's 'old guard'. Starting with Drogba.
Wednesday night epitomised the faults with Andre Villas-Boas' methods during his short stint as Chelsea boss. Already trailing after being humbled in Naples, the experienced players cast aside by the 34-year-old Portuguese coach in the first leg were given a chance to rectify the situation by Roberto Di Matteo.
While it's not entirely fair to criticise Villas-Boas' reign - after all, he was tasked with rejuvenating an ageing side within a single season - the nature of alienating the club's more experienced players whilst making too many personnel changes in a short space of time was always going to upset squad harmony.
Of those experienced players who managed to resurrect Chelsea's Champions League campaign, Drogba spearheaded the pack. The 34-year-old sent his side on their way to the last eight with a 28th-minute header, while a barnstorming performance of strength and gusto was capped with a skilful assist for Branislav Ivanovic's extra-time strike.
|CHELSEA'S STRIKER STATS
| DIDIER DROGBA
APPS THIS SEASON: 23
GOAL AVERAGE: Every 229 mins
| ROMELU LUKAKU
APPS THIS SEASON: 10
| DANIEL STURRIDGE
GOAL AVERAGE: Every 214 mins
| FERNANDO TORRES
APPS THIS SEASON: 34
GOAL AVERAGE: Every 480 mins
Drogba's age didn't restrict him from leaving Salvatore Aronica trailing with a darting movement to the near post before nodding home Ramires' cross, nor did it hamper his ingenuity late on as he twisted and turned on Chelsea's right flank before squaring the ball across to Ivanovic to slam home.
But it was also Drogba's performance throughout the tie at Stamford Bridge which really proved he can offer more beyond this summer.
Against Napoli's trio of centre-backs, Drogba showed he is the only player truly capable of leading the line in Chelsea's 4-3-3 formation.
Winning 89 per cent of his aerial duels, Drogba provided an authentic threat in attack, allowing the midfield three to link up, while Juan Mata and Daniel Sturridge were not isolated due to the Ivorian's ability to bring them into play.
The in-house alternatives for Chelsea, should Drogba depart, look limited.
Fernando Torres, while displaying the hunger to chase down opponents against Napoli, still looks irreversibly short of confidence and a return of just four goals this term is not sustainable if the club look to challenge on all fronts next season.
The Spaniard has also been unable to seamlessly integrate into Chelsea's 4-3-3 system. Torres looks unnatural when he plays with his back to goal in the lone-striker role, while playing on the shoulder of the last defender has also proved to be futile in a side that favours patient build-up play over fast counter-attacks.
Romelu Lukaku, who was billed to fill Drogba's role prior to his arrival last summer, has yet to find his feet at Stamford Bridge and the prospect of a loan move away looks more likely than cementing his place as the club's main striker next term.
Sturridge provides the only alternative for the next manager, assuming Di Matteo's interim post is not extended, to consider ahead of the next campaign.
The 22-year-old has adapted swiftly to the wide role that was handed to him by Villas-Boas and his goal return is better than Drogba's this term. Sturridge has been vocal over a switch into a central position and has compared his potential transformation to that of Thierry Henry's at Arsenal.
While he possesses great speed, Sturridge faces a similar problem to Torres with regard to being able to hold the ball up in a lone-striker role.
Chelsea's inability to evolve into a fluid, counter-attacking unit shows why there is still a place for Drogba at Stamford Bridge and why Roman Abramovich will need to delve deep into his resources once again to find a new focal point in attack.
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