A lean season at Stamford Bridge has seen Roberto Di Matteo revert to the Portuguese coach's tried and tested methods to bring the good times back to west London
By Matt Scott
It was hinted before, but the announcement that Marko Marin will be playing at Stamford Bridge next season confirmed it - Chelsea are going old-school.
Most of the six managers since Jose Mourinho have tried to bring in new formations, ideas and strategies to 'The Special One' but none have found long-term success.
Mourinho's system, 4-3-3 with a midfield anchorman, pacy wide-men and a strong spearhead, brought the Blues consecutive Premier League titles. Recently, a return to this system under Roberto Di Matteo has delivered a Champions League final spot.
Carlo Ancelotti's attempt at a 4-4-2 diamond, with Frank Lampard at the tip of the midfield, failed to take off beyond the 2009-10's opening weeks. More recently, Andre Villas-Boas' 4-2-3-1, with Juan Mata behind a striker may have suited individuals, but results cost the Portuguese his job.
Mata thrived in his natural position while Daniel Sturridge also shone in attack, but the lack of protection in deeper positions, coupled with a buccaneering David Luiz, left Chelsea woefully exposed.
|ON A ROLL
Chelsea's recent run of results
||Tottenham 1-5 Chelsea
||Chelsea 1-0 Barcelona|
||Arsenal 0-0 Chelsea|
||Barcelona 2-2 Chelsea
||Chelsea 6-1 QPR|
Where there was once Claude Makelele, a calm and intelligent disturbance to opposition attacking play, there will be Oriol Romeu.
The La Masia graduate has rarely featured in the second half of the season, possibly to avoid attracting attention from Barcelona, who have buy-back clauses on Romeu for another two summers, but the midfielder has looked like a Makelele Mk II in his 23 appearances this campaign.
Others within the squad also fit the Mourinho mould. At Anderlecht, Romelu Lukaku was literally hailed as the next Didier Drogba. The Belgian may have failed to make his mark this season, but with the Ivorian set to depart in the summer, the stocky teenager's chance will come.
Ryan Bertrand has displayed the pace, attacking threat and defensive tenacity to take over from Ashley Cole when England's finest left-back in a generation's powers wane, while Gary Cahill could have been cut from the same dogged, dominant and determined cloth that fashioned John Terry.
The current Chelsea squad also lack strength in a key area that allowed the Real Madrid manager to come, see and conquer the English top flight.
Mourinho had Arjen Robben, Damien Duff and Joe Cole available to him on the flanks as he swept to the title in 2005. Pace, trickery and an eye for goal, the trio had all that and more in abundance.
Cole was the last of the three to leave in 2010 after being reduced to a bit-part player, with Florent Malouda left as the only winger of quality at Stamford Bridge for the last two seasons.
Kevin De Bruyne and Marin will arrive in the summer to add a vital piece of the puzzle that the Blues have been missing for some time.
De Bruyne has huge potential. The 21-year-old possesses electric pace, outrageous technique and the capability of finding the net with ease from 30 yards, much like Robben in his Stamford Bridge pomp.
Marin may not carry the same direct threat but he is no less threatening. An average of nine assists a season in the Bundesliga suggests those leading the line can expect plentiful supply from 'the German Messi'.
Di Matteo himself, although still not full-time boss, resembles Mourinho as a manager. In the good books of the old-guard, discussing himself when players are criticised and even displaying Jose-esque celebrations on the Stamford Bridge turf after Champions league victory over Napoli.
Times have been tough under one Portuguese coach this season, but the spirit of another is returning with a vengeance to bring bliss back to the Bridge.
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