There is an assumption in the footballing world that Roberto Di Matteo was not Abramovich’s choice for a long term manager of the club, and that he only retained the job for this season because he brought home the Champions League. Even as that trophy was being raised there were rumours that Abramovich was snubbing his manager, and still on the lookout for someone who could bring exciting attacking football to Stamford Bridge.
We are now 11 games into the season, Chelsea have scored 28 goals, picked up 19 out of a possible 21 points in the Premier League, and have done this by playing a dynamic system that has recently involved playing Mata, Oscar and Hazard as a trio behind the striker.
I think Di Matteo has to be given his due for the job he has done so far, he has managed to take on the brief his chairman has given him, whilst continuing to win. The only loss, 4-1 to Atletico Madrid in the Super Cup, is looking more and more like a Falcao inspired blip, than an indication of any terminal defensive problems.
In the rest of October Chelsea have four tricky looking fixtures. First to Spurs in the league, then a trip to the Ukraine to play Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League. After that they play Manchester United at home twice, first in the league, then in the league cup. Having already beaten Arsenal away, Chelsea will have no fear of taking their new style into matches with good sides, and have a chance to send a message in these fixtures: they don’t have defensive worries, their players can attack anyone, anywhere.
The integration of Eden Hazard and now Oscar into the starting eleven has been superbly managed by Di Matteo. There were questions over whether their big money signings would be able to adapt so quickly to the Premier League, but both have looked comfortable so far, particularly the Belgian. Juan Mata has also taken on a new lease of life in the system, with faster, more skillful players around him, he looks even more of a force than last year. Di Matteo allowing him an extra two weeks rest also looks like a fine piece of management.
Chelsea’s only real concerns on the pitch, have to be the depth in their squad in the striker and defensive midfielder positions. Sturridge’s injury has meant Torres is starting every game, and there is also a lack of cover for Mikel. If they continue to play well and stay fit, this won’t be a problem, but it is something Chelsea may look to address in January.
There were a lot of doubts about Chelsea at the start of the season, but those must fade away as Di Matteo has set up an excellent team and the new signings have hit the ground running. The Italian manager already has two trophies under his belt at Chelsea, they could pick up several more this season.
image: © aromano