The appointment of Andre Villas-Boas as Chelsea manager is expected to entail a change in playing style at Stamford Bridge, with the former Porto boss now widely recognised for his attacking philosophy in football, having racked up a total of 73 goals in just 30 league games in his first, and only, season with the Portuguese champions. Villas-Boas will be hoping to get the very best out of his front men, who last season managed just 18 league goals between them. Whilst on loan at Bolton, Daniel Sturridge managed 8 goals in just 12 games, and looks set to return to Stamford Bridge and compete with the likes of Anelka, Drogba, and Torres for a place in the Chelsea side.
At just 21, Sturridge had generally been considered a player ‘for the future’ at Chelsea, but his performances at Bolton last season are believed to have impressed Villas-Boas to such an extent that he is unwilling to consider loaning the forward out again in this campaign. Sturridge has expressed his desire to remain at Chelsea before and fight for a place in the side, and it looks as though this season he may well be given that chance. If he is able to replicate the kind of form that he demonstrated in his brief spell at Bolton then the youngster may well stand a chance of keeping his seniors out of the starting eleven. Sturridge has been tipped to become one of England’s top forwards, and this season may well be the platform he has been waiting for to prove his ability at the very top level.
Speculation over the future of Nicolas Anelka has been evident throughout this transfer window, with a move to the MLS believed to be very much on the cards at one stage. Both David Beckham and Thierry Henry moved to the USA at the age of 32, and with Anelka having reached this age now, his time at Chelsea looked to be coming to an end. Again, like Sturrdige, Anelka has vowed to fight for his place in the Chelsea team, and can play in any forward role should the Chelsea manager stick to the 4-3-3 formation we have become accustomed to at Stamford Bridge. Should Villas-Boas revert to a 4-4-2, then Anelka’s role in the side is sure to be limited, with the likes of Torres, Sturridge, and Drogba likely to be preferred up front in such a scenario. This season is surely the Frenchman’s final opportunity to show that he still has what it takes to play at the top level, and should the goals dry up, we can probably expect Anelka to be crossing the Atlantic this time next year.
At 33 years of age, Didier Drogba is the oldest option Villas-Boas will have to put up front. As Chelsea forwards go, he is probably also the most prolific. Despite struggling to find the form of recent years last season, those cynics who have written the Ivorian off as ‘too old’, do so at their peril. Drogba has demonstrated the consistency required at the top level throughout most of his Chelsea career, and despite some speculation over his future this summer, he looks set to see out the final year on his contract, if not even longer. The ‘Drogba or Torres’ debate is certainly an interesting one, and one that is likely to chop and change as the season goes on. In a 4-3-3 it seems only one of the two is likely to be involved from the start, but if Villas-Boas were to opt for a 4-4-2 in which this partnership could work, then this would undoubtedly be one of the strongest and most formidable strike forces in the league. It is a rather large ‘if’ at the moment, but one that Chelsea fans will certainly be hoping that their new boss can deliver.
After his £50m signing in January, Fernando Torres has come under heavy criticism from both the media and the public, and was only able to manage the solitary goal in 14 league appearances with the Blues. Torres’ teammates and manager insisted that the Spaniard was not entirely fit throughout this period, and remained adamant that with a full pre-season behind him, we would start to see the best from their number 9. Torres will be relatively pleased with his pre-season thus far, with goals against both Wycombe Wanderers, and then Aston Villa in the Asia Cup final last weekend. It is surely to early to draw comparisons with Shevchenko’s brief spell at the club, and if we are honest, most of us would probably be surprised if Fernando Torres struggled to find the net again this season, instead, I think we can expect to see the kind of ability from El Nino that we saw during his time both at Liverpool and Atletio Madrid – ‘form is temporary, class is permanent.’
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