It has been a while since the buzz of the transfer window was largely centred around Stamford Bridge. With an ageing core to the squad, Chelsea have been forced to invest in younger players this summer and their dealings have made a bold statement about what they hope to achieve in the future. With other young players coming back on loan as well as some academy graduates hopeful of progression, will Roberto Di Matteo be able to get the team to gel next season?
Chelsea have already completed the signings of four attacking midfielders this summer, though one of which, Thorgan Hazard, is expected to be sent out on loan. Having beaten both the Manchester clubs and Tottenham Hotspur to the capture of Eden Hazard, the Blues have also added Marko Marin and Oscar to their ranks. These are smaller players who are comfortable on the ball and not afraid to take on players. It seems that Abramovich is finally assembling the right group of players for the exciting brand of attacking football that he has always reportedly championed.
They will be led, of course by Fernando Torres in attack. The Spaniard may have won the Euro 2012 golden boot but questions still remain over his form. Following the departure of Didier Drogba to Shanghai Shenhua, Torres will be the main man at the Bridge and the pressure is really on him to perform. Given his inconsistent performances, the fact that he could well be supported by a completely new group of attacking midfielders is worrying. Yet they should be able to offer a much higher quality of support to the striker, in terms of delivery, than the likes of Salmon Kalou, Florent Malouda and even Daniel Sturridge have been able to.
Young players such as Kevin de Bruyne and Gael Kakuta have returned from loan spells on the continent, but the club’s transfer policy makes it seem unlikely that they will see much action. Along with Lucas Piazon who has performed excellently for the academy since joining from Sao Paulo, there could well be a number of disgruntled youngsters at Chelsea in the coming season, much in the manner of Romelu Lukaku during his debut season with the Blues.
So stockpiling talent in the middle of the park will not be enough to get the team playing the way Abramovich wants. With so many players, game time will be hard to come by and this could lead to potential discord in the ranks. We saw the effect that a lack of playing time for Frank Lampard had on Andre Villas-Boas last season after all. And after turning to the old guard during his tenure at the end of last season, Di Matteo must now do the job that proved so difficult for the Portuguese.
The Italian may have an ever greater array of talent than the group which he guided to the FA Cup and Champions League double, but now he must mastermind a similar achievement whilst also controlling the transition of the squad. If he can use fair amounts of rotation and keep the majority of players happy, then it is not an unrealistic task, but there will be players who will still expect to play every week.
Of course, many still remain of the opinion that Di Matteo is merely keeping the seat warm for one year until Pep Guardiola returns from his sabbatical. And with the style of players Chelsea are buying it seems hard to deny that. Many would flourish under a possession-based passing game that the Spaniard implemented at Barcelona and so Di Matteo must form a cohesive team unit as soon as possible in order to stop the club from looking elsewhere.
So while the quality should, in theory, make Chelsea a stronger team in the coming season, the need for a successful transition as well as getting the squad to gel will provide a huge task for the relatively inexperienced Di Matteo. A host of new faces at the Bridge will not be enough for Chelsea to challenge for the Premier League title once more.
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