When Roberto Di Matteo replaced Andre Villas-Boas he totally changed the way in which Chelsea went about their football. To say that his style was uncomplicated would be an understatement. Apart from the rather impressive dismantling of Tottenham and QPR, Di Matteo’s team had something of a ‘win-at-all-costs’ mentality. The onus was most certainly on defence with the performances against Arsenal, Barcelona and Bayern Munich in particular standing out as impressive defensive displays.
Why then have all of Chelsea’s signings thus far been attacking? The announcement that Chelsea have finalised a deal for the Brazilian playmaker Oscar is a worrying thought for fans of other Premier League sides, especially considering the west London club have already purchased Eden Hazard, his brother Thorgan, and Marko Marin.
After having achieved so much success playing in such a conservative manner, what conclusions should we draw from the purchase of four players who offer little in the way of defensive ability?
The first thing to note would be that it is unlikely that these are the Chelsea manager’s signings. Andre Villas-Boas noted that he had little say in the transfer department and you would be surprised if Di Matteo’s involvement was any different.
Nevertheless, just because Di Matteo didn’t necessarily ask for those signings it wouldn’t mean that he couldn’t ask for defensive reinforcements.
Some will argue that Chelsea’s defence is strong enough but I beg to differ. With Jose Bosingwa gone Chelsea need a reserve right-back, and preferably a specialist full-back unlike Ivanovic.
Secondly, despite some impressive performances Chelsea need to start thinking about a long-term successor to John Terry. Yes they have Cahill and Luiz but that’s all they have. Without another right back Ivanovic cannot be asked to fill in.
You also need to consider that Chelsea should look in to the possibility of replacing Michael Essien, who is a shadow of the player he once was. Mikel had a strong end to the season but is hugely temperamental and Romeu is not quite at the level that a club like Chelsea requires. So, it’s clear that Chelsea’s penchant for young attacking players is not because it is the only area that needs addressing.
That is not to say that they shouldn’t be looking to find successors to Malouda and Lampard. It just seems strange to have bought four considering they signed Mata last summer.
Perhaps what this does signal is that Di Matteo and Chelsea are concerned that without the option of playing direct football spearheaded by Didier Drogba much more creativity is needed. And they’d be right, but Lukaku, Torres and Sturridge are still strong options for that role.
What many fans will be wondering, though, is whether these transfer moves are more than that. Is Di Matteo trying to reinvent Chelsea’s team for a second time? Instead of taking the club back to basics perhaps he is trying to turn them in to the team Villas-Boas tried to create – attacking, technically gifted, fast paced and a joy to watch. It should be remembered that in his previous managerial roles the Italian has opted for attacking rather than defensive football.
His short spell in charge of Chelsea might indicate that, rather than being a defensive coach, he is a coach that is fully aware of the tools at his disposal and knows how to play to a team’s strengths.
Abramovich will have been pleased with the results that Di Matteo acquired last year, but perhaps he would have been less so with the manner in which it was achieved. Now that he has proved himself a winner, will he prove himself to be capable of attacking football too?
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