Cast your mind back to this time last year – We had cleared out Didier Drogba, Salomon Kalou, sent Florent Malouda to the reserves, all 3 exits came after Anelka had left in January, and we were on a mission to make our front 3 one of the most feared attacks in Europe.
Having succeeded on a football level, Chelsea failed to advance to the final stages in the competitions we aimed to win at the start of the season.
Much of this was down to a defence that leaked more than a shed with holes in the monsoon season. However, while our defence were attempting to pull themselves together, our attack seemed to instantly click, and we saw a complete change in our approach.
The players began to play the ball around a lot more, making quick passes, Mata would dictate play in a free role, Hazard would use his pace and dribbling trickery to glide past defenders and Oscar would cut in from the right and get himself in the box.
This attack would work at every given opportunity, however, it got to a point where we played 2-3 games a week, and it proved to be too much for our front 3 to handle, and we were forced to use players with lesser ability, players that would revert our shape into a static, conventional attack.
This year is a little different though.
We’ve kept Kevin De Bruyne and bought Andre Schurrle who will be direct replacements for Yossi Benayoun and Florent Malouda, which is quite a relief for many, including myself!
Victor Moses’ performance against AC Milan yesterday was a surprising one. He seemed well up for it, and showed bursts of pace on the right flank, cut in when he was able to, initiated counter attacks by running from one end to the other with the ball, and showed high levels of maturity dropping back and helping his team, who were 1-0 up for the most part of the game, defensively.
The performance earned him rave reviews, and one such comment passed pointed out the similarities between Moses and our older batch of Joe Cole and Damien Duff. Mourinho was able to make players who would look average outside Chelsea, look real threats and was able to bring them up to a high standard, either by mentally toughening them up, or changing tactics to suit their style. (This is what sets Mourinho apart from the rest, his ability to understand a player’s ability, and how to improve the player through excellent man-management skills.)
With De Bruyne and Schurrle showing promise in the Bundesliga, fans will be hoping they bring their best form to Chelsea, and if Moses produces regular performances like the one yesterday, we’ll have those 3 in constant rotation, allowing us to keep our attack fresh for every game.
Oscar’s case is interesting. He seems to love the no.10 role in Europe, not so much in the league. He isn’t able to show his best ability when he’s stuck out on the right hand side, though he makes the best of every opportunity he gets to play.
I personally feel he’ll be more effective than Mata as a no.10 in Europe in years to come, however, Mata has cemented his place as our no.10 in the league. For Oscar in the league, he needs more time on the ball, with the intensity of the Premier League game, he just isn’t going to get that playing in our front 3. He dictates play very well, and will be at his best in a deeper role, the midfield pivot alongside a defensive player like Mikel or Essien. His exquisite passing range as well as his ability to change his pace instantly would make him an appropriate player to have in our midfield pivot.
He has previously played in this position for Brazil and Internacional, and has looked extremely good there. He’s no slouch defensively either, he tracks back every attack and enjoys sticking a foot in to win the ball. One thing he needs to improve on severely is his physique. The fact that he did well in Europe and not as much in England may be coincidental, but there were moments where he didn’t look favourite for a running ball, and would get outmuscled by his opponent.
Now that our team is pretty much set, here’s my preferred starting XI in the Premier League:
And my preferred starting XI in Europe:
Let me know what you think of both teams, and what changes you would make, below!