|Di Matteo finding the prefect balance between substance and style
The plan was always going to be difficult when you spend 60million on a series of attacking players, but it finally looks like Chelsea are beginning to mix the attacking football played under Carlo Ancelotti, with the gritty trademark displays of Jose Mourinho. As Chelsea begin to enter yet another exciting era in their history, as di Matteo attempts to balance substance and style.
A creative attacking midfielder himself, di Matteo has always liked his teams to play a passing game, allowing his teams to regular play with attacking freedom, but rarely letting them forget their defensive duties, the fans of MK Dons and WBA (his former clubs) will support me on that statement. As both sides quickly became renown for the entertaining football played under the leadership of di Matteo and Eddie Newton.
In the last two games, it has been evident that Chelsea are attempting to play a more fluid and attacking style, as they look to move away for the typical English rigid systems. di Matteo appears to be trusting his players by allowing them more attacking freedom. As Mata and Hazard constantly change postitons behind Torres, while full backs Cole and Ivanovic are often encouraged to join in attacking moves.It may not be Barcelona football at the moment, but the signs are certainly there. Both of Torres goals against Reading and Newcastle involved intricate passing moves, a goal more than worthy of the Spanish World and European Champions.
Other recognisable characteristics in Chelsea’s play has been there commitment to continuity pass the ball out of defence or the quick interchanges in the approach play, while also looking extremely threatening when on the counter attack. One way or another its all very pleasing on the eye, and fairly entertaining to watch.
Personally I think the key to this Chelsea 4-2-3-1 system is not the attacking trio behind Torres, or even Torres himself but its two players in centre midfielder; often Lampard and Mikel. They need to allow the quartet in front of them to play. This is why the balance of the team is key, as the two centre midfielders are vital to the transitional stages, they need to pass the ball smartly, cover for players who are out of position as they help to maintain Chelsea’s defensive shape. Mikel despite his critics, plays this role very well, compared to Lampard who always seems eager to join in attacking moves. The attacking discipline of the players in this position will be crucial to Chelsea this season, as this system requires the two midfielders to demonstrate good defensive awareness as they cannot afford to tray too far from their positions. Meaning attacking runs, silly passes and dwelling on the ball cant be accepted, as it could leave the defence exposed.
Chelsea certainly have the individuals like Mata, Hazard, Torres, Oscar, Lampard and Sturridge to be a constant attacking threat in most games, however they will need work on the consistently of the tempo and penetration in their play. Maybe it could be di Matteo’s tactics but it appears Chelsea are too content when leading games, instead of maintaining the pressure and killing teams off.
However all in all the signs are extremely encouraging, di Matteo appears to happy with his squad, as he has the options and alternatives he feels he needs to bring further success to Stamford Bridge. However the challenge will be tough, as he has too ensure that Chelsea’s 4-2-3-1 formation contains the right players to maintain the attractive style, while not comprising too much the defensive elements of the game.
There are lots of positives to take from the first 3 games, most noticeably the emergence of Torres, the addition of Hazard and the displays of Mata. As all three look to be discovering a natural understanding in each others play.
Preaching the words of ‘Evolution not Revultion’ di Matteo certainly understands alot of work is still required before this Chelsea team can rival the likes of Barcelona or Real Madrid in playing style, but it does appear that they are on the right path.