With Roberto Di Matteo on the verge of completing a deal for Brazilian wonderkid Oscar, we preview how Chelsea’s attack might look as they seek to retain the Champions League and challenge Manchester City for the Premier League.
The key to the above formation is the ability of Lampard and Ramires to provide a stable enough central partnership to allow the front four the freedom to play fluid passing football without worrying too much about their defensive responsibilities.
“The centre of the park”
We all know ‘Fat Frank’ isn’t the player he used to be, and he certainly won’t hit 20 goals-a-season anymore. However, a look north to how Fergie has employed diminutive ginger Paul Scholes in a ‘Pirlo’ role should give you all the justification you need that Lampard should retain his place in the centre of Chelsea’s midfield.
Lampard possesses an eye for a pass and composure in his decision making that make him a valuable part of this formation. With more experience than the rest of the midfield/attack, he can orchestrate the forwards, giving guidance to the youthful Oscar/Hazard/Mata combination further up the pitch.
The engine room of this Chelsea side – Ramires has the stamina of Dirk Kuyt, but thankfully isn’t cursed with the same technical ability. His role in this side would be to compensate for Lampard’s lack of mobility and cover as much ground defensively as possible.
Alternatively, against stronger opposition, the central pairing could become a three with Oscar (or whoever the AMC is) sacrificed and David Luiz being employed as a defensive midfielder behind Lampard and Ramires. Luiz could also replace Lampard if a bit of erratic defending interspersed with attacking brilliance is what RDM is looking for.
“The Fantastic Four”
The skillful and highly-rated Brazilian is somewhat of a gamble for Chelsea (if they indeed manage to complete his signing, as expected). However, he will offer invention that Lampard and Ramires don’t, and has the potential to play in a fluid attacking trident with Mata and Hazard either side, behind Torres. His ability to adapt to the physicality of the Premier League will determine how successful he can be in England.
In the event that Chelsea fail to complete a deal for Oscar, they may choose to move Mata inside and give Daniel Sturridge the wide attacking role. Or just splash some more деньги in search of another wonderkid (Ganso).
In the 2011-12 Premier League season, Juan Mata created 102 goal scoring opportunities. Only David Silva (104) created more.
The beauty of Mata’s play is his typically Spanish movement; he glides across the pitch and, much City’s prolific assist-maker, creates space for himself. His ability to turn, dribble and find a pass under immense pressure makes him key to Chelsea’s attack, and with increased creativity around him this season he should get even better.
No one quite knows what the cocksure Belgian will deliver in the blue of Chelsea. There’s no doubting his ability, but his mentality could be called into question when he realises defenders like Vidic and Kompany won’t be as forgiving as those he faced in Ligue 1.
What Hazard will benefit from at Chelsea is the increased level (mentally and technically) of the players around him. The above formation allows Mata and Hazard to interchange positions in a way that Roman’s men haven’t done since the days of Robben and Duff. Constant movement between the two wide players will either leave one of them free, or expose space for Torres and Oscar to exploit.
Possibly the most important piece of this jigsaw is the Spanish number 9. With Drogba gone, Torres is RDM’s main man this season. This season will decide whether he climbs to the lofty heights of his days under Rafa Benitez at Liverpool, or is cast off as another failed Abramovich forward (see Kezman, Shevchenko).
His form in the Euros showed (in the little time he had) that under the right circumstances he can still be a lethal finisher. With a wealth of creative talent behind him, this season could potentially be his most fruitful yet. If he fails to find form, Hazard’s Belgium teammate and devourer of books Romelu Lukaku is waiting for his chance to shine.
City, be afraid. Or don’t, as you have Aguero. But everyone else…be afraid! Chelsea are back!