A sixth-place finish last season was overshadowed by Chelsea’s success outside of the league, although some would consider sixth place lucky given the fact that Andrew Villas-Boas lost control of the club before getting sacked in mid-March. Successor Roberto Di Matteo made quite a first impression and became an instant hero. The former Chelsea midfielder won his managerial debut by beating Birmingham City in the FA Cup, followed by a Premier League victory over Stoke, and then completing the trifecta with a 4-1 win over Napoli in the Champions League Round of 16.
After finishing his short stint with a 5-3-3 Premier League record and 13-5-4 mark in all competitions with Chelsea, Di Matteo seemed like the obvious choice to continue on as Chelsea boss. But there’s always drama involved in every decision owner Roman Abramovich makes. It took nearly a month for the Russian tycoon to offer Di Matteo the contract, which the Italian happily signed for two years.
With Drogba gone, Fernando Torres has to return to the Fernando Torres of old. His production since joining Chelsea two winters ago has been dreadful, but hopefully the late season spark that included the decisive goal against Barcelona in the Champions League semifinals, followed by a hat trick against QPR less than a week later, carries over into this season, which it should. It’s clear the Spanish striker has his confidence back again. He looked above average in exhibition matches this summer, and his goal in last weekend’s Community Shield loss to Manchester City already has him off to the start fans, and Abramovich, expect.
Torres wouldn’t be able to handle the pressure of being the go-to striker in Di Matteo’s preferred 4-5-1 formation. That’s why the Blues boosted their attack this summer, signing Belgian attacking midfielder Eden Hazard, who’s a tremendous winger. The 21-year-old former Lille star should work extremely well in Di Matteo’s system, along with former Werder Bremen midfielder, 23-year-old Marko Marin (if he returns to form after a recent injury). Another offseason signing, Brazil midfielder Oscar, is a proven goal-scoring threat, having had tremendous success with Brazilian club Internacional, but this is a much larger stage for the 20-year-old. It’s good to see Chelsea have this much scoring depth, it’s only a matter of consistency that will determine the team’s fate this season.
Despite getting up there in age, and clearly not the force he once was, Frank Lampard is still good for 10 goals a season. Second-year Chelsea midfielder Oriol Romeu, still just 20 years old, lacks experience, but is valuable as both a holding midfielder and center back and should see more playing time this season. Di Matteo also has at his disposal Mikel and Raul Meireles. In the back, Chelsea have a wealth of talent, but the group can never manage to all remain healthy at once. If John Terry, Ashley Cole, David Luiz, and Branislav Ivanovic remain match fit, it’s golden for Chelsea. But they also need to limit foolish mistakes, something Terry had issues with at times last season. Gary Cahill adds depth off the bench, and outside back Ryan Bertrand looks to ride his recent wave of success having received recent callups from the full England side.
Where will Chelsea end up this season? Well, anything less than a fourth-place finish will be considered a failure. Again, they’ll be up against the Manchesters for the top spot. Di Matteo needs to be creative and cautious with his lineups. This team has a few added matches on its schedule this season outside of the Premier League, but should still manage to contend for silverware, both in and out of England.
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