Formation | How will they set-up?
Chelsea have tried a host of formations after having one of the most efficient pre-seasons in Europe in which only the Werder Bremen game was ruined by a refereeing fiasco. The aim was to increase fitness , use the youth and experiment. Chelsea are expected to field a 4-2-3-1, despite having used variations of 3-5-2 and 4-3-3 in pre-season. Courtois or Cech is a debate that has been long drawn, but I expect Courtois to start the first game and then Mourinho will make his judgment on who to use in further important games.
The expected four at the back are Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry and Azpilicueta. Chelsea had one of the best defensive systems in Europe last season and I don’t expect Filipe Luis to just walk into the team. Azpilicueta had to fight for his spot and I gradually expect him to be phased out to his natural right side and Luis to start most of Chelsea’s games.
In the middle I expect Nemanja Matic to start 99.99% of the times. His arrival in January meant that he couldn’t be registered in the Champions League, which went on to haunt the West London outfit. However he’s been a standout performer this pre-season. I fully expect the combination of him and Cesc Fabregas to form the pivot. Ramires and Matic seem like less creative options.
Hazard, Oscar and Schurrle should form the attacking trio behind the striker. While two of the positions are more or less confirmed, I expect Schurrle to start more as he’s improved immensely since he’s moved to Chelsea. Moreover he comes off the back of a fantastic World Cup campaign, making more of a contribution than the German players up north. Willian and Salah should compete for the rest of the spots.
Upfront I foresee Diego Costa starting most of the games and Fernando Torres seeing long spells on the bench as Didier Drogba takes up the post of a super sub.
Analysis | What can we expect from them tactically?
The back four will be expected to do more than they did last season. Chelsea were pretty much paralyzed on the left flank due to using a right-back over there but with the inclusion of arguably the best attacking full-back in Europe, they have no excuses. As it has been with any Mourinho team, I expect the full-backs to be a vital part of attack. Crossing is one of Luis’ main strengths and with no natural crossers in the team, Jose will be looking to make full use of it.
The midfield however is where Chelsea suffered, with the pivot being as creative as Chetan Bhagat. Matic’s inclusion in January meant that Chelsea’s quality in midfield increased ten fold. However with an aging Lampard and ineffective Ramires in the middle, there weren’t any deep lying play-makers in the team.
Enter Cesc Fabregas. The man’s treatment at Barcelona could be considered disgraceful but now he is back at a team where he doesn’t have to fight for a place to take over from an aging Xavi and Iniesta. The truth is Mourinho needs Fabregas more than Fabregas needs Chelsea. Every time defense transitioned into attack the Chelsea faithful realized that watching paint dry was more entertaining. There wasn’t a spark. There was no one to pull the strings and find the pass to put players through on goal, with Ramires opting to run with the ball than pass. Fabregas fills the hole of a deep lying playmaker that Chelsea have been crying out for quite a long time.
Oscar should continue as the number 10 while rotating with Willian. Their role asks them to be rather aggressive and press their opponents in certain phases. This will make ball retention and recycling a much easier process. They will also be deployed to thwart the opposition’s deep lying play-makers so the job demands a tremendous amount of work-rate. The three behind the striker are versatile enough to exchange places, that is what makes it all the more interesting. I expect Hazard to pick up from where he left off and continue winning matches by himself. Now he has someone as creative as himself behind him and as clinical as him in front of him. This should reduce the pressure on his square shoulders and he will thrive. His ability to attract 2 or 3 players on himself will open spaces that can be taken advantage of by the likes of Costa and Fabregas.
Schurrle’s runs are as beautiful as the Halley’s comet. However just like the comet that appears once in 75 years, Schurrle’s runs are rarely seen by his team-mates. This is where I see the inclusion of Fabregas as making a tremendous difference. The Spaniard’s ability to pick out runners , both long and short range, will make him vital to Mourinho’s game plan. Hazard’s ability to pick him out resulted in him grabbing a hat-trick and hopefully the German produces more of the same.
Key Player | Who will be the stand-out player for the system?
Despite Chelsea’s transfer dealings, Eden Hazard is being carefully nurtured into a world-class player. The man who was branded as the best young player in the world by Jose Mourinho himself looks set to come into the season with his eyes fully set on the title. Chelsea heavily relied on his individual brilliance last season to win games when all hope seemed lost. Despite being defensively exploited by Atletico , he seems to have worked harder and harder in training . He doesn’t like losing, and with the players around him, he can continue creating sparks of magic at free will.
Eden Hazard has always been versatile and can play anywhere across the midfield apart from playing in the holding role. His ability to cut inside and shoot is something Chelsea haven’t experienced since Arjen Robben moved away from Stamford Bridge to ply his trade in the lush surroundings of Spain. Jose would like to exploit his abilities to the fullest and with him now being able to feed a striker who is arguably one of the most clinical in Europe, Chelsea look to be a much better team than last year already.
Talent Radar | Who will be the key young player this season?
Marco van Ginkel is a Dutch prodigy and he has had quite a decent pre-season. Missing most of last season due to a horrific injury suffered away to Swindon means that he is raring to go out and prove himself. He was brought in from Vitesse last season and was tipped to eventually break into the rather bleak Chelsea midfield. Things seem a lot more tougher for him this season with the quality heavily improved but one doesn’t know what his future at Chelsea holds. One thing is sure though, he has talent and the right kind of atmosphere to flourish in abundance.
Kurt Zouma was another buy midway through last season in a bid to improve Chelsea’s defense. Age is catching up with Mr.Chelsea but John Terry doesn’t seem like stopping. He became better and better last season and he was arguably the best center-back in England and Europe. Zouma should find him self starting a few games and the obvious substitute if any of the center-backs were to be injured. The man is huge and aerially really good for someone who is just 19. Standing at about 6 feet and 2 inches, he is literally built for the rough life of a English Premier League defender. Jose Mourinho will at the end of the day hope that players like Zouma and van Ginkel will show an upward rise in their development chart and turn out to brilliant future assets for Chelsea Football Club.
Article written by Sherry Philips. Follow him on Twitter @TransitionPhase