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We haven’t yet seen Roberto Di Matteo’s Chelsea
What is Roberto Di Matteo’s style of play? Defensive, rigid and two banks of four come to most minds. This is the judgement made about the unattractive but successful way Chelsea finished their most historic season.
Di Matteo was the master behind some of the best defensive performances Europe has ever seen. One that the world’s best player couldn’t breach. Even from 12 yards there was still some sort of barrier that Lionel Messi couldn’t overcome. In Chelsea’s first game of the new season the style didn’t look any different (after the sixth minute). So is this and will this be Di Matteo’s ‘style’?
Many would come to the premature conclusion that it is but it really is too early to make that judgement. The former Chelsea midfielder was given three months to rescue a season that was going to be Chelsea’s worse for a decade and turned it into one that was their best. He could have played the style of football he had done with West Brom. An attacking 4-2-3-1 system, that came at the expense of leaking goals, which inevitably got him his marching orders. Instead he showed that he learned from that experience and built from the back. Playing to win rather than entertain.
During the last three months of the season football philosophy, fans’ entertainment and possession play goes out of the window. It is about results. No matter who you are. It is about getting the vital three points, holding on for a precious point or playing to progress into the next round of a competition.
There’s only really one club side that usually do both – Barcelona – but even they came unstuck last season.
So after leading Chelsea to the European cup and the FA cup and then having recruited new personnel that you may see orchestrating the articulate, technical and beautiful football which Roman Abramovich supposedly craves. The knives were out again on Di Matteo’s tactics after Sunday’s game at Wigan.
We can forget that top sides don’t usually click until after the international interruptions. Forget the game was won after six minutes at a place the best usually falter and we can also forget it was one of three games in seven days. Di Matteo should have played the exciting football all demand of Chelsea straight off?
No. Results at the start of the season are just as important as it is at the end. Teams are at their most vulnerable at the start of August. Teams are not 100% and make the most uncharacteristic mistakes (as seen with Man City on Sunday). The real Di Matteo and his Chelsea will become more evident to see as the weeks progress. For now it is about getting the results while you are at 70-80%. That will continue with home games against Reading and Newcastle this week.
While there is also the factor that they are bedding new players into the side. Eden Hazard was successful in a game with limited opportunities while Oscar had a 20-minute cameo. When Chelsea start hitting form and these players have settled it will be a dangerous formula. Especially if Fernando Torres can continue the goal scoring form that he showed both at the back end of last season and at the Euros.
From mid-September onwards we can analyse the real Chelsea Di Matteo would have put together.