Not long ago, Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba, Nicolas Anelka and Florent Malouda were pulling the attacking strings for Chelsea.
But even then — with all that class upfront — it was never about Chelsea’s attack… it was mostly about how they defended. With John Terry, David Luiz, Branislav Ivanovic and Ashley Cole, they had a rugged defence — a defence which would play a medley with their midfielders to hold on to wins in a way which soon became the norm and fuel for those who think they’re a boring team.
Those who tried to bring a change perished. Luiz Felipe Scolari and Andre Villas-Boas— coaches who believed in flair over rigidity didn’t even last a season.
But against Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea fans saw what they have been wanting to see since the Roman Abramovich era began. They saw entertaining football, football which enthralls, touches which draw gasps, passes that cut through defences with ease and attacks that interlink superbly.
After seeing their attacking prowess against Spurs, Manchester United’s leaky defence will surely be quaking in their pants. If you saw how Stoke’s Michael Kightly eased past five red shirts to score against United, then you can only imagine what a fluid attack like Chelsea’s could do. Spurs’ defence just couldn’t understand which player was coming from where and a couple of weak clearances from William Gallas didn’t help.
The best part about Chelsea’s win is that they did it without Terry, Drogba and Lampard — the untouchable trio from the days of Jose Mourinho. Also interesting is that Chelsea’s team against Spurs last season (0-0 draw on 24th March 2012) averaged 28.4 years old, while the team that beat them on Saturday averaged just 25.8 years old. If nothing else, this certainly is proof that things are gradually changing under the suave management of Roberto Di Matteo.
In defence, Gary Cahill — who now has four goals in seven starts, has stepped up in the absence of Terry. He is playing in a way which will certainly make Terry feel that he cannot take his place in the side for granted. Ivanovic and Cole are currently irreplaceable, even though Cesar Azpilicueta is an able replacement should either fall out.
In Juan Mata, Oscar and Eden Hazard, Chelsea have the most creative trio of players behind a quality marksman. They back them up with Ramires, Victor Moses, Marko Marin and Daniel Sturridge. There’s always legendary Frank Lampard to look up to when things aren’t going right, but he is slowly and very expertly being eased out of the side.
Hazard has nine assists and two goals this season and Mata has seven assists and six goals. Young Oscar has also played 395 minutes this season, taking Lampard’s place in the squad (he’s played 350 minutes). The young Brazilian looks like living up to his billing of ‘the next Kaka.’
Torres has stepped out of the giant shadow of Drogba this season, scoring four goals and setting up two in eight starts in the league. Last season after the first eight league games, he had scored two goals, played 510 minutes, was red carded once and played a full match only twice.
Change is coming. It’s gradual, but the effects of what Di Matteo has done behind the scenes are being seen with every match they play. The old guard is melting away as a new breed of players takes over.
Not only that, but Chelsea’s way of winning has changed. As of now, the ‘park-the-bus’ syndrome is history. This squad wants to win with panache; this squad wants to do it in style and this squad means business.