Roberto Di Matteo
Immediately after becoming coach, he fixed everything AVB had done wrong. Most importantly, he changed Chelsea’s defensive scheme. Andres Villas-Boas had used a high-pressing line, something that worked for him at Porto, but which Chelsea did not have the personnel for. RDM made the defense more compact, and switched the focus of Chelsea’s game to defense. The team resumed a counter-attacking, long-ball style. When AVB’s Chelsea played Arsenal, they lost 5-3; the game last weekend finished 0-0.
The players said they didn’t trust the Portuguese manager. In Roberto Di Matteo’s first game in charge, they looked much more confident and, for the first time this season, looked like they were actually trying.
RDM has only lost once so far with Chelsea. His biggest impact came in the Champions League, where the team went from losing 3-1 to Napoli, in AVB’s last game in charge, to defeating Barcelona and advancing to the final. In the Premier League, the team remains in sixth, with only three games remaining, a sign of how far back Andres Villas-Boas had left them.
It seems like AVB’s firing came in the nick of time. Roberto Di Matteo was able to change the fate of their Champions League adventure with a thrilling 4-1 extra time win over Napoli, and qualification for next year’s tournament is still within reach, although very unlikely.
Didier Drogba and Fernando Torres
Drogba was the hero of the Champions League semi-final, but Fernando Torres has also been much better under Di Matteo. He has actually scored several times in the last few games, including the final goal in that CL semifinal.
Again, Di Matteo is able to do something AVB could not do- use Torres and Drogba effectively.
Barcelona, for example, were best disturbed by Drogba’s physicality. La Liga is far more technical (and less physical) than the Premier League, and Barca are an extreme example of that. Since Barcelona controlled possession, Chelsea also needed a good holding striker, and Drogba is clearly better at this than Torres.
John Terry, Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba
Andres Villas-Boas last act as Chelsea coach was an act of defiance, and what got him fired. He benched the three biggest locker room trouble-makers for him, as well as arguably Chelsea’s three most consistent players, in both the past and present. Not coincidentally, they are also the oldest, at 35 years each.
They have been the best players for RDM,and that is a sign of trouble in the future. None of them have more than one or two years of top-class soccer yet. Drogba is rumored to be leaving this summer.
Chelsea’s eternal question (other than “When will the coach get fired?”) remains: When, and how, will they rebuild?
Juan Mata and Ramires
Here is a possible answer. Two talented midfielders who have had great seasons. The revival of Torres can really be put almost fully on the arrival of Mata.
Mata is a typical Spanish playmaker; Ramires a box-to-box midfielder best exemplified by his role in Drogba’s goal in the first leg. Both types of players are rare in today’s Premier League. Use them well, RDM.
The biggest stars under Di Matteo, as many journalists have noted.
Who would have thought that, after all the money Abramovich spent on the Champions League, this would be the year the team would win it?
Overlooked as contenders for almost all of the tournament, they will probably not even make the Europa League next year.
Whoever they face in the final, they will be the underdogs, but their opponents will have a very hard time scoring on them.