So, begins another Premiership Season, fresh with hope unburdened by reality.
On the surface Di Matteo’’s Premier League form last season appeared almost identical to that of Villas-Boas.
AVB: P 27 W 13 (48%) D 7 (26%) L 7 (26%)
RDM: P 11 W 5 (45%) D3 (27%) L 3 (27%)
But that is not the way the Chelsea Blip-O-Meter is calibrated.
Under Villas-Boas, Chelsea lost all seven of the points that we dropped against the comparable fixtures of the previous season (the “failure” that cost Ancelotti his job).
Under Di Matteo we maintained that relative position, dropping three which were matched by the three we acquired. And this despite mounting successful campaigns in the FA Cup and the European Cup.
It was our failure to kill off the cannon fodder arrayed against us mid-season, (from which we managed: 3 draws, 2 wins and a classic Chelsea defeat) that left us needing to win last season’s European Cup to qualify for this season’s. That run of games returned nine points from what ought to have been eighteen. This was clearly indicated by the Chelsea Blip-O-Meter by the end of January.
Basically, Di Matteo adopted Hiddink’s 4-2-3-1.
The second half-back shored up an alarmingly accident-prone defence, while the three half-forwards both provided additional cover if required (eg Barcelona) while looking to feed Drogba or exploit the spaces he created (particularly Mata and Ramires). Meanwhile the more solid central defence allowed the full-backs often to act as de facto midfielders (look at the match hot spots). Although in Bosingwa’s case I’m not convinced that it was as much part of the tactical master plan as a poor defender getting caught out of position.
Now, Drogba [the motivated Drogba] was probably the world’s best lone striker. We haven’t replaced him [yet] and that means the half-forwards will have to do rather more than before. Or Torres will have to come up with the goods.
One thing is sure: We can’t expect teams to stick rigidly to tactical formations that play to our strengths as Barcelona and Bayern did. Even Dalgleish had the nous to change plans in the FA Cup Final – although he waited until 0-2 down before doing it; throwing on Carroll and humping the ball to him. Guardiola and Heynkes kept-on-keeping-on; apparently thinking like Haig in 1917, that just one more push would deliver the desired breakthrough (like at Passendale, it didn’t).
So our new creative players are going to need to get used to teams parking the bus on our watch. Will we try to tippy-tappy through the middle like Barca? Will our half-forwards insist on cutting in and shooting like Robben and Ribery?
Will we have players briefed to beat defenders on the outside and deliver crosses from the by-line? And if they do, will anybody be home to convert them?
Likewise our defence must expect teams to use the entire width of the pitch, take our full-backs on outside and put some crossed in from the by-line. That additional defensive midfielder won’t be as much use if they do.
Still, one of the upsides to a season like 2011-12 is that it presents so many opportunities to improve on it. You can see why new managements generally engineer a first year loss when they take over. It can be blamed on their predecessors. It only serves to ensure that there is a recovery – and to make it more conspicuous (for which they naturally take all the credit).
Our first four fixtures could (should) provide us with an additional eight points to last season. Our first dozen could yield an eye-watering additional 22-points, which would have put us right back in the mix for the Premiership.
In conclusion, a memo to whomsoever is responsible for transfers: A Right-Back, please. ASAP. Thank you.
Posted by Steve S
Melbourne (The World’s Most Liveable City)
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