Robert Di Matteo, a Chelsea legend in every sense of the word. For him, it wasn't enough to be a fantastic player for Chelsea. He had to elevate his legendary status by becoming a manager and helping us to our maiden Champions League trophy and our 7th FA Cup title. Winning those titles is no ordinary feat, yet those prizes were all the more sweeter because we won them in a season that increasingly seemed as if it would end trophy-less prior to Di Matteo's appointment. Thank you Robbie! Thank you! In this article, I’ll be looking at the tactics Di Matteo has employed in preseason as well as how he will manage the players.
Preseason is officially over and the new season is almost upon us and as Di Matteo would say "The trophies won last season are a thing of the past." As Chelsea fans, there is much to be optimistic about. We have signed Eden Hazard, Oscar dos Santos, Marko Marin and club officials have confirmed a few more signings may be on the way. Unlike last season, there is no shortage of creative players. Di Matteo’s major problem now is how to incorporate all these fantastic players. If preseason is any indication, it looks like we’ll be going forward with the 4-2-3-1 formation. We saw Di Matteo try a 4-3-3 vs Brighton but that didn’t work out very well. Many Chelsea fans are of the opinion that we’ll be playing more attacking football this season, although Di Matteo dismissed that to a certain degree. He said “I never said we’ll be playing attacking football this season.” He has also said that much won’t be changed in terms of how Chelsea will play this season. That seems strange considering the fact that Roman Abramovich wants Chelsea to play more of an attacking brand of football. The way Chelsea has played in preseason suggests that the style is changing, but it needs time. I’ve seen all the preseason games and it is seems the players are under clear instructions to play the ball along the ground and build the play from defence. When this strategy doesn’t work, we see the ‘old fashioned Chelsea’ lobbing the ball up to the striker who, be it Torres or Lukaku, doesn’t win the ball very often. That is where Chelsea will miss Drogba this season. Drogba was the best at winning long passes, holding up the play and letting his team mates come up the pitch to help the attack. I believe the style Di Matteo wants to implement will be successful once the team plays more games. No worries there.
Tactics aside, another of Di Matteo’s duties as full time manager includes managing the players themselves. If Di Matteo learned anything from being AVB’s assistant, hopefully it’s that he now knows that alienating the players is not the path to progress. I may be paraphrasing but AVB said something to the effect of “The players don’t need to believe in my vision, only the owner does.” This is flawed thinking and I assume Di Matteo hasn’t adopted similar beliefs. Di Matteo was once a player and he should know that a manager has to have the players on his side. When the players dislike you and your tactics, they are less inclined to go out on the pitch and perform. If the players don’t perform, the results won’t come and the manager will be sacked. AVB can attest to that. I am of the opinion that the only reason we were able to win trophies is because Di Matteo galvanized the team and got them believing again after he was appointed interim manager. The fact that players were all calling for him to be appointed as permanent manager is testament to the great job he did from March to May. As is customary in a season, the team will encounter its highs and lows. How Di Matteo handles the lows will be his true test. Hopefully Di Matteo’s appointment will be the beginning of continuity in the manager’s post, we certainly need it.
Unlike Steve Kean and his relationship with the Blackburn fans, I believe all Chelsea fans are fully behind Di Matteo and are hoping for his success. We believe, Di Matteo! We believe!