Chelsea FC vs Atletico Madrid was always going to be an interesting and difficult tie to predict. In many ways, both team were very similar to each other in terms of style of play. Both banked on their solid, compact defensive structure which enabled them to counter attack the opposition with pace.
On paper Chelsea seemed to be favorites, but no one in their right minds would have ruled Atletico out. As Tim pointed out in his ever excellent pre-match tactical preview, Atletico is a team which has no major weaknesses unlike the other semi finalists, which was showcased in the two legs.
Although the two teams tried to play the same style of football, two major differences stood out after the tie.
1) With both teams defense being their strongest asset, The difference was made by Atletico's attack which was much much better than Chelsea's. People would say Costa was nothing special over the two legs, but he was still much better than any of our current strikers. He always offered himself to his midfielders( as did Torres yesterday and Ba against Liverpool), but the big differences was that he was able to bring his other teammates into play which then stretched our defensive shape, something Torres and Ba couldn't do.
2) Diego Simeone has been in-charge of Atletico for almost 3 years now, during which he has worked hard to incorporate the style of play which is bringing them success this season. So in many ways Atletico is a finished chapter whereas Chelsea are a work in progress towards something similar to Atletico's style.
Speaking of work in progress a.k.a transition a.k.a 'Project'. Chelsea have been needing transition ever since our double winning season under Carlo's first year. Chelsea cleared out a number of experienced internationals who were past their best in the likes of Ballack, Deco, Carvalho, Belleti, Joe Cole, Zhirkov among others which left massive holes at key positions in the squad.
Carlo tried to fill those positions by integrating our youths in the squad and quite frankly,did a very good job with it as he finished second after going through a disastrous winter. Carlo was probably the only manager after Jose who could have helped the team in transition while maintaining high standards but the fact that he was let go was and is still a shame. We had let go off a very good manager while the team still remained unbalanced.
After Carlo's exit, in came AVB along with his 'Project' What the project meant and what was it suppose to achieve we will never ever know. But what we do know is that we had a new manager in Stamford Bridge's favorite Di Matteo midway through the season with the squad still imbalanced missing an elite midfielder and consisting of faltering strikers.
Di Matteo was never looked upon as a long term manager by the Chelsea board. But the board could not have ignored his Champions League heroics and had to offer him a 2 year contract. We had a permanent manager in Stamford Bridge's favorite Di Matteo but in all honesty he never really looked cut out for the job and hence was shown the door with the squad looking as imbalanced as ever.
In came the Interim one but his job was only to see out the rest of the season which to his credit he did quite well. So it was left to the 'The Special One' to finally address the issue which had been lingering with the club for the past four years.
Jose, from the beginning of the season has been playing down season's expectations, by labeling it as a transitional season. It was always seen as some sort of mind game tactic to put some sort of pressure on oppositions. But one has to only look at the transfer deals that have taken place during this season to think otherwise. Jose was quick to identify the major issue with the squad which lied in the striking department. It was backed up by the hot pursuit of Wayne Rooney which ended up as a Samuel Eto'o free transfer (which according to me has been success for a back up plan).
Jose then went on to analyse the rest of the squad in the process finding his core squad players in Hazard, Oscar, Willian, Cahill and Azpi. The winter transfer window saw us offload the players which did not fit with the philosophy (for huge profits mind) and some what balance out the squad with the purchase of Matic which at least gave as an elite presence in the midfield. We are surely gonna get an elite striker next season, combine that with transfer dealings of this season, we can finally be assured that the 'transition' which had been eluding us for so long has finally begun and is probably in its final stages.
I personally feel we are just 2-3 signings away from completing the transition. A striker being top priority for sure, but we could also probably do with another midfielder and a left back to go with it.
We have a young team with many of the players having their best years ahead of them, and i am really excited to see the likes of Hazard, Lukaku, Oscar, Matic, Azpi, Willian, Luiz, Courtois, Schurrle, Salah and Cahill to develop under one of the best managers in football into a formidable force in Europe.