Looking and reading around the web, there seems to be almost unanimous belief that Roberto Di Matteo’s appointment was a sensible and fully justifiable decision. The stalwart pragmatists among us have just about managed to point out successfully Robbie isn’t Brian Clough, Rinus Michels and Matt Busby all rolled into one, but their arguments sound pretty thin, all things considered.
(Apart from people just arguing for the sake of it) I think the few cases of aversion out there to Di Matteo getting the job is born of a misunderstanding of just what is required of him next season. To some, I think Chelsea’s Champions League victory in Munich took on the allusion of an ‘end of an era’ – an era that in actual fact, ended two years ago with the double. In similar fashion to George Foreman winning the World Heavyweight Championship at 45 years old, our win in Munich was surely our most impressive achievement, but it wasn’t by any means the crowning success of a team at the peak of their powers.
Some pretty substantial rebuilding has taken place over the last two seasons – some great players have moved on, some fantastic purchases have been made and we have developed maybe the strongest youth/reserve side in the country. The point I’m trying to make is that in appointing Di Matteo, we aren’t entrusting him to lead a revolution or to build a new side from anywhere near scratch. Villas-Boas and Ancelotti both made serious contributions into building a new spine for the team (signing Cahill, David Luiz, Ramires, Mata and Torres) and they both notably lowered the average age of the squad.
When RDM turns up to work on the first day of pre-season training, he’s going to meet up with a young, pretty much complete squad with additions still likely to be made, a squad still with veterans capable of performing to an exceptional standard, as well as a plethora of young talent all waiting for their chances – chances RDM showed he was prepared to give out with Bertrand and Hutchinson last season. Most importantly, he’ll meet up with a team already fully capable of playing the football the fans and owner want to see.
He won’t have to teach the likes of Mata, Marin, Hazard, Ramires etc how to play direct and exciting football – the passing and dribbling abilities of these players will doubtless result in that style of play, regardless of formation. Robbie doesn’t have to impose any new ideals or philosophies, or come up with any new ingenious methods of play, he simply has to take what he’s get got (some of the best young attacking talent in Europe) and get the absolute best out of them via tactical common sense and good man-management. And is that not exactly what he did for 11 weeks so brilliantly last season?
Moving on to a topic it seems people are quickly getting tired with, rumours of Chelsea pursuing a new right back don’t seem to be going away, with the most heavy links being towards Lille’s Mathieu Debuchy. I written about this before but didn’t explain my view very clearly, I’ll try again so we can have a proper debate:
Chelsea are in a fortunate position at the minute of having a phenomenal defence; John Terry, Ashley Cole, David Luiz, Gary Cahill and Branislav Ivanovic are 5 of the best defenders in the league, (even the world) and regardless of whom we sign, they’ll be the main players to feature in our back four next season. I’ll say it now – we DO NOT need a right back, primarily because we already have a brilliant one. Ivanovic has got all you could ask for in a full-back, he’s strong, intelligent with his positioning, deceptively quick considering his size, also his crossing, long throws and offensive heading are all first rate. I also don’t buy into this belief he would rather play centre half, he is evidently better as a full-back and seems to have played that position happily enough for three years, getting better all the time.
Now, at the minute I don’t think our defence is deep enough, especially considering all the little injuries our back line up picked up last season, but even with the sale of Bosingwa, I don’t think right back is the position to strengthen. Apart from Ivanovic, we have David Luiz who surely could easily adapt to full back if necessary (as he did for Benfica) as well the ever-dependable Paulo Ferreira. Some of our best youth products are predominately right sided defenders as well i.e. Tomas Kalas, Sam Hutchinson & Todd Kane.
Another thing that confuses me is that names being mentioned on this and other forums are that of quality young players, men like Debuchy, Piszczek and Gebre Selassie all have the potential to become some of the best full-backs in the world over the next few years. Why would they come and sit on the bench as back up to Ivanovic?
The sort of depth I think we need to be adding to our defence should be in the shape of versatile (predominantly centre half) 30-ish year olds, who can competently play a bit part role as back up to the big names. Someone who can make up the numbers until the next generation is ready for the first team in a few years time. Can’t think of any names in particular but I don’t imagine players fitting that profile are too difficult to find.
I honestly don’t know how much truth there is in these links to right backs; I wouldn’t be surprised however if we did sign one this summer. Even though with the quality we already have in Ivanovic, the standard of back up and the potential of youth players in that position – I genuinely cannot see the need. I’m sure some of you disagree, even feel quite strongly the other way, please feel free to try and explain it to me, I’m at a loss.