Roberto Di Matteo - How is he Faring so far in the Chelsea Hot Seat?

I have to admit, at the start of the season I was a doubter of our recently appointed Italian manager, mainly because of his team select...

I have to admit, at the start of the season I was a doubter of our recently appointed Italian manager, mainly because of his team selections in the first few games; the whole “square pegs, round holes” scenario. But full credit where credit is due, our Champions League and FA Cup winning manager saw what was going wrong and changed the starting line-up accordingly!

He is very good at dealing with the players, we have heard very little from those who have not been regulars, unlike last season when they were speaking freely to the press and rocking AVB's boat. He seems to have them on side and we all know he is a top man manager, look at the performances he got out of our aging squad last season! It was an extraordinary feat to say the least.

Not only does he have the players on side, he seems to also have the press on side, he knows how to deal with the media perfectly. His interviews are handled far better than AVB's were last season, he approaches awkward questions about John Terry, Ashley Cole etc calmly and diffuses the situation instead of adding fuel to the fire.

As i said there were definitely a few problems with Roberto's team selections at the start of the season. Firstly we seemed to lack dynamism, energy, pace and urgency in the engine room; that was solved by removing Lampard from that position and replacing him with Ramires. This change seemed to revitalize our midfield to no end.

It is a joy to see Ramires springing forward on the counter attack through the centre, defenders look simply terrified when the Blue Kenyan is bearing down on them, he sure takes a lot of stopping when he reaches full speed. The directness in his running is something to be admired; he draws players in and makes space for others with these runs. Not only that he also has the pace to get back and cover, he is very good defensively and always shows the desire to get behind the ball and help the team.

The Mikel – Ramires partnership is definitely blossoming and I have to say I love the new Mikel under RDM, the Italian seems to have galvanized our holding midfield man, he seems more confident on the ball, he is making more forward passes, even dribbling past opponents on occasion. He often muscles out and dominates forwards, breaks up play and starts off attacking moves. In my opinion he is the unsung hero at Chelsea at the moment and this is coming from a former Mikel doubter. I know not everyone will agree because John Obi is the “Marmite” of Chelsea Football Club, but he has impressed me so far.

The next problem we has was that we were living in the past glories of the Champions League final, we deployed defensive “wingers” instead of out array of attacking talent at the start of the season. Ramires and Bertrand can do a job on the flanks if we are trying to hold out a game; however they are far from natural players in those positions and should only be used to defend a lead or to nullify a particularly dangerous player like Ribery or Robben for example.

RDM seemed to take a lot out of the QPR draw - which was out only slip up in the league so far this season. He noticed that using the defensive “wingers” Bertrand and Ramires (playing out of their natural positions) wasn't working as it was disrupting our attacking movement in the final third, so he attempted the bold selection of an attacking midfield 3 of Eden Hazard, Juan Mata and Oscar. I didn't think this would work initially, I thought it would lack balance and that the side would need more natural width from someone like Moses, but I was proved wrong again to the full credit of our manager. The attacking midfield trio seem to already be creating a telepathic link with eachother, they are exciting and almost impossible to man mark, they also defend well as a unit along with Torres when they press high up the pitch.

Now we come inevitably to the loss at Shaktar on Tuesday evening, I honestly don’t think this should be looked too much into, I believe it was just a bad day against opposition at the top of their game. Unbeaten in 11 months, that is no mean feat for any team, plus the fact that they have never lost to an English team at home, it all adds up to the simple reality that it wasn't going to be a walk in the park even if we had managed to play to the best of our abilities. We simply seemed disjointed, we lacked cohesion in our passing and moving, the whole game plan was ruined within the first few minutes by the sloppy defending that led to the first goal, I will be posting about our back 4 a bit later on so I will get into those problems then. I don’t think it is too much to worry about, however it does increase the importance of getting a win at the Bridge in the return match with Shakthar.

When I saw the line-up at the start of the match It looked like we were going to be playing a 4-3-2-1, I thought it was an ingenious move by RDM, we could incorporate Lampard in his preferred position, whilst keeping our energy (Ramires) and steel (Mikel) in midfield and also have 2 free roaming number 10’s behind the striker to move around the pitch as they please and create things. I have to say I would love this system to be implemented as a plan B, if we need more experience in the side or we know that the opposition are going to flood out the midfield, having that extra man in there could really help. It removes the strict defensive responsibilities from Lampard, meaning he can make his trademark late runs without them negatively affecting the side in a defensive sense, we all know that Frank can score goals with ease from that position.

At the moment, for me the only big worry is Fernando Torres, he just doesn't seem at it, I can’t see him ever hitting the form he once had at Liverpool. He is our main man and he has to be finishing his chances for us to challenge for trophies this season. Obviously Roberto doesn't have many options at centre forward, at least until January if the Falcao rumours are to be believed. Of course we have Danny Sturridge waiting in the wings, and he announced his return from injury in two cameo appearances over the past week with some good performances, I believe he has looked more dangerous than Fernando in these appearances if I am being brutally honest. His goal against Spurs in the London derby showed that he is willing to get into good positions and has that natural killer instinct that Torres sometimes lacks. In the Champions League tie, he set up Hazard’s glorious chance, had the confidence to shoot as soon as he got the opportunity and also his skill plus a bit of luck ended up setting up the chance for our only goal of the game.

At the moment it seems Sturridge has everything that Torres lacks, the Spaniard is not direct enough when he attacks, he is too hesitant, he dawdles far too long on the ball, he shoots when he should pass and passes when he should shoot. Granted Danny is a very greedy young player, however sometimes you have to be greedy as a striker and he has got the ability to back it up.

I just cannot get my head around why our number 9 looks so lost at times in front of goal, he gets a 1-on-1 and panics, yet he used to thrive on these chances at Liverpool. It’s that old saying again; “the enigma that is Fernando Torres”.

Let’s hope the Torres situation sorts itself out, Roberto seems to be dealing with it the best he can and overall is doing a fantastic job in my opinion, he is learning his trade quickly, dealing with problems as they arise and has both the players and the media on side!

So what are your thought’s Chelsea fans?

How is our Italian manager doing so far?

Article by Martin Smith

Follow me on Twitter @MartinSmithCFC


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