What year is it again? You could be forgiven for having a few flashbacks from Chelsea’s first game of this new season:
Jose Mourinho joking with the opposing team’s manager (Steve Bruce) on the sidelines while soaking up all the attention, a classic Frank Lampard blast from 30 yards, and players like John Terry, Ashley Cole, and Petr Cech patrolling the backline for a Blues victory.
No it’s not 2004, take out your high-tech I-Phone and ask Siri if you don’t believe me.
You are in the year 2013, a year where the race for the EPL title is as wide open as ever, and though a lot remains the same, this version of Chelsea is actually a bit different from earlier years under Mourinho.
Gone is the structured and calculated defensive midfield that “The Special One” has always constructed. Stamford Bridge now appears to be run by youthful ball magicians, whose flicks and tricks dazzle the crowd and create chance after chance on goal.
Sunday’s 2-0 win over Hull introduced this new version of the Blues to the world. Chelsea controlled the game from the first whistle, poking and prodding at the Tigers backline until it finally broke in the 12th minute.
After a fine build up, the young Belgian Kevin de Bruyne slid through his midfield mate Oscar, who managed too somehow toe-poke the ball under the onrushing Hull keeper, Alan McGregor.
That goal was the perfect example of how Chelsea is now set up on offense. Their five man midfield is made up of two holding central midfielders, Lampard and Ramires, with three interchangeable playmakers in front of them.
De Bruyne, Eden Hazard, and Oscar were all over the pitch against Hull, making it extremely hard to have any sort of marking in the midfield against them. That paid off on the first goal, when after a few passes and flicks from multiple Chelsea players, Oscar ran straight through the Hull backline onto a perfect through ball by de Bruyne.
Another change in Mourinho’s new lineup is a false striker. Fernando Torres is not a predator like Didier Drogba was, who used to demand the ball inside the box and would score with aplomb. Torres, about just let his midfield maestros do their thing against Hull, occasionally dropping back and getting in on the passing.
The Spaniard is not afraid to let his midfielders do the scoring and his flicks to them with his back toward goal showed exactly that. It must be said, however, that Mourinho might not go with that outlook for his striker this season, with rumors of deals for goal scoring forwards Wayne Rooney and Eto’o constantly taking up headlines.
The new version of Chelsea is off and running this year but it might be wise to see them face a truly tough opposition before we christen them champion caliber. As Mourinho stated to Sky Sports, “At this moment we cannot speak about two sides, we have to speak about six sides. Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal, Tottenham, Liverpool and, of course Chelsea are all in the mix.”
The upcoming fixture against Manchester United on August 26th could be the game where the Blues show everyone just how much they’ve changed, while also proving the winning ways under Mourinho never left.