The first day at work can be a bit nerve wracking. Maybe even for a vastly experienced, world-renowned, international coach. Personally, I think a new job posses all kinds of problems and anxieties. What’s the boss like? Is he strict or friendly? (Actually he might have a fair idea already, win stuff or you’re sacked.) Is the commute a nightmare? Where’s the water cooler and is it too early to mention those holidays I’ve already got booked? Something tells me Big Phil has enough on his plate without worrying about if it’s ok to eat his butties at his desk.The pre-season kicks off on Monday and it should prove to be an interesting week. Firstly we’ll get to see what our new coach is made of. Will he show his hand and aim for an attacking line-up or will it be minor adjustments to the familiar Chelsea machine? One thing is for certain, many of the players returning to duty will need a moral boost, to say the least.
All have suffered the agonising penalty pain of the European final and a few others have had a Euro Championship to forget about. Those players will need picked up, refocused on the long season ahead, and beaten back into tip-top, top-flight shape. We should get to see if the manager is a tough disciplinarian and taskmaster or if he wants to get friendly and involved with the player’s banter first. It’s a balancing act and we can hope Scolari is well prepared to set the boundaries from the start.
A priority of the new manager must be to secure the services of the spine of the team. We might make a few signings this summer but the one most Chelsea fans want to see is Lampard penning a new deal and his future to the Bridge. Holding onto Carvalho and Drogba as well would mean the nucleus is intact and we’re ready to push on for honours from the start. Any new players coming in will need time to settle to the pace and, with Premiership points so precious, that’s a luxury few teams can afford.
The first job of any new coach is to assess his squad and evaluate who he wants to keep and who doesn’t cut the mustard. For some of the fringe players in the squad this could be a massive week for them to try and prove they have what it takes to remain at the club. As we’ve not had any sales, as of yet, we can presume that the coach is at least willing to give the players a chance and that the squad starts with a clean slate. It’s fair to say there’s a good amount of deadwood in the squad that needs to be trimmed. In particular most of last summer’s signings have failed to impress. Ben Haim was clumsy and looked out of his depth; Pizzarro was underused but largely ineffectual; Sidwell showed heart but, like Scott Parker before him, not the same class on the ball as his midfield counterparts. Alex certainly impressed though and will be going nowhere whereas Malouda did little to justify his price tag and might be the most high profile casualty. Add to this the continued question marks over Wright Phillips, Anelka and Sheva and it could be a potentially busy summer.
Personally I hope we can keep hold of the more exciting, attacking players and the likes of Shevchenko, Shaun and the Sulk can win a game with a flash of brilliance. We might not have seen the best from any of those players in a Chelsea shirt as yet but we’ve seen enough to know what they’re capable of given the chance. It looks as though all the players have an opportunity in training to impress the new boss. Of the big names that are being linked to the club there is a lot of encouragement for us fans. Along with the completed signing of Deco, the players tend to be attacking, exciting playmakers. Robinho, Arshavin and Ronaldinho are three of the more frequent and as long as it’s not fat Ron I’d be happy with any. One of the weakest points of last season’s formation was the attacking left side with Malouda failing to provide enough creativity and spark on that flank. Looking at the three names above and it’s a fair assumption the management feels the same. It’s encouraging that we’re looking for attacking flair though and it might be a hint at a more attacking style, much touted as a Roman wish for Chelsea.
The final thing we can look forward to is how the coach will fit all these players together. With the signing of Deco, once again, we have an abundance of midfield talent and we’ll need a formation that can maximise the personal skills of each player. If a more attacking Chelsea is going to be the aim for next season then this might mean another forward up top and again they’ll be question marks of how players will be accommodated. If there is one man able to handle this midfield heavy squad then it’s Big Phil. Faced with an abundance of Midfield and attacking flair with his 2002 Brazil squad, Scolari put two midfield anchors in and then let his attacking players run riot in a fluid formation ahead of them. It certainly worked. Likewise for Portugal, with no recognised striker, he opted for a holding midfielder and fluid, interchangeable attacking positions from midfield. With Ballack, Essien, Lampard, Deco, Cole, Maka, Mikel and Kalou we have to hope Big Phil can do something similar with the Blues.
We might not know how we’re going to line up come August but, already, we can’t wait to find out.