Friday 25 July 2014
It has been all change at Chelsea this summer, with a trio of big-name imports revamping Jose Mourinho's squad.
Our tactical columnist Adrian Clarke discusses the influence each of the Blues signings could have at Stamford Bridge in the months to come…
If last season's Chelsea opponents were minded to focus more on the runs of the Blues' attacking midfielders rather than the lone front man leading the line, this term, facing the west Londoners will be an entirely different experience.
'Diego Costa's impressive record of 2.9 turnovers won per match last season was the second-best return in La Liga'
Diego Costa is a handful. Unlike the more passive Fernando Torres or Samuel Eto'o, the Brazilian-born Spain striker will be an aggressive, battling, constant nuisance for central defenders. Chelsea's summer signing revels in the excitement of striking up a physical battle with his markers. Happy to back in, or run the channels incessantly, the former Atletico Madrid striker rarely shirks the chance to get involved.
Without the ball Costa will harass defenders. His impressive record of 2.9 turnovers won per match last season was the second-best retutn in La Liga. So, given Jose Mourinho's desire to press high up the pitch, he promises to be the ideal front man for the Chelsea manager.
He is not an especially rounded player or by any means the finished article. Caught offside more than anyone else in the Spanish top flight last term (50 times), the 25-year-old can frustrate, and in spite of his sturdy build, neither is keeping hold of the ball one of his core strengths. In fact, only one player in the entire division was dispossessed more often than Costa in the league en route to his club's title success.
Those stats are in part due to his insatiable desire to take hold of the ball, turn, and then run at the opposition back line. Impressively he achieved more successful dribbles than Gareth Bale and Angel Di Maria (60), but as discussed he will also run down blind alleys. Bringing team-mates into play is something he will need to work on at Stamford Bridge.
Aside from his renowned goal threat, Chelsea will also benefit hugely from his ability to draw fouls. Only Carlos Vela earned more free-kicks and penalties than in Spanish football last season than Costa, who was upended an incredible 116 times.
With a reputation for scoring goals aplenty from set-plays, Diego Costa's influence for Chelsea in this area could be pivotal.
|DIEGO COSTA V CHELSEA STRIKERS 2013/14|
|Shots per match||3.1||2.2||2.8||1.6|
|Key passes per match||1.3||1||1||0.4|
|Successful dribbles per match||1.7||1.2||0.9||0.2|
|Fouled per match||3.3||1||0.7||0.4|
|Turnovers won per match||2.9||1.3||1||1.1|
|Dispossessed per match||3.6||1.3||1.7||0.6|
Stepping into Chelsea legend Frank Lampard’s boots is no envious task, but if anybody can support that burden, it is Cesc Fabregas.
Aged 27, and despite falling out of favour with Barcelona, the Spaniard arrives at Stamford Bridge for what should be the best years of his career. Bringing with him all the attributes that belonged to Lampard as a younger player (goals and box-to-box energy) allied with skills the Englishman demonstrated in recent seasons (passing, assurance and discipline) the acquisition seems a wise one.
Creatively, he is in great shape. Last season the ex-Arsenal captain fashioned the same number of goalscoring chances per game as Xavi and Cristiano Ronaldo (1.6), which was also more than Gareth Bale and Andres Iniesta. His 13 assists were second only to Angel Di Maria in La Liga.
In addition, with a passing accuracy of 87%, mixing long with short, the midfield maestro will also help bring calm authority to the Chelsea team.
But, where will Fabregas fit into Mourinho's side? This is an interesting quandary for the Blues’ manager, who in theory could use his new signing in four different positions, depending on the tactics he wants to deploy.
Chelsea's style last term was pretty direct compared to most of their rivals, but in Fabregas they have an experienced campaigner with the ability to calm them down when in possession. With an eye for the killer pass, the Spain international should help unlock the door in situations where the Blues struggled for inspiration in 2013/14.
As superbly as Cesar Azpilicueta performed as a makeshift left-back last season, the natural balance that only a left-footer could provide was absent, especially on their forays forward down that flank in the second half of the campaign.
Signed from Atletico Madrid this month, Filipe Luis will remedy that issue. Neat and tidy on the ball, consistent, and possessing a quality left foot, the Brazilian will defend well and seek to build on the 28 chances he created in 32 starts for his former club last term.
Statistically he is not dissimilar to Ashley Cole, although he is unlikely to be as eye-catching. However, right-wingers throughout the Barclays Premier League should take note of his eagerness to crunch into tackles. Only two players in the whole of La Liga won more challenges than he did last season.
|Filipe Luis v Azpilicueta & Cole 2013/14
|* pm denotes per match|
Chelsea may have lost some huge characters this summer, but they have replaced them with a triumvirate of top-class Spanish stars at the peak of their powers.
In attack Costa will represent a dynamic and aggressive presence, in midfield Fabregas will add composure and creativity, while in defence Filipe Luis will supply snap and balance for the team. When in possession, they will pose a far greater threat this season.
Chelsea's squad has improved since signing off in third place last season, which can only bode well for the forthcoming campaign.