Since Didier Drogba decided to end his first spell at the club after Chelsea’s unforgettable 2012 Champions League triumph; fans worried about who would replace the Legendary Ivorian striker. His Champions League heroics, however, paved the way for Eden Hazard to sign for the European Champions. Hazard’s signing was the start of the Post-Drogba era and the brilliant Belgian did become the blues’ attacking hero for seven years. In our tactical analysis, we look at how the new attacking era at Chelsea can evolve.
José Mourinho did assemble a lethal attacking core of Cesc Fábregas, Hazard and Diego Costa in 2014, with each player contributing a huge part in five trophies since then. All three are no longer at the club and Chelsea are set for a new attacking era, who are the likely suspects?
The transfer ban leaves Chelsea looking from within for quality that can improve the squad. Amongst the outstanding returning loanees is Tammy Abraham, with 26 goals on loan at promoted Aston Villa, the time has finally arrived to stake his claim in the first team. The 21-year-old would compete with Olivier Giroud for an attacking berth and his physical qualities remind of Drogba himself.
Looking to usurp last season’s joint-second top scorer in all competitions, he would be backing himself to make the starting spot his. Rightly so, in three full seasons on loan, he notched 54 goals and seven assists in 114 league appearances. Although the one season in the top flight at Swansea yielded five goals from 15 starts, Abraham has matured and seems ready for a big role now. Boasting 2.9 shots per game last season and 3.1 aerial duels won per game.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek had a break-out year scoring 10 goals and laying on five from 1702 minutes in all competitions. Despite a long-term injury spoiling the end to an otherwise brilliant season. Loftus-Cheek had won plenty of plaudits and admirers for his masterful displays. Replacing Hazard’s 16 league goals and 15 assists was already a tall order for the squad and now his recovery process leaves it unanswered. Although big things are still expected on his return from injury, his finesse and dribbling mixed with physicality are a hybrid of Hazard’s qualities.
This leaves Mason Mount as the most potent available attacking midfielder at Chelsea. The 20-year-old is expected to step into the first team squad next season after another exceptional loan spell, this time at Derby County. He produced 11 goals and four assists in all competitions and was one of Derby’s main attacking threats, with 1.9 key passes and 2.5 shots per game, the best and second-best of both metrics in the Derby squad.
Perhaps Chelsea are about to move on from over-reliance on one man which is a positive development. In trying to remain deadly as a unit, the team must develop an attacking spine which could be midfielders, wingers and the striker or full backs and wingers.
Basically, the players need to develop intricate chemistry within their positions on the pitch which makes the team a cohesive winning unit. Without a recognized star player, the team can divide into triangles that work intermittently. For example, the left midfielder, left back and left centre-back must have a telepathic understanding that works to create spaces for the left winger to supply the striker. The blueprints of Manchester City and Liverpool using this same model are prime examples.
January signing Christian Pulisic looks an ideal player for such system; the American is a creative team player with a great work ethic and blistering pace. In a season where he managed only 924 Bundesliga minutes last term, Pulisic scored four times and laid on four assists, also registering 1.4 shots and one key pass per game. His dynamism could be important to the blues having a good post-Hazard season; alongside Callum-Hudson Odoi, Chelsea’s new-look, quick attack might just be the start of another era.
Replacing a 50% source of goals is a big ask for any team and Maurizio Sarri’s exit adds to the uncertainty.
Eden Hazard was a wonderful servant of the club whose absence would be felt by the fans as well as on the field, his dazzling displays and legendary goals might never be replaced by another player. Tactical analysis has shown us one thing; Chelsea are moving on to a new attacking era and possibly a stronger team, hopefully as much as Liverpool did after Philippe Coutinho left.