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Does Old Trafford Mauling Spell the End for the Old Chelsea?

Chelsea were comprehensively outplayed in Sunday’s title decider. Unable to impose themselves on the game it took a superb performance from Petr Cech to keep the score close. Chelsea, in contrast to United, looked sluggish. With the ball Chelsea’s passing was too slow, and without it they lacked intensity. They never looked like they possessed the creativity to unlock United. Unfortunately in the bigger games this is increasingly becoming a habit, for Chelsea. In both Champions League ties against Manchester United Chelsea struggled to gain a foothold in midfield, and create chances.

Smiler problems were visible during Chelsea’s limp exit from the Champions League against Inter last season. The lack of creativity and tempo to the team’s play has been a growing problem for a while. The current Chelsea side at the moment is still fundamentally that of Jose Mourinho. Nine out of the eleven players on the pitch on Sunday were all playing in the Chelsea side whilst Mourinho was in charge. The side was playing a slightly narrower 4-3-3, but essentially Chelsea have not moved far from Mourinho’s blueprint.

This has in recent years been a good thing for Chelsea. Besides being a successful way of playing, the continuity of playing staff and style has given stability in a time in which Chelsea have been coached by four different managers. However, all sides have a natural shelf life and it seems this Chelsea side may finally be reaching its expiration date. The side retains the ability to dismantle weaker sides, but have become increasingly reliant on scrappy goals and set-pieces in the bigger games.

The Nucleus of a future side exists in the form of: Cech (28), Ivanovic (27), Luiz (24), Ramires (24), Mikel (24), Torres (27). Nonetheless, tough decisions need to be taken in the summer in order to re-invigorate a slightly stale Chelsea side. The toughest decision may be too sell Didier Drogba. A Chelsea legend, He has shown in recent weeks that he is far from finished, and this only makes the decision harder. However, in my opinion it will be difficult for Chelsea to evolve as a side whilst Drogba remains at the club. His presence dictates that Chelsea play a 4-3-3 system with him at the centre, and he is not the sort of player willing to take a backseat. His form and reputation will ensure that there would be plenty of suitors for Drogba, and Chelsea would probably be able to get in the region of £15 million pounds for him, which for a 33 year old is very good money.

The second tough decision Chelsea need to make is to sign a dynamic midfield playmaker. Someone in the mould of Mesut Ozil. Such a player would add much needed creativity and incisive passing in midfield areas. However, in doing this Chelsea may have to accept that Frank Lampard might not play every game. Lampard like Drogba forces Chelsea into playing a certain way. In order to get the best out of him he needs to be given licence to get forward. If Chelsea signed an attacking playmaker, it may be difficult to accomadate both players, especially in big games, without leaving the side unmanned in midfield. This may not be the worst thing for Lampard, both Giggs and Scholes ceased to play every game for Manchester United from about 32 onwards. Arguably allowing them to prolong their careers. As a player Lampard still has plenty to offer, although the time when he played sixty games a season may now have passed. Rotation is another area Chelsea need to look at. It has been a difficult season for Ancelotti and injuries to the squad have meant at times he has had few options. That said whoever is in charge should look at the way in which Ferguson rotates his squad to keep them fresh. This certainly an area that Chelsea could learn from; the likes Florent Malouda, and Ashley Cole have barely had a break all season.

This is no time to panic for Chelsea. the side needs evolution not revolution. As a side they still possess the nucleus of a world beating side, and young prospects like McEachran and Danny Sturridge are further positives. That said Chelsea may need to finally move away from the Old Mourinho Chelsea side built around Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard.

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