Ancelotti making new Chelsea team from old players

While Chelsea's rivals for the Premier League have been busy buying and selling major players, the Blues are mostly relying on a change of tactics.

updated: August 14, 2009 12:05 IST
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While Chelsea's rivals for the Premier League have been busy buying and selling major players, the Blues are mostly relying on a change of tactics to invigorate their title chances.

Manchester United has sold Cristiano Ronaldo and Arsenal let Emmanuel Adebayor leave, but Chelsea has kept all its top players and been uncharacteristically quiet in the transfer market since finishing third last season.

New manager Carlo Ancelotti is already planning on shaping a side from the players already with the club, with a so-called diamond formation of four midfielders deployed behind a pair of strikers - irrespective of whether he manages to acquire playmaker Andrea Pirlo from AC Milan.

That should help the Blues be more fluid in attack and post more of a threat to opposing defenses compared to the past few seasons, when two wingers supported Didier Drogba as he labored alone up front.

This approach brought Chelsea a 2-2 draw against United in last weekend's Community Shield and Ancelotti hopes it helps the club shrug off its staid image and win fans as well as prizes over the coming year.

"The most important thing to win is the Premier League and the Champions League," Ancelotti said. "To win these would be a success, but we also need to have an identity with the team and I think we are going the right way about doing this."

Chelsea beat United in a shootout at Wembley and Ancelotti should have the players to make his system work even without bolstering his squad, with Frank Lampard, Deco, Salomon Kalou and Joe Cole all capable of playing the attacking role at the tip of the diamond.

"Lampard can play on the left and he can play offensive midfielder," Ancelotti said. "I want to try this because I like games where he is in this position.

'The other players can play in the diamond in a different role: they can play up front or they can play behind the striker."

With Lampard the most likely candidate for the advanced role, that seems to leave the others plus Michael Essien, Jon Obi Mikel, Michael Ballack and Yuri Zhirkov fighting it out for the other three midfield spots.

Chelsea's major offseason signing so far has been the 18 million-pound ($30.4 million) Zhirkov, who can play on the left of midfield or fill in at left back for Ashley Cole.

The Blues also signed Ross Turnbull on a free transfer from Middlesbrough to provide backup to regular goalkeeper Petr Cech and hired young striker Daniel Sturridge from Manchester City, but it is Zhirkov who could be the key player this season.

Ancelotti plan hinges on the fullbacks providing width and stretching opposing defenses since a diamond formation can often narrow the midfield and direct play through the middle of the field.

Luiz Felipe Scolari tried to use attacking fullbacks but his promising start as coach last season unraveled as teams worked out how to keep right back Jose Bosingwa pushed back.

The players on the right and the left of the diamond will have to work hard to provide an alternative outlet and prevent the one-dimensional play that cost Scolari his job in January.

Guus Hiddink filled in for the rest of the season, losing just one Premier League game and winning the FA Cup to suggest the materials are largely in place for Ancelotti.