Drogba Absence Is An Opportunity For Scolari
The news that Didier Drogba will miss the early weeks of the season is particularly unwelcome to Chelsea as it leaves Nicholas Anelka as the only fit senior striker available to them. However, it may turn out useful in the end.
Inevitably given the pattern of his Chelsea career, Andriy Shevchenko has gone down with groin problem just when he could have enjoyed a run in the side and Saloman Kalou is diverted to the Olympics. Claudio Pizarro was unconvincing last term.
The striking issue is the first chance to see Felipe Scolari tacking a serious problem head on. A club like Chelsea can always go big in the transfer market (Robinho is a persistent name mentioned) but the Brazilian boss may well choose to adapt his squad resources.
So long as Anelka remains fit, Scolari can use a variety of players to get up in support. Joe Cole, Florent Malouda, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Deco, Michael Ballack and Frank Lampard could all be given licence to get further forward.
The manager's choices in August will be the first real indication of which players have impressed him since he joined the club, and what the new midfield pecking order is- can Ballack, Deco, Essien and Lampard all start for instance? And what future do Malouda and Wright-Phillips have under the new regime, assuming both begin the campaign in blue?
Past form suggests that Scolari is an adaptable coach who has his favoured system but will not try to hammer players into unfamiliar patterns. He could well begin the season with one man up and three with licence to join (4-2-3-1) or put out a 4-5-1 with two wide men flanking Anelka.
The removal of Drogba from the current equation may even have made life mre straightforward in the short term, because Scolari's most difficult decisions appear to be about how to best utilise his world class midfielders. One up front offers him a way of getting them all on the park for game time.
Scolari now has the opportunity to test Anelka at his word and find out if the Frenchman can deliver in his preferred role. The ex-Bolton man has moaned about being pushed to the wide positions by Avram Grant, so this is his chance to make a statement- or equally Scolari's to make his opinion of Anelka's talents clear.
With a powerful squad Chelsea should be able to overcome Drogba's absence, though they would like him back for the game with Spurs on 31st August. In the meantime we can all learn a great deal more about the new coach's vision of his Chelsea side.