The latest edition of Chelsea sees Roberto Di Matteo look forward to the start of the new campaign, as well as casting an eye back over a memorable three-month spell in charge during the second half of last season, culminating in both FA Cup and Champions League glory.
With the new season fast approaching, we introduce a new-look magazine, complete with a whole host of new features for supporters of all ages, including ’10 reasons why we love Chelsea’, ‘the Final Countdown’ and ‘Supporters’ Dream Team’.
The 2011/12 season is one the Italian is unlikely to forget in a hurry. Having started the campaign as assistant to Andre Villas-Boas, he ended it as the man in charge, having finally put an end to our quest for success in the Champions League, enhancing an already glowing reputation with the supporters from his playing days at Stamford Bridge.
In football, however, as the new manager will testify, things change quickly, and impressive achievement though it was, that night in Munich is now in the past. The challenge for Di Matteo and the players now lies in the future.
‘The pressure is always there, whether you have won or not. It’s a pressure job,’ Di Matteo tells the magazine.
‘I think we are all happy with what we achieved last season, but we have to understand that is part of the past now.
‘Now, we have to look forward – and there is a lot of excitement. We have a lot of targets and objectives to achieve this season, competitions that are very difficult to qualify for, like the European Super Cup and the World Club Championship.
‘It takes a long time to reach those competitions and it’s hard to get there, so I’m looking forward to this season with a lot of excitement.’
With the club having invested heavily in the transfer market, securing promising young talent such as Marko Marin, Oscar, Kevin De Bruyne and the Hazard brothers, there is a sense of excitement building around SW6.
If there has been a criticism of the side in recent years it has been that we have, at times, lacked a creative spark, but with an array of attacking options now at his disposal, Di Matteo doesn’t envisage that being a problem for much longer. The biggest issues he faces will be how he accommodates everybody and what style of play he chooses to implement.
‘I think moving between the lines and rotation can be an attacking threat for us,’ he says. ‘We had only Juan Mata playing that role last year, although Raul Meireles played there a few times as well.
‘It just gives us more options for the team. It makes us more difficult to be marked and more unpredictable .
‘However, we also need width in the game, so it’s not just always coming between the lines, it’s about giving width to the team as well.
‘I think what’s most important now is to integrate the new players into the side. Obviously, bringing in players with different abilities and qualities might change the face of our team a little bit as well, but we have to always find the right balance between attacking and defending.’
Di Matteo, who grew up in Switzerland, has spent the majority of his time in football in England and Italy, and he admits his philosophies on how he believes the game should be played are representative of all three nations.
‘I was influenced by all of these cultures,’ he says. ‘Also, I feel very European in that sense because, obviously, I have lived and worked in Switzerland, Italy and England.
‘In the household when I was growing up, it was very much the Italian culture. However, being at school and outside a lot, I took a lot from the Swiss culture as well.
‘I got a lot of football education in Switzerland from the youth system there and, obviously, in Italy as well because I was still very young, in football terms, when I went there.
‘I learned a lot as a player in Italy and you just gradually learn all the time as you go on with different situations and experiences.’
MARIN HOPING TO MAKE HIS MARK
Elsewhere in the magazine, we have an exclusive interview with our new German star Marko Marin, who talks about why he feels his style of play is best suited to the Premier League, the role Claudio Pizarro played in him moving to Stamford Bridge and being on tenterhooks as the Blues took on his fellow countrymen in the Champions League Final.
CAHILL PAYS TRIBUTE
Our ‘Football Men’ feature sees Gary Cahill reflects on those people within the game who have helped shape his career from an early age, citing a bespectacled Italian, the man who brought him to Bolton Wanderers and a former Stamford Bridge favourite.
Belgian goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois was loaned out to Atletico Madrid shortly after signing for the Blues, but having made 53 appearances for the Spaniards and won the Europa League, it’s proved to be a fantastic move thus far. He will remain with the Spanish club for the coming season, and we caught up with the youngster as he talked about the prospect of taking on his parent club in the Super Cup, as well as his chats about the Blues with a title-winning midfielder from our 2004/05 campaign.
SUPER CUP MEMORIES
Having lifted the Champions League back in May, we now face Atletico Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup at the end of August. The last time we participated in the competition was back in 1998 against the might of Real Madrid, and we look back on that memorable evening in Monaco with the help of some of the players who helped us lift the trophy, including Gianfranco Zola and Albert Ferrer.
The latest edition of Chelsea is on sale now and available from all good newsagents and the Megastore, priced at £3.25.