With the start of the new campaign a week away, Roberto Di Matteo believes now is the time to look forward and focus on the future, rather than dwell on past achievements.
The Blues take on Manchester City later today in the Community Shield at Villa Park in a match which pits last season’s title winners against the team who lifted both the FA Cup and Champions League, but while the Italian is understandably proud of what his squad achieved over the course of an eventful three-month period, he believes it counts for very little going into the new season.
‘We all knew it was a fresh start when we returned to pre-season,’ said the Chelsea manager. ‘We had some good experiences together last season and hopefully there will be more.
‘It’s part of the past, done and dusted. It’s a new start with new challenges; it will be difficult as everybody will raise their game against us.’
An already talented squad has been bolstered by the arrival of attacking talent in the form of Eden Hazard, Oscar and Marko Marin.
Somewhat predictably, though, with Didier Drogba now departed, much of the focus heading into the new season has centred around Fernando Torres.
‘I was very happy with him [Torres] last season,’ said Di Matteo. ‘There are great expectations on the club and the team. He’s part of it, a fantastic striker and hopefully he’ll be able to fit into the team and show his qualities.
‘He won a lot of trophies last season and is full of confidence, he’s only been back a couple of weeks but has looked good.
‘He scored some important goals for us last season, which people tend to forget, but I don’t want to put pressure on any of our players. We operate as a team, it’s not an individual effort.
‘We have Daniel Sturridge and we have midfielders who can score goals such as [Frank] Lampard, [Eden] Hazard, Oscar’s a goalscoring midfielder, Ramires scored a number of goals, [Juan] Mata…’
Of the new additions, only Oscar, who has been involved at the Olympics with Brazil, is yet to arrive, but the manager has seen enough to suggest exciting times are ahead for the Stamford Bridge faithful.
‘Hazard has a lot of good qualities, but let’s not forget he’s young and coming into a new league. In training we’ve seen his quality and I’m very excited,’ said the Italian.
‘Next week Oscar’s coming and we’ll assess him, see how he is and how he feels and make some decisions.’
Having finished ??? points behind today’s opponents in the league last season, Di Matteo knows only too well that bridging such a monumental gap will be a sizeable task.
The challenge is there for us to take on, however, and with the teams around us steadily improving, everything points to another enthralling campaign.
‘We have our targets, the vision is very high. Pressure at a club like this is always there, we’ll try to close the gap but whether it’s too much, only time will tell,’ he explained.
‘It was interesting last season, I’m expecting it to be very balanced at the top with a number of clubs involved, so it will be good for the supporters.
‘Arsenal, us, the two Manchester teams, Newcastle finished very well so they will probably be up there again, but that’s what we all want.’