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Last Updated: Saturday, 29 April 2006, 13:35 GMT 14:35 UK
Chelsea's tactical shift
By Dan Warren

Chelsea's 3-0 win against Manchester United means the Blues become only the second team - after the Red Devils - to successfully retain the Premiership title.

Success was almost expected after last season's storming campaign which ended Chelsea's 50-year wait for a league title.

But although Chelsea's title win has seemed inevitable for many months, the manner in which it has been achieved has been subtly different to last season.

Former Chelsea star Pat Nevin told BBC Sport how boss Jose Mourinho has changed the Blues' style.

MICHAEL ESSIEN'S INFLUENCE

Eidur Gudjohnsen was a key man for Chelsea last season, playing as a link between midfield and attack.

Michael Essien
Essien can do the whole job in midfield from back to front
This season, the Icelandic forward's role has been much diminished, with Michael Essien the main beneficiary.

Nevin says the Ghanaian's influence has changed the spine of Chelsea's team - and made the Blues a more combative outfit.

"The Gudjohnsen role still can be used - and has been, if rather infrequently," he said.

"He has come in and done a decent job when required. But Essien is much more an all-action midfielder who can do the whole job in midfield from back to front.

"I think he will be an even bigger influence next season than he has been this season.

"If anyone is going to make way for Michael Ballack next season, I think it will be Gudjohnsen.

"Gudjohnsen has a role and plays it well. But should Mourinho want to use that role, Ballack will be able to play it better than Gudjohnsen."

A CHANGE OF STYLE

Arjen Robben and Damien Duff were the architects of the Chelsea threat up front last season.

Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho
Tactically, Mourinho is one step ahead all the time
But Nevin says Mourinho has altered Chelsea's mode of attack - especially in the latter part of the season.

"Mourinho has jumped to a different system which has not left space for Gudjohnsen, as he has had two centre-forwards up front," he said.

"That is not noted as Mourinho's favoured way of playing.

"But teams have had 18 months to get used to Chelsea's style and they felt that if they could kill the threat from out wide, they would kill Chelsea's potency.

"So, towards the end of the season, Mourinho has played Drogba and Crespo up front together and that's confused absolutely everyone.

"Tactically, Chelsea are trying to stay one step ahead all the time. And Mourinho has done that."

THE RISE OF JOE COLE

It is surprising to think that just 18 months ago, Joe Cole's Chelsea future was far from certain after criticism from Mourinho.

Joe Cole
Of Chelsea's wide men, Cole has been by far the most influential
The Blues coach had harsh words after Cole's winning goal against Liverpool in October 2004, criticising him for not tracking back and helping out defensively.

Nevin said this season marked a turning point for Cole, who has become a focal point of the team.

"If you look at all four wide players - Cole, Arjen Robben, Damien Duff and Shaun Wright-Phillips - Cole has been by far the most influential," he said.

"It's because he's been able to adapt. When Chelsea played one striker with two men flying down the wing, teams got wise to it.

"The player who seems capable of adapting, going into the middle and creating things has been Joe Cole."

Nevin said Mourinho's harsh words have proved effective on Cole.

"Among Chelsea's wide players I don't think anyone would have bet on Cole being the one to come through," he said.

"He is working under someone he admires immensely - and that's understating it - in Jose Mourinho.

"Whether it was simple negative psychology Mourinho used, who knows? But he certainly knew which buttons to push."

HERNAN CRESPO - CHELSEA'S BIG-NAME STRIKER

Chelsea's attempts - and subsequent failures - to sign a world-class forward of the calibre of Andriy Shevchenko, Samuel Eto'o or Thierry Henry have become an annual summer saga.

Hernan Crespo
In terms of natural ability, put Crespo alongside Gary Lineker and Ian Rush
More raids for that so-far elusive forward will probably come this summer.

But Nevin believes that the answer may have been under Chelsea's nose all the time in the form of Hernan Crespo, recalled after a season-long loan at AC Milan.

"I played at centre-forward a few times," said Nevin.

"Mostly I played out wide, but sometimes moved into centre-forward and I would always try to think where to go.

"You look at Crespo and he doesn't seem to think, it's seems natural instinct to move in a certain way to get himself in a goal-scoring position.

"People talk about natural goalscorers. I don't think Didier Drogba is a natual goalscorer - nor a lot of players who play very well at centre-forward.

"But Crespo is one and you can put him alongside Gary Lineker, Ian Rush and John Aldridge and players like that.

"Outside the box, strangely, his first touch doesn't seem to be that good.

"But inside the box and his touch is the best. The players have realised that - if you put the ball in the area, you don't have to look for Crespo, he will be there."

MICHAEL BALLACK AND THE FUTURE

Although Michael Ballack's summer move to Chelsea is not confirmed, all the signs are pointing to the Germany captain being on the books at Stamford Bridge next season.

Michael Ballack
Ballack could happily play behind the front two with Lampard
At a club already bursting with talent, questions have been asked over whether someone - perhaps even Frank Lampard - might move to make way for the 29-year-old midfielder.

But Nevin says he can see no problem with Lampard and Ballack in the same team - and thinks it could be part of Mourinho's long-term plan.

"When Chelsea beat West Ham 4-1 in April I think they started with a 4-2-2-2 formation," he said.

"That's a system which I don't think anyone in British football has tried yet.

"It's the Brazilian system, which their national team uses all the time. I think if he gets Ballack in, it's a system he might consider because it's a system you need intelligent footballers to use.

"You can't play it with average players.

"Ballack can play behind the front two with Lampard. He tends to come in from the left, and Lampard is quite happy coming in from the right.

"Mourinho has won the championship twice in a row, so he will be thinking, what is there to add?

"One thing is to win the league next season with more style. And with that formation, I think he would."




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