Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Chelsea's Fab Four; All Ranieri Needs to Do Is Make Them a Hit

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Chelsea's Fab Four; All Ranieri Needs to Do Is Make Them a Hit

Article excerpt


IT may be no more than a new hobby for Roman Abramovich, but it will be far more than that for whoever has to make tactical sense of his extravagant forays into the transfer market.

For the moment, at least, that's the challenge facing Claudio Ranieri who will need his key players working in perfect harmony by the time Chelsea begin the new season against Liverpool at Anfield.

He has just four weeks to make adjustments that must embrace the arrival of those lured by the Russian's fortune and, at the same time, compensate for the considerable loss of Gianfranco Zola, an iconic figure in the modern Chelsea team.

A unique talent, Zola cannot be replaced like for like and, as the Italian himself has said: "The right blend is as important as the right players."

It's hard to believe that Abramovich is simply financing a vast, random search for Europe's best players.

There has to be a master plan. What we don't know is whether this has been drawn up by the oil billionaire's agents, by Ranieri, England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson or others. It seems likely they've all had a small part to play.

What is essential now, though, is that Ranieri takes control of the reins and begins the process of building a team to challenge the best in the Champions League and the Premiership. Tonight Chelsea face Eriksson's old team Lazio, in Rome, and then fly to sultry Kuala Lumpur for a tournament next weekend. They face a Malaysian Xl next Friday and either Newcastle or Birmingham on Sunday week. Ideally, Ranieri would like all of his new players available, but that's unlikely.

It's only a fortnight, for instance, since Geremi was playing for Cameroon in the Confederations Cup and he clearly needs more rest before joining Chelsea's preseason training programme.

Signed from Real Madrid for [pounds sterling]7 million, his loan season with Middlesbrough introduced him to the physical demands of the Premiership.

He can play on the right but is more likely to challenge Emmanuel Petit for the place alongside Frank Lampard in the heart of Chelsea's midfield. …

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