Chelsea have started to look like their former self after a rather nervous and shaky start to their season.
Andre Villas-Boas first season at the helm of Stamford Bridge has so far been impressive. His squad is slowly starting to resemble a champions' team. Villas-Boas has promised to deliver attacking football as well as evolve a younger Chelsea squad from the aging squad. He has so far looked to be going in the right direction.
The Portuguese tactician has tried rotating players and used various formations in order to get the best out of his available resources. Though he seemed to be faltering in the start now, it seems he has started to get a grip of the game. His team is starting to play a more attacking and free flowing style of football in keeping tandem with his promise.
While Villas-Boas tries to find out his squad's winning combination, we take a quick look into the possible strongest starting 11 that Villas-Boas might use this season.
Villas-Boas had started out with Chelsea's favoured 4-4-3 formation at the start of the season. The Blues' are pretty comfortable in these style of play. But this combination failed to get anything out of Chelsea's star man Torres.
Andre then used the 4-2-3-1 formation and the change was evident instantly. Chelsea looked more threatening than usual and Torres too started to flow better. The new formation has made the Blues play a more attacking and flowing style of football. In their match against United, the Blues started to create trouble for the Red Devils as soon AVB changed the formation from 4-4-3 to the 4-2-3-1. The changed formation provided more creative space to Chelsea, which led to numerous goal-scoring opportunities for Torres, who eventually scored one too.
Given Chelsea's success playing the new formation, it can be speculated that Villas-Boas will stick to the 4-2-3-1 formation while occasionally using the more conventional 4-4-3 formation.
There is absolutely no doubt as to who will be the first-choice goalkeeper for Chelsea this season.
The Blues' ever dependable world-class goalie, Petr Cech, has been brilliant in the new season. He has continued his good form consistently and looked commanding under the post. Except a few errors, the Czech international has been brilliant for his team.
There is no doubt that Cech will be the regular first-choice goalkeeper for Villas-Boas.
Even though youngster Ryan Bertrand has been added to the Chelsea squad in the new season, there is no doubt as to the automatic choice for these position.
Ashely Cole has made the left wing-back position his at Chelsea performing superbly in his role. The England international's ability to move forward at superb speed provides his team with more attacking options. Moreover, his defensive abilities are unquestionable as proved over the years.
Cole will no doubt be the first choice for Chelsea this season, as Villas-Boas will not want to hamper the momentum of his team's consistent performer. Bertrand might get a few sub-in roles in the less important domestic cup matches, though he will expectedly sit out for most part of season.
Ivanovic and Bosingwa are expected to compete for these roles all season.
Ivanovic has performed consistently over the seasons in this role, but this season, Bosingwa might actually get the favour ahead of the Serbian. The reasons are pretty obvious. Ivanovic is solid in defense, but he is a little slow going forward, whereas Bosingwa gets one over him for his attacking abilities down the wings. Bosingwa is pretty comfortable going forward, but is not that convincing with his defensive abilities.
But with Villas-Boas promising to make Chelsea play a more attacking style of football, it might tilt the favor in balance of the more attacking type Bosingwa. Moreover, the Portuguese defender has been superb this season after recovering from his long term injury looking all the more threatening under Villas-Boas than he has looked under his previous managers.
Chelsea's January signing has had a brilliant start to his Blues' career last season.
The highly-rated youngster missed the start of the season due to an injury sustained in preseason. But since his return, the Brazilian defender has looked impressive.
Alex, Ivanovic and Luiz will be fighting it out for a starting role. Alex has only made two starts so far for the Blues' this season and has seen Ivanovic favored ahead of him. But with Luiz getting back to regular first-team action, Ivanovic might see his place in the squad move away from him.
With Villas-Boas declaring his intention to infuse youth into the squad and Luiz impressing for the Blues' it might see the Serb losing his place to the former Benfica man. Luiz has been superb at the back and also moving upfront even scoring on a number of occasions.
Apart from a lapse of concentration and a harsh tackle here and there, which will improve with further experience, the Brazilian youngster has proved to be a great signing for the Stamford Bridge outfit. He will surely get the nod ahead of Alex and Ivanovic all season through if he stays fit and performs consistently.
Chelsea's captain fantastic, the legendary John Terry, has delivered solidly at the back for the Blues' this season.
The England international has replied in style to growing speculations that Chelsea might suffer this season due their star players growing age. Chelsea's most successful captain has been rock-steady at the back and looked nowhere near "being on the wane."
With the likes of Chelsea heavyweights Lampard and Drogba warming the bench in numerous matches as part of the new manager's rotation policies, John Terry has sealed himself a starting role with his brilliant displays. Given the Englishman's confident performances so far, it can be easily predicted that Terry will play a big part in Villas-Boas' plans this season.
If it was not for Michael Essien's injury, the Nigerian international would not be anywhere on this list.
The Ghanaian is an automatic first-choice for central midfield duties. But with him being sidelined with injury for over six months, Mikel will get an important role to play this season. The Nigerian midfielder has never looked convincing during his time at Chelsea and has seen his displays marred by bookings.
But this season, Mikel has shown more maturity and performed impressively. Moreover, his ability to pass the ball with accuracy will help the Blues to create more opportunities. Villas-Boas will be looking to make his team play a more fast-paced and attacking style of football, and Mikel seems to fit in just well at his role in the center of the park.
While youngsters Romeu and McEachran might get some starting calls in not-so-important fixtures, Mikel can guarantee himself a starting role spot so long as the Bison is out in the sidelines.
Chelsea's deadline day acquisition has already started to look like a solid signing for the Blues'.
Brought in from Anfield after Chelsea failed in their bid for Modric, the talented Raul Meireles has become a first-team regular. He has looked comfortable playing in center midfield for the Blues and has helped inject the much-needed creativity into the Chelsea midfield.
The Portuguese man is superb going upfront, with a keen vision of the game and eye for the goal. His understanding of the game allows him to make defense-splitting passes. Moreover, he is also equally able in blocking opposition players to break their flow of play.
The former Liverpool man's pace and creativity has guaranteed him a regular spot in the squad, and he could make the midfield position his own.
The Valencia man has already proved his worth and could well become the best signing of the summers transfer window.
His arrival in the Chelsea midfield has had an immediate impact, as the Blues are looking more threatening and creative in the midfield. Mata was seen as the player who could help Torres in getting back his form by creating numerous goal-scoring opportunities. His impact has been eye-catching, as Torres has since then evolved and looked to be getting back to his old self.
The highly-rated Spaniard has already ensured himself a first-team place with his exploits on the field. He is Chelsea's live-wire in midfield with his lightning pace and creative plays. His superb vision of the game allows him to make brilliant passes through opposition defense.
Villas-Boas looks quite unlikely to drop his best performing player, and Mata is confirmed to get first team action in a role behind the striker, where he performs best. Lampard is seemingly the player to lose his place in the squad with Mata's arrival, and Frankie might see his playing time reduced to big matches or as an impact substitute.
This season could be the last for Nicolas Anelka at Stamford Bridge.
The French striker has not made any significant contributions this season in a striking role, but has looked a completely different player in a left midfield role. As was evident against United, Anelka came on for Lampard in an attacking left midfield role and made an immediate impact. He seemed more comfortable playing in his new role with plenty of players upfront him.
Malouda, who has seen himself fall down the pecking order this season, is also a competitor for these role, but given the Frenchman's impressive displays so far this season, Anelka might just get the cut for the first team ahead of his fellow countryman Malouda.
The Brazilian has looked to be "coming of age" in the new season. He seems to have adapted the English game and has performed brilliantly this season.
Moreover, with Villas-Boas' arrival, it seems the Brazilian midfielder has looked all the more sharp. His performances have been brilliant in every match this season. The Brazilian's tremendous work-rate allows him to break through opposition defenses quite easily while creating goal-scoring chances. He also has a keen eye for goal which makes him all the more dangerous.
Ramires' consistently impressive performances will surely guarantee him a role in the Chelsea midfield in a more attacking role where his burst-runs can create mayhem in opposition defenses.
No choices for guessing. Chelsea's so far less-than-impressive £50 million January signing, Fernando "El Nino" Torres, will surely be the first choice in the lone striker role.
The former Liverpool man has lately looked dangerous in the new formation to which he is more suited than he had looked in the past six months. The Spaniard is starting to look the player of his early Liverpool days.
Villas-Boas has changed his team's composition and formation to get the most out of his star player, and there is no doubt that El Nino will be favored for a starting role this season. The likes of Drogba and Kalou will have to warm the bench mostly as Chelsea start their evolution under Andre Villas-Boas.