There have been two high profile cases of teams playing without a traditional striker recently. Both Scotland and Spain have sent out sides in what was (very) broadly a 4-6-0 formation, but their managers were worlds apart in their intentions for the side, and it is the Spanish model that Chelsea could perhaps adopt in the coming weeks.
Chelsea's transition to a technical, attacking side has been highly successful, with the ludicrously talented trio of Mata, Hazard and Oscar befuddling teams with their interplay. However despite their array of attacking players, Chelsea have been, to put it bluntly, a little blunt up front. Fernando Torres has looked increasingly tired and out of sorts in recent matches, and Sturridge has not shown much in his appearances for the side. Conversely when midfielders like Moses have had a chance in the side, they have been impressive.
With Marko Marin also still to get a chance in the team, it is clear that Chelsea's attacking midfield is providing the main threat in their attacking. Perhaps this threat could be amplified further if, rather than Torres or Sturridge, Eden Hazard was moved forward into a "false nine" role, and Moses or Marin joined Mata and Oscar behind him. Hazard is not shy of shooting, picking up 20 goals for Lille last year, and with the three players breaking from behind him, the Belgian could perhaps be a more successful pivot for Chelsea's attacks than Torres or Sturridge.
So far this season Chelsea have been dominant in most the games they have played in, and a consequence of this is a large amount of possession in the opponent's final third. They are generally not looking to pump the ball up to a striker, or release players down channels behind the defence. Instead they are passing the ball around the attacking third, with plenty of movement from their front four. With this style of play it is possible to see how Hazard would be more effective than Torres in leading the line, as he is more comfortable in quick possession.
There is a general confidence amongst Chelsea's attacking midfield that isn't present amongst their strikers. Di Matteo could attempt to capitalise on this by trying Hazard at the head of a striker-less attack. With three of Mata, Oscar, Moses and Marin behind him, Chelsea will still carry plenty of threat from their midfield, and the Belgian may just open up their attacks a little more by adding confidence in an area of Chelsea's formation that has looked strangely bereft of late.
image: © Ben Sutherland