Claudio Ranieri will demand an "intelligent" attitude from his players as he attempts to assimilate his new intake into the Stamford Bridge old guard and an ambitious youth element at the club.
One product of the Chelsea revolution will inevitably be a certain unrest as members of all the factions bid to assert themselves. Although Champions' League qualification - which begins on Wednesday week - and anticipated entry into the competition proper, together with the Premiership and the cup competitions, will mean that the manager will require all his resources throughout the season, Ranieri knows that a fine line exists between healthy competition for places and underlying discontent.
Asked whether he would be able to keep all his players satisfied with their lot, the Italian retorted: "I don't know. They are happy only when they play." And if they are not playing? "They are not happy." But you believe you can deal with the problems created when they are not? "I think so," he said. "It is important that the players are intelligent. If they are, it is OK. If they are not, they are not ready to play for Chelsea."
Ranieri was speaking at Stamford Bridge, where he presented his five summer acquisitions - the midfielders Damien Duff and Géremi, the defenders Wayne Bridge and Glen Johnson, and the goalkeeper Marco Ambrosio - the £37m outlay financed by the arrival of the club's new owner, the Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich. "Look at Gianfranco [Zola]," he said. "Two years ago, the best partnership in the Premiership was Jimmy [Floyd Hasselbaink] and Eidur [Gudjohnsen]. A lot of times, Gianfranco sat with me on the bench. Of course he wasn't happy. But when he came on, he played very well. If the players understand what I am doing, they are OK."
Ranieri, who is still searching for another striker and a holding midfielder as a deputy for Emmanuel Petit, because Joe Keenan is not believed to be ready yet, added: "It is very important for me to have cover for all my squad. I cannot play like last season. It is not possible. When you want to compete with the great teams, you need players ready to play in every position. Of course, they must be very intelligent to understand when they can play and when they do not. If anybody is upset about that, they must tell me and I try to help him."
One player of whom much will be expected is the £17m signing, Duff. However, Duff insisted that neither the price on his head, nor his arrival in the capital will faze him. "It's only when you lads [the media] start going on about the price tag that it reminds me," he said. "Maybe at times during the season, if things don't go well it might get on top of me. Obviously, it is a lot of money, but hopefully I will keep working hard and I can prove I'm worth it."
He added: "There's no point in getting uptight about it. I'm trying to be as laid- back as possible and just enjoy the football. In Blackburn it was a happy country life; coming down here it's just pure madness, but I won't let it bother me. Listen, I'm like every other Irishman or player, I like my drink and I like my night out, but at the right times. So, I'm going to work hard right now."
But he did concede: "A couple of years ago I wouldn't have been able to hack this [the attention] at all. In the past couple of years on and off the pitch I suppose I've just become a better person and a better player, with the experience of playing bigger games and the World Cup."
Duff, who was also linked with Manchester United, rebutted suggestions that he had signed purely because of the enhanced salary Chelsea were offering. "I came down three times [to Chelsea], and the first day I was offered a contract, so if I was here for money I would have signed and jumped at it then," he said. "But I really don't give a f*** about money, I just want to be happy. If it was money I would have signed right away, but I had no reason to leave Blackburn.
"I'm moving into a different world, with a different challenge. It's all unknown to me down here. It is nerve-racking, but I just want to play football."
- More about:
- Claudio Ranieri