Chelsea's new breed can be best yet

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When Andre Villas-Boas arrived at Stamford Bridge a little over 12 months ago, he inherited an ageing squad supposedly creaking from the exertions of seven years challenging for supremacy at home and in Europe.

This was, at least, the view of owner Roman Abramovich, who tasked his young apprentice with relieving Chelsea of players with both weighty reputations and weighty pay packets.

A year later and to a certain extent this has been achieved, despite Villas-Boas being chopped before he was afforded the opportunity to begin his rebuilding job in earnest.

Didier Drogba was the first high-profile figure to bid farewell to the club he served so wonderfully and, despite his titanic Champions League performances, there was always the expectation he would leave the club at the end of his contract.

One down and several more to go, although these will happen over time, but Chelsea have moved this summer to perhaps hasten the transition with their most recent acquisitions.

May's dramatic penalty shootout victory over Bayern Munich was the zenith of Chelsea's old guard and proof that, despite Abramovich's assertion, they were far from past it.

But playing a part in most iconic moment in the club's history will not make some senior pros - see Frank Lampard and Fernando Torres - immune from a place on the peripheries of Roberto di Matteo's squad.

Abramovich has already offered a statement of intent with his transfer market activity so far, not so much in financial outlay but more the on the recruitment of young players in possession of a particular skills set.

The arrival of Villas-Boas was supposed to herald the beginning of an exciting new era at Chelsea and, a year on, this finally appears to be underway given the arrivals of of Eden Hazard, Marko Marin and Kevin de Bruyne.

A year ago, albeit for a few exceptions, Chelsea had a tired squad past its prime and seemingly devoid of the ability to excite the purists with aesthetically pleasing football.

But now they can arguably boast to possess the most exciting young squad in the league, which Abramovich will further improve with the signings of Oscar and one of Hulk or Edinson Cavani.

Wednesday provided a glimpse of the future as three of Chelsea's new breed found the net in the 4-2 friendly defeat of Seattle Sounders on the club's pre-season tour of the USA.

Romelu Lukaku, a signing made above the head of Villas-Boas, suggested he can live up to his billing as the next Drogba - given the opportunity - as he contributed twice, while Marin and Hazard both scored on debut.

The immediate impact of the latter two will come as a relief of sorts for Di Matteo as Juan Mata's involvement with Spain at the Olympics means the Italian will need someone to feature in the stead of Chelsea's player of the season while he recovers.

Mata, himself only 23, was the poster boy of the first phase of the Chelsea transition, but may now be outdone by Hazard in phase two, with the Belgian boasting all the credentials to reach the very pinnacle of his chosen profession.

The capability of Di Matteo to extract the best from his new team over a long and arduous season is still open to debate, and he may yet find himself shafted before Chelsea Mk II can reach their peak.

But, what is clear, is that this summer will be the most exciting at Chelsea for some time - for both the club's fans and the purists.

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