Di Matteo looks forward

  • Last Updated: September 28 2012, 17:30 BST

Roberto Di Matteo has challenged Chelsea to prove they can "move on" from the Didier Drogba era in Saturday's clash at Arsenal.

Roberto Di Matteo: Looking to the future

The European champions travel to the Emirates Stadium for the first big test of their Barclays Premier League title credentials this season.

And they will do so for the first time since Drogba quit the club this summer after eight years in which he terrorised their north London neighbours.

The striker scored 13 goals in 14 games against Arsenal, prompting Gunners boss Arsene Wenger to declare on Thursday: "I don't know if Chelsea miss him, but we don't miss him."

Drogba became the ringleader as Chelsea repeatedly bullied Wenger's men following the Ivory Coast star's arrival at Stamford Bridge.

His departure has heralded a transformation in the way Chelsea play - indeed, they bear more resemblance to Arsenal now than they do to the team Drogba inspired to Champions League glory last season.

Manager Di Matteo said: "Didier Drogba has been a fantastic player for this club for many years, but we have to move on from that.

"That's the past. We're looking to the future now."

Di Matteo denied Chelsea would adopt a radically different approach tomorrow to that in the past, adding: "It's always a football game. You try to beat them by playing football."

Technically, Di Matteo is correct, but there is more than one way to do that, some see teams praised and some condemned.

"I loved my side last season as well," Di Matteo said.

"I think everybody likes different aspects of football.

"We were very successful last season and played some good football. You always focus on a couple of games, but we played some good stuff."

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If Drogba encapsulated the Chelsea of old, Eden Hazard has become the poster boy of the brave new world at Stamford Bridge.

The Belgian will be under pressure tomorrow to replicate the scintillating form he showed during his first three games following his £32million move from Lille.

Di Matteo said: "There's always a bit of concern when players come in from another league. It can take time.

"We had the same experience with [Juan] Mata last season, who really settled in very quickly."

Arsenal have their own new talisman in Santi Cazorla, who already has a fan in Di Matteo.

The Italian said: "A very exciting player to watch, who's made an impact in Arsenal's team.

"He's been a bit of a highlight so far."

The Gunners have not won anything for seven years but are being tipped by many to make a more serious title challenge this term.

"I said at the start of the season they would be challenging for the league," Di Matteo said.

"I'm not sure anyone believed me, but that's the way I saw it. I haven't changed my mind.

"They have signed some very good, interesting players.

"They have been playing the same kind of football for may years, so they'll be up there with the other teams."

Chelsea, too, look certain to improve on their shock sixth-placed finish last season after storming to the top of the table with 13 points from five games.

Di Matteo was coy about predicting a sustained challenge from his own side, saying: "It's early days. We've only played five games so far. We'll have to wait a bit longer to make that judgement."

But he admitted the title race was shaping up to be between tomorrow's opponents and the two Manchester giants.

He said: "It looks that way at this minute. It will be, yes.

"It's very competitive. All these teams have signed players to improve their team. There might even be a late runner coming back in."

Meanwhile, Di Matteo insisted he would have no problem for players to be hit with a three-match ban for diving.

Stoke boss Tony Pulis called for a rule change after accusing Chelsea players of "simulation" in Saturday's game between the sides.

Di Matteo said: "We'd maybe need to look at the process, how it's done. I'm certainly for it."