André Villas-Boas has hailed the rise of Daniel Sturridge while also hinting Chelsea may sign players in the January transfer window.
Sturridge has outscored Didier Drogba and Fernando Torres, with seven goals in his 15 Chelsea appearances this season, as he establishes himself in the side after a successful loan spell at Bolton Wanderers.
Villas-Boas said Sturridge's preference is to play a central role but after a discussion the 22-year-old is content to operate out wide. The manager said of Sturridge's improvement: "Most of it is down to his natural ability plus the motivation he has got from playing out wide, which was not always there. This is meant as a compliment.
"He has reached that focus where you can do better for the team and sacrifice yourself for the team and when you know you can help the team by playing in that position. This might be the decisive factor from one year to another. We spoke in the beginning about his role and he had no problem. He has found the discipline to work on that position.
"Daniel knows he is strong in the striker position. He was strong at Bolton in that position [where he scored eight in 12 appearances]. It doesn't mean he cannot play there but we count him as a winger in the squad and we will continue to count him as a winger. There is no purpose in using Daniel up front, myself, [Fabio] Capello, [Carlo] Ancelotti, all felt best place on the wings. He likes striking position but [not at the moment]."
Chelsea travel to fourth-placed Newcastle United for the early kick-off on Saturday trailing Alan Pardew's team by a point, and the leaders, Manchester City, by 10. During a busy closing month to the summer transfer window Villas-Boas recruited Juan Mata for £23.5m, Romelu Lukaku (£18m), Oriol Romeu (£4.35m), Raul Meireles (£12m) and Ulises Dávila (undisclosed), and the manager suggested there could be further business next month. "We have not spoken about money at January [but] money has never been a problem at this club," he said.
Regarding Newcastle, Villas-Boas said: "This is away against a team which is surprising everybody and which I think will continue to surprise. Pardew has brought serenity to Newcastle. In the past couple of years there has been turmoil there with managers and relegation and sold to another owner. There is empathy with the city and the club. [This will be] an excellent challenge for us."
A feature of Chelsea's difficult run has been their home form, with three defeats already, including Tuesday's Carling Cup exit to Liverpool, yet Villas-Boas claimed his side have not become wary of performing before their own fans.
"We are not inhibited at Stamford Bridge – there is not a problem with Stamford Bridge, a problem with the results," he said. "We might perform better away because players are more concentrated. We have done some good focused performances [the players] are less relaxed: sometimes extra tension makes you more concentrated. We have shown more quality and focused attention away from home."