An answer to some major questions :
The 2012-13 season at Chelsea has thrown up dozens of talking points, not all of them football-related. Chelsea have been dogged by controversy, but in this article I’m just going to look at on-pitch matters.
What is Luiz’s best position? What is Oscar’s natural position? How can Mata, Hazard and Oscar all play together? How can we get proper supply to the striker? What is the best formation for Chelsea? How can Chelsea control the midfield?
You’ll all have your own opinions on the above questions, but I have a system that might just provide the answers. It’s a variant of 3-4-3, and here it is: http://lineupbuilder.com/?sk=g31p
Firstly, Luiz. Too adventurous for a centre-back, and gets caught out of position. This is similarly problematic in the pivot. However, his unearthly talent means he just can’t be left out. I’ve got Luiz in what I believe his true position is: libero. He comes deep to collect the ball from Cech, and quickly brings the ball out into midfield, or uses his excellent long passing to hit the wings first-time. His tendencies to make buccaneering runs and be caught in possession upfield shouldn’t be too costly as there are 2 CBs and 2 CMs to provide ample cover. In any case, his instructions would strictly be to get the ball to the midfielders as quickly as possible. And who could a better libero (which means “free man” in Italian) than the freest of free souls, David Luiz?
Oscar is another one whose usual position is changed. He may or may not be the new Kaka, but as with many young playmakers, I firmly believe he will find his position deeper in midfield. In my opinion, he isn’t the new Kaka; instead, the new Xavi Hernandez. Oscar is the fulcrum of the team, spraying passes left, right and centre, keeping the team ticking over.
I also think something like this would get more supply to Ba. The holy triumvirate of Mazacar is retained, and with higher fullbacks we can get much more crosses into the box. Azpilicueta in particular is a brilliant crosser, and Ba is much better at attacking crosses than Torres.
The midfield is back to the three-man type that saw so much success under Mourinho and Ancelotti, although Luiz isn’t really a midfielder or a defender but something in between; or rather, both simultaneously. Anyway, the excellent passing of him and Oscar, plus the speed, stamina and work-rate of all three Brazilians, should ensure much more control in the centre of the park than previously.
There is one gaping flaw with this system, in that it seems to have very little defensively. But that is where I think this setup is so good. In reality, the team shape would be a lot like Barcelona’s. Very high wingbacks, Luiz is our Busquets, Oscar is our Xavi, Ramires is our Fabregas, Hazard and Mata are our Pedro and Iniesta. OK, Ba isn’t quite Messi, but he’s the best we’ve got until we get Neymar.
Alternatively, we could employ a system more like Wigan’s, in which a 3-4-3 quickly becomes a 5-4-1. This is a system I really like, and this would be it: http://lineupbuilder.com/?sk=gx90
This relies on great work-rate from the wingers, and while Hazard is very enthusiastic in everything he does, he’s not a good defender. And Mata merely adds a statesmanlike gaze to proceedings. Moses is outstanding in this role, but we might need something different. Thankfully, this team can be modified into practically any formation with a couple of little tweaks.
A 4-2-3-1: http://lineupbuilder.com/?sk=gx94
A very different 4-2-3-1: http://lineupbuilder.com/?sk=gx95
A 4-4-1-1: http://lineupbuilder.com/?sk=gx93
A 5-3-2: http://lineupbuilder.com/?sk=gx9h
A 4-3-3: http://lineupbuilder.com/?sk=gx97
A 4-1-2-1-2: http://lineupbuilder.com/?sk=gx9g
A 4-1-4-1: http://lineupbuilder.com/?sk=gx9f
A 3-5-2: http://lineupbuilder.com/?sk=gx9t
So there should be no excuse at all for Rafa Benítez to be tactically outfoxed by the likes of Harry Redknapp, Martin Jol, Leonardo, Michael Laudrup, Nigel Adkins and Sam Allardyce. This team is so versatile it could quickly switch to anything at all depending on the scenario. Struggling in midfield against Liverpool, match them up with a 4-3-3. Desperately defending a 1-0 lead against Man United, go to catenaccio. Can’t break down Stoke’s packed defence, bombard them with a 3-4-3.
Do you think this might work? If not, why not? Would you prefer to use one of the alternative systems with the same personnel, or do you refuse to see a Chelsea team without Terry, Lampard, Mikel or Moses?