Azonto Epistles 2: A Reality Check

Azonto Epistles 2: A Reality Check

The honeymoon is over, the fantasy game has ended and we have been given grace period thanks to the infamous international break. Chelsea unlike many clubs has special divine favour from God maybe it is because we are The Blues and the sky is what…? When the international break reared in its ugly head in a period when we were cruising to victory, a period when before every match you could bet comfortably that Eden Hazard would get an assist, we will earn a penalty and Ivanovic had even started to contemplate on challenging Torres and Lampard for top scorer. We had managed to forget that we conceded three(3) goals against City and if City’s keeper had not gifted Bertrand a second goal, it would have been a humiliating defeat but who cares when it is “only a Community Shield” as if we went into the game to lose since it was “only community Shield”. Maybe Reading gave us a glimpse of what awaited us at Monaco but we failed to heed to the warning since at the end of the 90 minutes the score line was a flattering 4-2 win. So we were made to wake up from our sweet dream by a hardworking Athletico Madrid side that was so “tactically discipline” and followed their manager’s instruction to perfection according to Diego Simeone their manager. But this is not the time to press the panic button and that is why I have come to the understanding that Chelsea is a favoured club and this long break could not have come at a better time for our team. It is a time for a reality check and a deep soul searching by the entire team and of course Roberto Di Matteo.

On Thursday, Athletico Madrid’s manager offered a free tactical advice to juventus on how to beat Chelsea and according to him, Ivanovic is someone you could easily pass by and cahill –Luiz do not form part of constructing the game. He had also observed that Mikel only gives horizontal passes which leaves Lampard who is good at going forward so his plan was to double mark and close in on Hazard, Mata and Lampard who are the creative force of our team. In going forward he risked bombarding us with four to five players (including Falcao of course) which gave them a lot of options in our area.

According to this tactical insight by Diego Simeone, anyone who watched the game could see it worked to perfection. Didn’t it? Of late Ivanovic has not been the solid Brana we know maybe he is starting to be complacent or the thought of scoring has taken the better part of his defensive solidity. Mikel’s horizontal passes observation by Simeone is not new to the fans and I still wonder why he is not being made to modify his style a bit. Mikel is good defensively but offers little when going forward and his horizontal and back passes are becoming boring. This is not the time to point fingers but we need to diagnose our problem before we can solve them. Atletico Madrid has exposed our long standing frailties and the earlier RDM watched the clip and dealt with it, the better for him and all of us.

Attacking game: We have always cried for an attacking style of play and for once the club has acquired a host of attacking minded players. The band of creative players we have at our disposal today is so great that when they gel as a unit, it will be a joy to see them play. The question now is managing the short term future success with the present. Oscar, Hazard, Moses, Mata, Marin along with Torres and Sturridge are players who can give any world defence a problem but we need to help them to attack as a team and equally defend as unit. Defending is not only about just tracking back when the team is under pressure like we did in Monaco but also more importantly closing down your opponents and getting into their face as we did in Munich. In Munich and against Barcelona we saw all the team not only tracking back but getting into their face when they had the ball. Ramires and Mereiles did it to perfection that Messi had little room to operate. Lampard through that dispossessed Messi at the Bridge and it resulted to Ramires’ assist to Drogba. Bertrand in Munich gave Robben no chance to operate. Our match in Monaco was so surprisingly different that nobody was ready to dispossess Atletico Madrid when they had the ball but just to coil back into our shell, right on the edge of our 18-yard box like in the last 10 minutes at Camp Nou but Atletico Madrid are not like Barcer who will possess to the net; they have a potent striker in Falcao who was ready to even try with his left foot and shoot. It is a wakeup call to the entire team that we cherish attacking game but not at the expense of a win. At the end of the day if we had been defensively solid at and won by Cahill’s goal, it would have been better than subjecting ourselves to the humiliation we went through all in the name of some attacking game.

The Double Pivot: The question many Chelsea fans are yet to find answer to is 4-who-3-1? The transfer window has closed and we are left with a definite number of players who can hold our central midfield. Our hard working Raul Mereiles is now plying his career far away in the former Ottoman Empire (Turkey). I know a lot of talking and debate have gone on about the prudence of this transfer by the club but “Azonto Epistles” will stay away from it for now but you can still offer your opinion on it. Many see the Double pivot as the “Achilles heel” of our club and it is one problematic area for many teams who employ our tactics. It is up to the team to get the right combo for the right match or help our players to modify their style to suite the system. Our first choice double pivot combo is Mike-Lampard: this combo proved successful at the tail end of last season which helped us to win two trophies however of late the weakness in this combo is beginning to be exposed. A clear problem is Mikel’s inability to impose himself in a game, boss the midfield and offer incisive passes like Essien used to do before his injury. Mikel is good at holding and protecting the ball as shield to our defence when we are under pressure but his ball delivery has been as predictive as Diego Simeo
ne described it as “horizontal passes”. The obvious problem with Lampard is not about giving exquisite passes but his penchant for going forward so much that he abandons his defensive duties and in the end, we mostly end up playing 4-1-4-1 or even 4-1-3-2 (where Lampard becomes a co striker). The problem with this is that our attacking force with Hazrad, Mata and even Torres who offer very little defensively leaves us seriously prone to counter attack and any good counter attacking team like United or Atletico Madrid can tear our team apart and disgrace us. So how do we deal with this? We have Romeu, Ramires, Mikel, and Lampard while some even add Oscar (although his presence in the deep-lying will only leave us with the same Lampard problem in my opinion) who can play in the double pivot but I know they all have question marks on them. So who will you rely on in the two-man holding midfield role?

4-3-2-1 ‘Christmas Tree’ formation: an alternative?
While we are mauling over whom to play the double pivot role, I have a thought on a 4-3-2-1 formation which many call it the Christmas tree formation. With this system we can employ a 3-man midfield which could offer a tighter midfield than our risky 2-man holding midfield. This formation can also get the best out of many of the players we have at the moment. Ramires and Lampard are most effective in a three-man midfield and Lampard-Mikel-Ramires could be the most popular players to feature in this system. We could also employ Bertrand-Mikel/Romeu-Ramires in that same formation which can offer us width in Bertrand on the left side of midfield and Ramires on the right side of midfield. I chose Bertrand which could be surprising to some because he will not only give us width but he is a hardworking versatile young player who can solve our problem of lack of closing down of opponents when they have the ball as it happened to us in Monaco and can go forward when needed whiles performing important defensive work. Ramires like Bertrand is one player who doesn’t fear challenging opponents for the ball; he has the ability to buzz forward, good defensively and can offer us width on the right side just like Bertrand can do on the left. This midfield will therefore easily give Hazard and Mata to combine in their favourite roles behind Torres and we will not be left prone to attack as it happens to us in a 4-2-3-1 formation when either of Mata or Hazard drifts into the centre when one is put on the wings. So in the midst of scarcity, creativity abounds and I know RDM will not continuously stick to just one formation which has shown weakness of late. It is “Azonto Epistles” opinion and I believe many have your own and it is warmly welcome because you do not know who could be reading it.

Malouda’s ostracizing claim: Just after the transfer window shut, many were surprised why Malouda still managed to remain at Chelsea when it has become quite clear that he has little or no chance to be in the new team. Malouda in the middle of the week tweeted that he would be training with our under 21 and quickly the media as usual made wild news out of it comparing it to that of Anelka and Alex under AVB. Only on Friday the Daily Mail reported that Malouda and Fereira have been forced to play in a match involving our youth team against their wish. I caution all fans to exercise some restraint when criticizing the club due to this media reportage. We do not have the benefit of hearing from the club so explain their side but I can comfortably inform you that the said under 21 match Malouda and Ferreira “were forced” to play, other players like Azpilicueta and Marin featured in it. Is it not only wise that in two-week international break, our first team players who were not invited by their national teams to have some matches to play and help their fitness? The media has started again, they want know we are at the summit of the EPL and will try very hard to distract the team so I caution all to remain united behind the club and take search distractive media reportage with a pinch of salt.  “Azonto Epistles will seek to expose the media and its biases against our beloved club since we started challenging the “God ordained top teams” for trophies in our other editions fully which will be dubbed “The Media Mafia”. Until then Keep the Blue Flag Flying High.

#Seth Aborah Adusei (twitter @sethaadusei)

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