Chelsea 2013: 4-3-2-1 – A shift away from Pragmatism
Chelsea owe a lot to the “parking the bus” formation introduced by fan favourite Roberto Di Matteo; it gave us our maiden piece of silverware in Europe’s most elite club competition. It encouraged the wingers to revert from the high-pressing style of Andre Villas-Boas to a more conservative theme. Di Matteo emphasized the importance of tracking back once possession was lost; A key reason why Ryan Bertrand was deployed on the left wing in the Champions League final in Munich. This formation did not give much consideration to the attacking players around at the time as Daniel Sturridge, a prime example, was not adept to defending or retrieving the ball deep in his own half. Juan Mata was also forced to adjust and it became visible towards the last month or so of last season that he was running out of steam. It was obvious why Ramires and Kalou were used on the flanks in the FA Cup semi-final tie with Spurs; because the pitch was much longer than the home grounds of either team. They were both more naturally inclined to track back and limit the likes of Gareth Bale from doing much damage. This pragmatic style of defending had its rewards, but it was also too boring and risky for a team as big as Chelsea. As we look more towards this season, we see that new signing Eden Hazard is not comfortable having to track back and defend as he loses energy once Chelsea get on the ball. It limited his creative ability, as most Chelsea fans would agree, more than it did at Lille where he managed to come up with 20 goals in Ligue 1 and an equal number of assists. To be fair though, any winger having to track back and defend for 90 minutes 2 to 3 times a week for 8 months would find it hard to cope, and would eventually become fatigued.
With the summer months of wheeling, dealing and rebuilding approaching fast, fans begin to feel the excitement of newer, better players coming in to strengthen their team, especially at Chelsea. We are usually linked with a wealth of players from the Agueros to the “New Drogbas” that encapsulate the mind of the Chelsea faithful about a season of flair and fantasy. To be more realistic, Chelsea do not need more than three to four new players this window, especially with a few loan stars coming back, hopefully more mature and developed. I believe it also necessary that we look to accommodate the newcomers as well as the old in a more positive style of play. That is why I believe the 4-3-2-1 formation would be an attractive prospect for the Blues.
We have really been lacking solidity at the back this season. Time and time again we’ve seen Ashley Cole get schooled like Tal Ben Haim and John Terry being done like a playboy bunny 2 hours after her shift in the playboy mansion. Ivanovic and Cahill have also had their moments of shame as the previous was terrible at the turn of the year. Cahill’s latest in a string of errors was allowing Christian Benteke to jeopardize our Champions League hopes before Super Frank put it right for us in the dying moments. Luiz, on the other hand, has arguably been our best centre back and possibly our best holding player as well. If the rumours of Jose Mourinho’s second coming are to be believed, he will find it imperative to weed out defensive woes. Luiz has to make it in the Starting XI for me, and I do sense a new partnering centre back is on his way as well. Kyriakos Papadopolous has been linked to Chelsea, according to the Guardian, and £15m fee is not a bad price for one of the most promising centre backs in European football. He is strong, versatile, solid and can play in the holding position decently as well. This no non-sense defender would compliment the eccentric-ism of Luiz perfectly. No changes are needed out on the right as Azpilicueta has been a gem of signing for us and is, quite rightly, an automatic starter. Ashley Cole has been a headache for Petr Cech all season as his age and his ankles have finally caught up with him. Patrick Van Aanholt has been steady for Vitesse all season as they contine to chase for a spot in Europe. He is quick, strong, agile and can cross the ball much more comfortably than Cole could ever do, so it is time he gets a starting berth as well. John Terry and Gary Cahill to deputize at CB in the absence of either starter with loan star Thomas Kalas replacing Ivanovic as our 5th centre back. Wallace is another good squad player to have as Azpilicueta will need a break from time to time. Perhaps now we can begin to implement AVB’s vision of an attacking, high-pressing Chelsea with all four at the back have enough pace and stamina to move the line as high up the pitch as possible.
Our double in the pivot has also been a concern as Chelsea lacked depth in that area with only Mikel and, to a lesser extent, Romeu natural in that position. A perfect player for the 4-3-2-1 next season would have to be Benat. He would occupy the most central midfield role and would act as a deep-lying play maker. He has an eye for a pass, he can shoot and is a lethal set-piece and corner kick taker. On his left Kevin De Bruyne would be immense for us with his Ramires-like stamina in addition to his long-range abilities in the pass and shot. Him and Ramires as box-to-box mid-fielders will always give their opposite numbers problems. We would be covered in case of injuries as Frank Lampard is set to stay for at least another season and with Oscar, Mikel and Romeu available, we would be sorted. Oscar has never played on the wing at Internacional and hasn’t looked comfortable at all out wide on the right this season. Should he hit the gym in the summer, we could see a perfect Central midfielder in him in the coming few seasons.
Now for the part of the pitch that has let us down the most since the days of Joe Cole, Arjen Robben and Damien Duff. Firstly, Victor Moses is no where near good enough for Chelsea. He has the first touch of a rapist, & has only thing he can do to get away from the defender, is to knock it past him. Most of his shots end up in the stands and his crosses are aimed at the linesman on the opposing side. He can’t even complete a 5 yard pass with enough accuracy. Marko Marin has been everything short of a revelation, and it is difficult to understand why the ‘German Messi’ could not make it into our match day squads ahead of the likes of Yossi Benayoun. Injuries and a lack of confidence could have mounted on his shoulders like a screeching monkey, making it hard for him to show his worth. It is probably safe to say that the £17m spent on Moses and Marin was money awfully spent. The only other natural winger we have on the Chelsea payroll is Florent Malouda, who we prefer spend his time with Jeremy Boga and Islam Feruz instead of fighting for his place in the first team. Since this is the case, trying to replace them would be easy, yet expensive. Rumours of Hulk and Isco have been circulating forever now and it is hard to see either of them at the club due to the fierce competition for their signatures. Isco’s signature at least. We might as well shift to a narrower line up with Mata and Hazard both playing centrally where they both prefer and showing off their flicks and tricks in behind the main striker, Lewandowski. We’ve all seen his quality, at least in the Champions League, where he tore Jose’s men apart with consummate ease. He can hold the ball up, link up with creative forces in behind him and can play the likes of Ramires and De Bruyne through on goal. A goal-scoring centre forward has been hard to come by ever since Didier Drogba waved goodbye as a Chelsea icon. Fernando Torres has shown glimpses of his days in red yet shies away when it is truly vital. Demba Ba is nothing more than an acrobat; scoring a couple of beauties yet at 189cm can barely win the ball in the air. His control of the ball, along with Moses, is woeful, he misses the chances Torres wo
uld beg for in front of goal and does not link up play at all well. Lukaku coming in and playing as our deputy striker or even Torres staying put would be great. Although, Demba Ba has not shown us anything for him to deserve to stay. Seydou Doumbia is a strong, pacey and accomplished forward who would also add quality to our front line. Andre Schurrle whose also been linked with a move is another possibility. They would all easily be integrated into this system and with the types of players mentioned, we can be very flexible. Oscar and De Bruyne can fill in for Mata and Hazard when needed as well. It will be hard seeing many teams stopping us successfully and we will once again be a force to be reckoned with.
– Kyriakos Papadopolous (Schalke)
– Benat (Real Betis)
– Robert Lewandowski (Dortmund)
– Seydou Doumbia (CSKA Moskva)
-Kevin De Bruyne
-Patrick Van Aanholt
– Victor Moses
– Marko Marin
– Demba Ba
– Yossi Benayoun
– Paulo Ferreira
– Ross Turnbull
– Henrique Hilario
– Branislav Ivanovic