London is Blue is a soccer fancast created by Chelsea FC fans from America and covers all things Chelsea. Hosts are @BBBusbee, @DanDormer and @NickVerlaney.

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GUEST: Liam Twomey, ESPN FC @liam_twomey

Part 1: Liverpool Review

Chelsea 1-1 Liverpool, Premier League

Saturday, Nov. 25th | Anfield

 

Part 2: Social Media Questions

 

Part 3: Swansea City Preview

Chelsea vs. Swansea City, Premier League

Wednesday, Nov. 29th | Stamford Bridge

 

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London is Blue is a soccer fancast created by Chelsea FC fans from America and covers all things Chelsea. Hosts are @BBBusbee, @DanDormer and @NickVerlaney.

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Part 1: West Brom Review

Chelsea 4-0 West Brom, Premier League

Saturday, Nov. 18th | The Hawthorns

Part 2: Social Media Questions

Part 3: Qarabak FK Preview

Chelsea at Qarabak FK, Champions League

Wednesday, Nov. 22nd | Baku National Stadium

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GUEST: Stamford Chidge, @StamfordChidge


Part 1: Bournemouth AFC Review

Chelsea 1-0 Bournemouth AFC, Premier League

Saturday, Oct. 28th | Vitality Stadium

 

Part 2: Social Media Questions

 

Part 3: AS Roma Preview

Chelsea at AS Roma, Premier League

Tuesday, Oct. 31st | Stadio Olimpico

 

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Ugo Nwogwugwu


The Run Starts Here

Saturday 28th October, Vitality Stadium – Chelsea travelled to Dorset for their Premier League game against AFC Bournemouth. It was only the second away game of their five fixtures in October.

Under normal circumstances, the EPL champions would have been favourites for this fixture – they were 5th and Bournemouth 19th as at the start of play. But Chelsea had been well beaten by the bottom club in the league, Crystal Palace, in their other away game this month. In fact, they had not kept a single clean sheet in October, conceding an average of 2 goals per game across their other four fixtures. If they were to have any hope of retaining their title, Chelsea would have to start defending better and find some winning form pretty soon.

On the other hand, Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth had been showing some good form recently. They’d won two and drawn one of their last five games, including a 2 – 1 away win over Stoke the previous Saturday, and a midweek 3 – 1 victory over Championship side Middlesbrough in the Carabao Cup. The week before that, they’d been unlucky to lose 1 – 0 away to Tottenham. They would definitely not be pushovers today.

Ryan Fraser and Josh King were left out for Bournemouth through injury, but Jermaine Defoe had recovered from a hamstring problem, and started this game. Victor Moses was out injured, but N’golo Kante had returned to training for Chelsea – he was not however, included in the squad for today’s game.

Line-Ups & Ratings

Bournemouth

Begovic 7, Smith 6, Steve Cook 7.5, Ake 7, Francis 5.5, Daniels 6, Lewis Cook 6, Surman 6, Stanislas 5.5 (Pugh), Defoe 5.5 (Ibe 6), Afobe 6.5 (Wilson 5)

Subs Boruc, Arter, Pugh, Mousset, Gosling, Ibe, Wilson

Chelsea

Courtois 7, Zappacosta 7, Rudiger 7.5, Luiz 7, Azpilicueta 8, Alonso 7, Fabregas 7, Bakayoko 7, Pedro 6 (Drinkwater 6.5), Hazard 8 (Willian 5.5), Morata 7 (Batshuayi 6.5)

Subs Caballero, Cahill, Christensen, Ampadu, Drinkwater, Willian, Batshuayi

Big Moments

Effectively Contained

Bournemouth set up from the start to absorb pressure and play disciplined, defensive football, and although Chelsea dominated possession and chances, Bournemouth were effective at containing their visitors in the first half.

Pedro dribbled past ex-Chelsea defender Nathan Ake for an early opportunity, but blazed his shot high at the end of the move. Alvaro Morata had been working hard to recover form since his hamstring injury, but he wasn’t quite there yet for this game. Eden Hazard created some great chances for him in the first half, but he was unable to take advantage.

For the first, Hazard got to the byline and crossed for him, but Morata put his finish wide under pressure from Bournemouth keeper Asmir Begovic. In the second, Hazard got possession in Bournemouth’s final third and put Morata through for what should have been an easy finish, but again his shot curled just wide of goal. Morata did eventually get the ball in the net, off a trademark Chelsea short corner on 27 minutes. Unfortunately the goal was wrongly ruled offside, as Cesar Azpilicueta was deemed to be interfering with play.

Benik Afobe almost got through on a rare Bournemouth counterattack, when he passed to Daniels on the left and received the ball back in the box. He tried a shot but Azpilicueta closed him down and the ball went out for a corner.

Morata made and almost finished another fantastic opportunity for himself – he received the ball back to goal from Hazard, rolled his defender, drifted left and took a vicious shot. It was on target this time, but Begovic produced a brilliant reaction save to keep it out. Shortly afterward, Pedro put in another low cross for Fabregas in the six-yard box, but Steve Cook intervened twice to prevent him from scoring.

Breaking Containment

Then finally, early in the second half Chelsea made their breakthrough. The goal came off a long ball from Morata in the center circle. Simon Francis attempted to intercept the pass but failed to connect with the ball, and it fell for Hazard on the left, just outside the penalty area. Hazard stormed forward, looked up, and arrowed a shot past Begovic at the near post.

After the goal Bournemouth tried to get forward and create chances themselves, but Chelsea’s defending was much better than it had been in their previous games – maybe the players were benefiting from being rested during the midweek league cup game. On one of their counters, Jordon Ibe took a pretty good shot from just outside the D, but Rudiger got a slight touch and the ball went over the bar.

One Touch Football

As the second half wore on, Chelsea began to play some nice one-touch football. After an exchange of passes with Fabregas, Pedro got the ball in the box but his shot was straight at Begovic. In another move, Hazard held the ball up just left of goal, then slipped a through pass to Fabregas, who had run outside of him. If Fabregas kept his composure he might have scored, but he flashed his shot across goal and the opportunity was wasted.

Eddie Howe had substituted Jermaine Defoe for Ibe at halftime, and halfway through the second period Afobe was taken off as well. Yet as the match wound down Bournemouth became more threatening – they had a glorious chance to equalize in injury time: Ibe centered the ball for Andy Surman, and he passed to Smith in the box, who then laid it back for Steve Cook. Cook curled a shot in but fortunately for Chelsea it was straight at Courtois, and he saved and held it. Although Bournemouth had tried seven shots in the game, this was their first and only shot on target.

At Long Last, A Clean Sheet

And so the game ended in a narrow away win, and with the three points Chelsea returned to fourth place in the EPL table. They’d also succeeded in keeping their first clean sheet in the seven games since beating Stoke City back in September.

Final Score Bournemouth 0 – 1 Chelsea

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London is Blue is a soccer fancast created by Chelsea FC fans from America and covers all things Chelsea. Hosts are @BBBusbee, @DanDormer and @NickVerlaney.

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GUEST: Jesus Martinez, Bayou City Blue @BayouCityBlues

Part 1: Watford Review

Chelsea 4-2 Watford, Premier League
Saturday, Oct. 21st | Stamford Bridge

Part 2: Social Media Questions

Part 3: Everton Preview

Chelsea vs. Everton, Carabao (League) Cup
Wednesday, Oct. 25th | Stamford Bridge

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London is Blue is a soccer fancast created by Chelsea FC fans from America and covers all things Chelsea. Hosts are @BBBusbee, @DanDormer and @NickVerlaney.

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Part 1: Manchester City Review

Chelsea 0-1 Manchester City, Premier League

Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017 | Stamford Bridge

 

Part 2: Social Media Questions

 

Part 3: International Break Preview

 

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London is Blue is a soccer fancast created by Chelsea FC fans from America and covers all things Chelsea. Hosts are @BBBusbee, @DanDormer and @NickVerlaney.

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Part 1: Arsenal F.C. Review

Chelsea 0-0 Arsenal F.C., Premier League

Sunday, Sept. 17th | Stamford Bridge

 

Part 2: Social Media Questions

 

Part 3: Nottingham Forest Preview

Chelsea vs. Nottingham Forest, EFL Cup

Wednesday, Sept. 20 | Stamford Bridge

 

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London is Blue is a soccer fancast created by Chelsea FC fans from America and covers all things Chelsea. Hosts are @BBBusbee, @DanDormer and @NickVerlaney.

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Part 1: Qarabag FK Review

Chelsea 6-0 Qarabag FK, Champions League

Tuesday, Sept. 12th | Stamford Bridge

 

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By, Ugo Nwogwugwu


Fourteen goals scored. Seven goals conceded. Two good wins for Chelsea this pre-season, but also two humbling defeats. They say pre-season doesn’t matter and it’s probably true, but there were a few interesting points to note amid all the experimentation:

  • Chelsea scored lots of goals and comfortably won their first two games against English opposition. They then conceded five goals themselves, on the way to losing both games against European teams.
  • The one goal margin in both losses masked the fact that Chelsea were badly exposed against both Inter and Bayern. They could have lost by two or three more goals each game.
  • Two of Chelsea’s top scorers the last three seasons, Eden Hazard and Diego Costa were not available – injured and on their way out of the team respectively. The Matic-Kante combo, formed of the two best defensive midfielders from the last three title winning EPL teams, has also been broken up.
  • The alternate midfield partnership of Kante and Fabregas looked great against weaker opposition (sorry Arsenal). Fabregas was especially brilliant, quarterbacking like nobody’s business to set up his teammates. Against tougher teams though, they lacked the required speed and defensive presence to control the opposition.
  • Chelsea looked extremely vulnerable on the counter, particularly in the defensive areas vacated by their attacking wing backs. Again and again, Bayern and Inter used their central attackers to narrow Chelsea’s center backs, or pull them out of shape on the break, so other players could attack the posts or the center unhindered. Mr. Conte will need to look at the positioning of his full backs very closely, and find a solution for the upcoming season.
  • Players were recovering fitness, young players were tried out in key positions, new partnerships were being tested, new players were still finding their place in the team – but that was true for Chelsea’s opponents as well. If you’re league champions with European ambitions, you’re still expected to show a level of strategy, depth and quality, even when you don’t win.
  • Yes, the team travelled over fifteen thousand kilometres, and played three big games in the space of just seven days. But if tiredness was a factor in the last two losses – and it sometimes looked the case against Bayern and Inter – then that’s a worry. Those will be the conditions for a lot of next season, because Chelsea are back in the Champions League now.
  • Morata needs games to gel with the team. He might labour a little bit under his 70m price tag, but he should do OK at Chelsea. Batshuayi is ready to play now though, if the manager will trust him. 5 goals and 4 assists in just four games must put him in contention to start, even if they were just pre-season goals.
  • This pre-season may see Pedro out injured or below his best for a few weeks, as he recovers from facial fractures sustained v. Arsenal. Brazilian full back Kenedy also went home early, and might even see his time at the club cut short, due to some major mistakes on social media while on tour. Which would be a shame – he could be a real prospect at LWB / LW.

The Games

Eight Past Fulham

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The first game of pre-season was played behind closed doors, and saw the Premier League champions crush neighbours Fulham FC. The separation between these two teams was one football division and twenty-five league places at the end of last season. The difference showed in the result.

Basically, the score was 5-1 in the first half and 3-1 in the second. Willian scored a double off two unselfish Batshuayi assists, before an Azpilicueta own goal gave Fulham some hope. It wasn’t to be though. Batshuayi scored two goals himself, then Willian cut in from the right to complete his hat trick.

Kenedy conceded a penalty in the second half, from which Fulham scored. He then remedied his error with an interception and tenacious dribbling down the left, before giving Loic Remy an easy tap in for goal number six.

Jeremie Boga, who’s been one of Chelsea’s most promising young players this series of games, then won a penalty, from which Azpilicueta converted to remedy his earlier O.G. Remy then won and converted a penalty of his own to wind it up.

Final Score: Chelsea 8 – 2 Fulham

Blitzing Arsenal

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The next game was against Arsenal at the Bird’s Nest stadium in Beijing. Arsenal chose to start a couple of their younger players, but paid the price as Chelsea were not in the mood to reciprocate. Conte named the strongest line-up at his disposal, and they blew Arsenal away in a furious first half.

It was counter after counter, Ospina somehow managing to keep the scores level for most of the first period, saving shots from Batshuayi, Willian and Moses. Michy then had a legitimate goal ruled out for offside on thirty-five minutes. Four minutes later though, he rolled a sliding tackle and passed to Willian, who curled in off the right post for the opener.

Within a couple of minutes they were two up. Arsenal’s Bramall was dispossessed, before Batshuayi took advantage of a bit too much space from Per Mertesacker, to score a curler of his own in the opposite corner.

Early on in the second half, Marcos Alonso sold Oxlade-Chamberlain a vicious dummy, putting him on his backside in the grass. Alonso then teed Batshuayi off perfectly, who scored with a rising shot from outside the area. There were a few half chances from Ramsey, Coquelin, Giroud and a few others, but it just wasn’t going to be Arsenal’s day.

This game was something like the revenge win Chelsea fans were looking for against the Gunners, but at the end it’s a non-competitive game. The real thing’s coming up on Sunday.

Final Score: Arsenal 0 – 3 Chelsea

Ancelotti’s Bayern

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On to Singapore and Bayern Munich! The National Stadium in Kallang was packed to the rafters, providing a great atmosphere for Chelsea’s second International Champions Cup fixture.

The manager started Willian on the right, with Boga on the left wing in place of the injured Pedro. He also started Andreas Christensen at the center of the back three. The choice might have been made based on Christensen’s Bundesliga experience with Borussia Monchengladbach, but Bayern Munich did seem a big challenge for a young player’s first start in a new squad.

In fact looking at all the starters player for player, Chelsea seemed a little outmatched in some positions, at least on paper. Christensen vs Lewandowski. Kante & Fabregas vs Tolisso, Sanches & Muller. Alonso & Moses vs James & Ribery. All the same, the first goal for Bayern came from a long distance, speculative shot from right back Rafinha. Courtois might have been positioned better, but shot was a bit tricky the way it bounced off the pitch.

From that point though, Bayern just sat back and took advantage of Chelsea’s high line to hit them on the break. For Bayern’s second goal, their front men countered in a four on three overload against Chelsea’s center backs. Chelsea’s full backs were out of sight high up the pitch, so Ribery easily made it to byline to cross for Muller, who volleyed in unmarked at the far post.

Their third came on 25 minutes and showed unbelievable quality from Muller. He was given too much space by four retreating Chelsea defenders, and he used it to whip an audacious twenty-five yard curler around Thibaut Courtois.

Chelsea started to pressure Bayern more after that, and Alonso pulled one back just before half time with a diagonal strike off a Moses cross. Both teams continued to create opportunities in the second half, with Bayern still slightly edging it overall. David Luiz struck the post off a deflection, then on 84 minutes new boy Alvaro Morata headed a Fabregas corner to Batshuayi’s feet. Michy side-footed in for a more respectable scoreline, and 3 – 2 was how it ended.

Final Score: Bayern Munich 3 – 2 Chelsea

An Own Goal vs. Inter

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The final pre-season game was against Inter Milan, and was also played in Singapore. Typically, Conte’s Chelsea show a strong positive reactions after a loss. And you’d expect they would have been able to do so against Inter, who had three different managers in a twelve-month period, and finished seventh in Serie A last season.

Chelsea started with their strongest available team, injuries and transfers considered. In fact, they played the eleven you’d expect to start against Arsenal in the Community Shield next Sunday: Courtois, Moses, Cahill, Luiz, Azpilicueta, Alonso, Kante, Fabregas, Willian, Morata, Batshuayi. Yet they lost without scoring a single direct goal, against an Inter team that included quite a few backups and young new signings themselves.

Early on, Inter caused panic with a fast break down Chelsea’s left flank. It took a number of saves and last ditch tackles to stop an early goal. Just before the break though, another long Inter pass down Chelsea’s left caused confusion in the box, and although Azpilicueta cleanly got the ball off Jovetic, he was considered by the ref to have fouled him. Courtois saved the initial penalty, but Jovetic converted off the rebound for Inter’s first goal.

Straight off Inter’s kick off for the second half, Chelsea intercepted, but then gave the ball away again on the edge of their area. Jovetic scored, but the goal was ruled out for offside. Inter still got their second eventually, off one of many counter-attacks in the second half. Perisic rounded Azpilicueta with too much ease, and put the ball across Courtois into the far corner.

Chelsea later got one goal back, off a crazy 40-yard backpass from Kondogbia into his own goal. Michy Batshuayi also had what would have been the equalizer and his sixth goal in four games wrongly disallowed for offside, but I have to admit Inter deserved the win. They simply showed more desire, and the tactical ability to exploit every weakness Chelsea had exposed against Bayern Munich.

Final Score: Inter Milan 2 – 1 Chelsea

Pre-season might not matter in terms of results, but there were definitely some lessons to be learned here. If Chelsea are lucky they’ll learn them quickly, and make improvements before other teams use similar tactics against them. In actual competitive matches.

 

Thumbnail Image courtesy of: ESPN FC

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By, Aldemaro Narvaez


The start of the new Premier League term is literally weeks away, and while the club is expanding its “brand” in Asia and side-stepping questionable delicacies found only in the Arsenal buffet line, the squad is still very much a work in progress.  Some players have departed the club looking for their big chance (Chalobah and Solanke), some found their next opportunity (Ake, Begovic, Cuadrado), and some kept hacking at the problem until they managed to find a way out like the football version of James Franco in 127 Hours…while bleeding and celebrating all over an Atletico shirt.

The transfer window still hangs open and deals—along with some inexplicably long medicals—will be worked out all the way to deadline day.  It is inevitable the squad will continue to change, and the fabric, buttons, and stitching of the suit will once again need to be exquisitely tailored by Antonio Conte and his backroom staff.  Although the ultimate components of the squad, like Bigfoot in the Pacific Northwest, remain a mystery, the cut of the suit—or tactics—that will be deployed by Conte are beginning to take shape.  This is the Italian’s first full summer transfer window at Chelsea and, price gouging aside, the type of targets the Blues are tracking say a lot about what we will be doing on the pitch, the modes of attack, and the shape of the defense that will be used to repel the chasing pack.

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In the words of “Iron” Mike Tyson, “everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” So, what are our plans, how will we punch, and how are we likely to counterattack if the punches come our way? To me, Conte is apt to switch formations at least once in each game, and the players in the squad will need to adapt to their morphing responsibilities without missing a beat (or face the wrath of an Italian’s words and hand gestures).

Spiegheremo le formazioni! Onward to the formation breakdown!

3-4-3 (Or 3-4-2-1): Our Current Significant Other

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Chelsea hobbled with a 4-3-3 for the first few match days of 2016 until the first half of that faithful September 24, 2016 Arsenal defeat.  Midway through the 3-0 loss and with Gooners elated at what they were seeing on the pitch, Conte switched to three at the back and threw caution to the wind. The gamble amassed 27 wins out of 32 games; punctuated by a 13-game winning streak using the 3-4-3.

Most successfully implemented in the 1970s by Ajax, the 3-4-3 focuses on a strong attack and a strong defensive control in the center of the pitch.  This formation benefits tremendously from having a good pair of central defenders (Kante and Bakayoko) and a forward (Morata) that drags defenders into the box to open the flanks for the two wingers (Hazard/Pedro/Willian/Musonda).  The 3-4-3 also requires the fullbacks (Alonso/Moses/hopefully someone else…please…pretty please?) to push up and wide and pin opposition defenders in their half of the so they’re unable to easily bring the ball out and/or cause turnovers.  This formation does require the central midfielders to recover quickly and transition from attack to defense, which is something that Bakayoko may be well suited to perform with the security blanket that Kante provides to the three center-backs.

With regard to the Chelsea back line in the 3-4-3, the three central defenders tend to have good knowledge and feel for the space between them and will plug the center of the pitch in the event a counter comes at the heart of the line.  The CBs may at times spread or shift their defense to adjust to the incoming threats with the knowledge that the wingbacks can provide additional numbers along the flanks. However, as we learned in several games last term, not all is perfect with this formation. With the wingbacks up raiding the edges of the pitch like pirates and privateers, they can leave the back three open for the counter along the wings.  This is even more of an issue if one of the CMs gets caught upfield with his hand in the cookie jar.  Man City had a field day with this during our first meeting last year.  They used De Bruyne and Silva to great effect to carve out our back line, and the game may have turned out a lot differently if the goalpost gods were not on our side that day.

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Outside of tactical concerns, the main issue with using the 3-4-3 again this year will be the fact that several of the main title challengers managed to neutralize the formation by either mimicking, man-marking, or exploiting the weaknesses with their high-quality players during our second meetings.  Still, of all the formations to discuss, there is already familiarity in the 3-4-3 and a high degree of effectiveness utilizing this formation all the way to a championship.  If I was a betting man, I would venture a guess that we will line up in the 3-4-3 on August 12 at Burnley. I would also bet that we will stop relying and drop this formation in the early days of this term.

4-2-4: The Sexy Ex

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Conte likes the 4-2-4. Like, confidently ask for a date, take her to a fine tapas restaurant while flamenco dancers stomp on stage, and then make a move in the cab kind of “Likes”.  It has been rumored that this is what Conte wanted to play at Chelsea all along, and even tried out the formation during preseason in 2016.  Conte has had 4-2-4 success with Juventus and some of his other early charges, and with more of “Conte players” coming in this window, he is likely to be tempted into full deployment of this formation—castanets would be optional for our Spanish contingency.

The success of this formation lies in the fact that most people have played this system.  Don’t believe me?  Sure, when you play with the ball and are attacking the opposition, the 4-2-4 looks to overwhelm defenses with width and speed along the sidelines and strength along the center with two forwards; however, when not holding the ball, the wings race back to the center of the pitch and play your basic 4-4-2.

While in defense, the 4-2-4 looks to take up space in the midfield to win and keep possession, but the intent once the ball is won is to cover space through good passing and move the attack forward (instead of tiki-taka ball possession).  There is some flexibility in how to use central defenders in this formation.  For example, Kante could set as a more deep-lying defender to shield the back line, and allow Fabregas to play to his strength and provide outlet passes to the attack (resembling more of a 4-1-4-1 in some cases).

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A word of caution to the use of 4-2-4 or 4-4-2, Jose had a tough time getting Hazard to track back and keep shape along the left side in that disastrous 10th place finish season when we played a 4-3-3.  It is likely that we may revert to expecting more from Eden than he is willing to give—although he is fully capable of playing in this formation as is evident by Hazard’s contributions when he won the PFA Player of the Year Award in 2015.  I would be slightly worried with getting a player like Hazard to chip in defensively on a regular basis.  A leopard don’t change his spots.

Also, these formations can be beat by a good team playing a 4-3-3 as there would be an extra midfielder in opposition to win and keep possession and move the attack along.  Own-goals aside, you can’t score if you don’t have the ball.

3-5-2: Adventurously Bringing in an Extra Friend

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There’s always that one friend.  Sure, it may be a limited time thing and getting permission might be a tall order, but when it’s on…IT’S ON. I can imagine Cesc waiting on the bench and making advances and suggestive innuendoes.  All jokes aside, having that third midfielder in the center of the pitch could yield significant results.

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With two CFs and three midfielders, there would be limited chances of getting overrun in the center of the pitch by the opposition. Great against the 4-4-2 (and the bottom half of the table that tends to turtle in its protective shell), the 3-5-2 neutralizes strikers and wingers alike and allows for a certain passing maestro to wreak havoc along the wings or through the center.  Positional awareness is key to keep the three central defenders as a unit as bombing wingers and false 9 strikers can cause confusion and open spaces by splitting defenders.

For Chelsea, Hazard is likely to play off Morata at the front, and would require a lot of running from our wingbacks (of which we have limited stock), to provide width and balance in attack and defense.  In the midfield, we may be able to open more options with Cesc, Bakayoko, Kante, and potentially Luiz as a CB/CDM hybrid that could drop into the back line to provide numbers in a pinch or distribute the ball out of the back.  It’s an intriguing proposition and one that can look attractive.  Hopefully things don’t get weird afterward.

4-3-3: The Friend With Benefits

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We know this one from the days of Ancelotti (using the more classic version), Hiddink, and Mourinho. It’s the old standby. You can call upon it anytime since it’s always waiting by the phone. Conte tried it. It was too needy. Conte changed it.

On the surface, there’s nothing wrong with this formation as it requires a defensive Colossus in midfield (Kante) with and a couple of attacking cohorts (Bakayoko and Fabregas) to transition from defense to offense.  This jumping in from the attacking midfields along with the wingers and forward, can overwhelm defenses as crosses, shots, and goals seem to come from everywhere.

We have seen a variant of this (4-5-1) during Mourinho’s return and title win in 2014/15 when Cesc was peppering passes to Costa and the Blues steamrolled the league.

The main issue with the 4-3-3 is that the right players are needed.  Hazard cannot be walking back to the center line while the opposition run past him (remember Azpilicueta getting marooned and exploited by multiple attackers on a weekly basis?).  The fullbacks are equally as important on offense as defense.  My concern along the right, if Azpilicueta is manning the station, I that we’d be limited offensively, and along the left, that Alonso—who provides decent offensive and defensive contributions—will be caught out of position or hung out to dry by Hazard.

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The faults, dear Brutus, lies not in our stars, but in ourselves

So…Bachelorette Number 1, Number 2, Number 3, or Number 4?

For me, I think a 3-5-2 or a variant of that formation will be the chosen one. Recent rumors that Cesc will have an increased role in the side just nudges me in this direction.  This also would diminish the roles of the wingers, which we have not been chasing. I have not heard us trying to bring in a Berardi or a Bernardeschi. We have had a very public courtship of Sandro and to a lesser degree Danilo.  All signs point to more emphasis on a solid back line and wingbacks that can move.  In this formation, I would like to see Rudiger, Azpi/Luiz, and Christensen at the back.  I think it is critical for us to get bigger, stronger, and much better at passing from all CB positions.

In any case, I think Conte will also look to switch the tactics of his side as each game wears on. Switching from wingers to midfielders to wingbacks will keep the opposition guessing.  One thing is certain, we won’t remain the same.  In the wise words of “Iron” Mike Tyson, “I ain’t the same person I was when I bit that guy’s ear off” and neither should we.

 

Formations created using: buildlineup.com

Thumbnail image courtesy of: HBO

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