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.

London is Blue is proud to be presented by WorldSoccerShop. Visit them at www.WorldSoccerShop.com to find the best Chelsea FC gear!

GUEST: Vaishali Bhardwaj

Twitter: @VaiBhardwaj

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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

Contact Us

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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.

London is Blue is proud to be presented by WorldSoccerShop. Visit them at www.WorldSoccerShop.com to find the best Chelsea FC gear!

Part 1: Manchester United Review

Chelsea 1-0 Manchester United, Premier League

Sunday, Nov. 5th | Stamford Bridge

Part 2: Social Media Questions

Part 3: West Bromwich Albion Preview

Chelsea at West Bromwich Albion, Premier League

Saturday, Nov. 18th | The Hawthorns

Contact Us

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iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/london-is-blue-chelsea-fc/

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.

London is Blue is proud to be presented by WorldSoccerShop. Visit them at www.WorldSoccerShop.com to find the best Chelsea FC gear!

Part 1: AS Roma Review

Chelsea 0-3 AS Roma, Champions League
Tuesday, Oct. 31st | Stadio Olimpico

Part 2: Social Media Questions

 

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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.

London is Blue is proud to be presented by WorldSoccerShop. Visit them at www.WorldSoccerShop.com to find the best Chelsea FC gear!

GUEST: Jason Cundy, @JasonCundy05

Part 1: AS Roma Review + Social Media questions + Watford Preview

Chelsea 3-3 AS Roma, Champions League
Wednesday, Oct. 18th | Stamford Bridge

Part 2: London Trip

Trip to London to see Newcastle and Atlético Madrid!! Sign up at www.londonisbluepodcast.com/londontrip.

Contact Us

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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.

London is Blue is proud to be presented by WorldSoccerShop. Visit them at www.WorldSoccerShop.com to find the best Chelsea FC gear!

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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Music Produced by Layird Music: https://layirdmusic.beatstars.com/

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.

London is Blue is proud to be presented by WorldSoccerShop. Visit them at www.WorldSoccerShop.com to find the best Chelsea FC gear!

Part 1: Burnley FC Review

Chelsea 2-3 Burnley FC, Premier League

Saturday, August 12th | Stamford Bridge

 

Part 2: Social Media Questions

 

Part 3: Tottenham Hotspur Preview

Chelsea at Tottenham Hotspur, Premier League

Sunday, August 20th | Wembley Stadium

 

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Music Produced by Layird Music: https://layirdmusic.beatstars.com/

These are emails exchanged between a fan of the pod and one of our hosts. Enjoy these unfiltered thoughts from two fans.

Hey Brandon,

I hope all is well, at least as well as it could be after today’s shit show.  The thing that stood out to me most, was how Cesc is not a serviceable player as a holding midfielder, unless we got to 3,5,2 with Bakayoko-Cesc-Kante, Cesc looked slow and out of sorts.  I don’t want to bash him, it just isn’t the position for him as he isn’t good enough defensively.
Lampard called out the board that we need more signings, I don’t see anyway we can be successful on any of the 4 fronts without another holding midfielder and a wing back.  Do you guys think we will make deadline day signings like last year (Alonso/Luiz?)
Not sure about getting VVD from Southampton, but I think we will get Drinkwater for better or worse and I am hoping we get a serviceable wingback (just not Candreva in a swap for Christensen!)
Anyway looking forward to the pod, sure you will discuss the harshness of the ref, 3 yellows and a red… which I’m not sure about straight red.  Hopefully my question about signing will make it to the pod if you get a chance, really curious about your guys take.
Later

Hey Erik!

Can’t remember if I replied to your last email about the summer update, so apologies if not. We all took a little break from the Pod in June to recharge for the upcoming season – hopefully you understand!

I personally didn’t watch the game as I’m currently responding on my phone from a beach at a cabin in rural Minnesota 🙃 but watched Twitter enough to feel like I have a decent idea on how things went.

Even without this match we all know Cesc can’t play in a 2-man midfield. We lose too much of what he’s good at and force him to defend an uncomfortable amount over 90 minutes. Another true box-to-box or holding mid is 100% required.

Wing backs, wingback, wing backs. Has to be the number one priority even over a CM. Zero depth in that position is a recipe for disaster. If Sandro and Candreva don’t come in sooner than later, I fully expect at least one wingback we’ve never heard of (a la Alonso last season) to arrive on deadline day for £25-30 million. Only way Christensen leaves is if we pick up VVD and I don’t think that’s needed at this point, but he wouldn’t hurt us, that’s for sure.

Obviously we’ve been talking about signings all summer during the transfer window so I’m sure it’ll come up again.

KTBFFH,
Brandon


Hey Brandon,

Very wise of you not to watch the game today, as we just haven’t played up to our capabilities the last two matches at Wembley.  Today’s performance have me concerned about the game against Burnley and especially against Tottenham on 8/20.  It is clear the only defensive mid we have right now is Kante (with the sales of Chalobah and Matic) until Bakayoko is healthy.  This may sound crazy, I would like to play Luiz as a holding midfielder next to Kante, and we give Christensen a chance on defense.  More recently we have seen it done with Zouma, but years ago Luiz played holding mid under Rafa and it was the best he looked at Chelsea until Conte took over.  He is able to spring players (notably Hazard and Mata) with long balls and was able to make smart interceptions – cover a lot of ground defensively.  Again, is it risky to pull him from the role of leading our defense?  Yes, but we have no one else to play with Kante, Cesc cannot handle the defensive responsibility (it stunts his playmaking ability and defense has never been his forte), so either Bakayoko is ready, we purchase Drinkwater or someone capable of playing as a true defensive mid or I say we insert Luiz.  Here is a video of him in that role in 2012:
Sadly I don’t think we will get Sandro… which means as far as I am concerned we should never loan or sell a player to Juve again.  I would like to sign Candreva, he is a bit up there in age and cost will be an issue for the board.  I would really prefer we get Bertrand, proper Chels and boosts our English player total, plus he is younger so I would be willing to pay more.

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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By: Ayodeji Itasanmi (Twitter: @Aryhorblueblood)


Venues: China & Singapore

Dates: 22-29th July, 2017

The Chelsea team headed to Asia on Tuesday for the International Champions Cup tournament where they will be up against Arsenal, Bayern and Inter Milan in first China and then Singapore. Although not a lot will be riding on these fixtures, apart from the trophy at the end of course, the players know that now is the time to impress the coach ahead of the start of the new season. The quartet of Diego Costa, Nemanja Matic, Eden Hazard and new boy, Timoue Bakayoko are missing from the party to Asia because both Costa and Matic are most certainly on their out of the club while Hazard and Bakayoko are on the road back to full fitness. A number of academy products made the team to China, hopefully some of them can join the first team for next season since the trio of Rueben Loftus-Cheeks, Ola Aina and Nathaniel Chalobah have moved on (loans for LC and Aina, Permanent transfer for Chalobah).

In the 2016 edition of the International Champions Cup we played three high profile teams; drawing the first game against eventual Champions PSG, beating Italian giants AC Milan and losing to Spanish heavyweights Real Madrid. It’s the same story for this year’s edition having been drawn against Arsenal, Bayern Munich and Inter Milan.

Chelsea vs. Arsenal

Bird’s Nest Stadium, China/July 22, 2017

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Any match Chelsea plays against Arsenal will always be taken seriously whether it be in the league, cup or even if it comes in a preseason tournament with little or nothing at stake. So, I expect this to be a high intensity encounter even though both teams is likely to be a player or two (Or four in our case) short of their first eleven. Arsenal has a slight edge going into this game in that they already have three highly competitive preseason games under their belts, the last of which came against Bayern in their ICC opener on Wednesday afternoon while the Chelsea players have only being involved in a solitary behind-closed-doors friendly against Fulham at Cobham. I expect the Arsenal players to be a lot sharper and fitter than our boys, a point proven by their injury time equalizer against Bayern on Wednesday, but I trust our team to give them a run for their money.

Team Breakdowns

Chelsea

With this match being a somewhat friendly game I expect a lot of our academy products to get a run out, and hopefully some of them will provide Conte with headaches before the start of the season. However the usual suspects will most likely dominate the lineup with the debate likely to be who will lead the line between Batshuayi and the probably soon-to-be former Chelsea player Loic Remy. I’m excited to see what the likes of Andreas Christensen and Lewis Baker can do in a real Chelsea set up having played the last two seasons in Germany and Holland respectively.

Arsenal

Arsenal are well into their preseason program as they have every of their players available except for contract rebel Alexis Sanchez, and the injured Jack Wilshere. But that hasn’t stopped Wenger handing game time to some of his youngsters and I expect that trend to continue on Saturday. Against Bayern on Wednesday, he played quite a number of his academy graduates and they still came up with the win, albeit through penalty shootouts, though on the balance of play Bayern should have been out of sight by halftime, but that’s football. Alexander Lacazette hasn’t set the the net alight with goals as expected, but this is another opportunity to convince the Gunners faithful he is the real deal.

Conclusion

This will likely be viewed by both coaches as a dress rehearsal for the Community Shield, which is also between these two London clubs, hence this is likely going to be cagey for the first half hour or thereabout, but in all I expect to see an interesting game of football.

Chelsea vs. Bayern Munich

National Stadium, Singapore/July 25, 2017

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The last time we faced Bayern in a competitive game was the 2013 UEFA Super cup when we lost following a penalty shootout. This match might not be as important as that night in Monte Carlo but that’s not to say those lucky enough to be at the stadium will regret attending if Bayern’s display against the Gunners is anything to go by. I expect our players to be in a better shape than in the Arsenal game with three extra days of conditioning under their belt. I’m excited to see how a Conte-led Chelsea will fair against one of Europe’s heavyweights in readiness for the possibility of facing them in the latter stages of the UCL.

Team Breakdowns

Chelsea

Although the Arsenal game might come too early for new striker Alvaro Morata, this game is surely a possibility for his first game in a Chelsea shirt, and what a game it’d be to take your bow. Antonio Rudiger will also be joining up with the team after the Arsenal game on Saturday and will likely also make his Chelsea debut against familiar foes. Depending on how the Arsenal game plays out, the team to take to the pitch against Bayern in Singapore should take a semblance of the team to face Arsenal in the Community Shield in August. I’m as curious as every Chelsea fans out there to find out if Signor Conte will keep faith with the 3-4-3 formation that served him so well last season or if there’s going to be yet another evolution and if he does continue if he’ll keep the trident of Cahill, Azpilicueta and David Luiz, or if he’s going to bring in either the returning Christensen or new boy Rudiger. I guess we will have to wait and see how it unfolds.

Bayern Munich

Against Arsenal, Bayern named a strong lineup and I expect Ancelotti will do the same against Chelsea because his team, unlike ours, is already taking shape. They lost two club veterans, Phillip Lahm and Xabi Alonso, at the end of last season but they seemed to have replaced them both with Joshua Kimmich, who’s yet to join up with the team having been part of the Germany team that won the Confederations Cup last month, and new boy Corentin Tollisso whose impending partnership with Arturo Vidal will surely be terrifying. Marquee signing James Rodriguez had a good game against Arsenal and should pose enough trouble for our defenders.

Conclusion

Regardless of the final score line, this match is going to be an entertaining one to watch for the neutrals that’s for sure, with Bayern having much of the possession of the ball and Chelsea looking to hit them on the counter. With the kind of attacking talents in both teams, it’ll be a huge surprise if this game finished scoreless. There will definitely be goals in this one. Kante and whoever gets to be his partner in the middle of the pack will certainly have their hands full containing Bayern in midfield. In all, this should be fun to watch and I personally cannot wait.

Chelsea vs. Inter Milan

National Stadium, Singapore/July 29, 2017

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As far as history goes, we don’t have that many to look back on when we talk about this fixture. I only have a memory of us playing against Inter when they won the Champions’ League in 2010 with Mourinho at the helm, and as far as preseason friendlies are concerned I remembered we played them on our preseason tour of the United States back in 2005. Both teams are sure to be a lot different from the last time we squared up in the 2nd leg of our quarter final match in the UCL at Stamford Bridge back in 2010.  For one, both coaches have since moved on and replaced with Antonio Conte and Luciano Spaletti respectively, Spaletti having taken the job when Conte turned it down. The squads have also undergone various degrees of upgrades over the years with both Inter and Chelsea optimistic ahead of the new season.

Team Breakdowns

Chelsea

With this game coming so close to the Community Shield, I expect to see the exact same team to face Arsenal start this game. The likes of Rudiger and Morata would have gotten at least a week’s training under their belts and they are almost a certainty to start this game. Moses, Willian, Fabregas, Pedro and all the major players in the run to the title last season will certainly fancy their chances. What will be interesting to see is how Conte intends to use both Morata and Batshuayi. Of all the games on the tour of Asia, this is the one I can say we have the best chance of winning owing to the fact that the team will be at its best in terms of their physical and mental shape.

Inter Milan

Inter Milan has gradually fizzled into European obscurity since their unexpected treble in 2010, but their new owners seemed determined to return them back to the glory days which was why they were hell bent on prizing Conte away from Stamford Bridge before eventually settling for Luciano Spaletti, who himself is a very good coach if what he did since returning to Roma is an indication. For this game, they are likely to be without Manchester-bound Ivan Perisic, but other than that they should have all their key players ready for this big one. If they want to be taken seriously again then this is the sort of game they need to be winning so it should be another entertaining game for the Singaporean public.

Conclusion

With Arsenal having started preseason a week before Chelsea, and are also likely to return to England a couple of days before us, Antonio Conte might be tempted to give rest to some of the senior players in the latter stages of this game, so I’m predicting a very youthful Chelsea team finishing this game. This way the more established stars will be refreshed ahead of what is sure to be another thrilling and exciting and hopefully a rewarding season of football. Thanks for taking the time to read and remember to Keep The Blue Flag Flying High!

 

Thumbnail Image Courtesy of the International Champions Cup

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