Tag Archives: Chelsea

No one has an answer for Chelsea’s dominant 3-4-3

Watford v Chelsea - Premier League

Conte has turned Chelsea into a ruthless offensive machine. Source: The Indian Express

After a muddling start to the season, people began to question whether Chelsea could recover from an abysmal season. With the same failings, as last year happening again, doubting that Antonio Conte really the savior and looked more like just another pretender to the throne.

However, five games on, five wins and everyone is purring at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea are a roaring lion that are putting everyone else in the division to the sword at the moment, so what has changed?

First of all, the 3-4-3 formation has really brought the best out of this group of players. The favoured formation of Conte back at Juventus, it allows both attacking full-backs and wide players without too much danger of being caught on the counter attack.

How it works like that should be pretty clear from the setup, three centre-backs and two defensive-minded central midfielders hold the fort. The two wing-backs are encouraged to join in with attacking play, allowing a former winger like Victor Moses to be a success as almost an extra wide player rather than some tasked with simply defending and joining in when they can.

With that behind them, it allows the three forwards to sit high up the pitch without any stringent defensive responsibilities. Keeping the likes of Eden Hazard and Pedro up the field has caused defences nightmares, freeing them to counter-attack and run at will, with devastating results.

hazard_chase-large_transqvzuuqpflyliwib6ntmjwfsvwez_ven7c6bhu2jjnt8

Hazard has rediscovered his devastating form. Source: The Telegraph

Especially in Hazard, who has been reborn under Conte and this formation. Five goals and an assist in his last four fixtures shows how being further up the pitch more often has affected him and with his confidence flowing back in his veins, he has returned to his scarily impressive best.

That attacking ability combined with a strong core has been a force no one has worked out how to unlock. Teams seem to allow Chelsea to push further and further up field, overloading four and even five man defences with too many bodies as they recycle possession in your half to start it all over again.

It was good against Hull City and Leicester City but the real statement of intent came against Manchester United. After an early goal, they absolutely dominated the Red Devils by keeping possession and the two wingers in narrow positions bamboozled a four-man defence.

Forced to bring their wingers back to help, United were essentially left with a six-man back line that could not counter attack in fear of giving Chelsea too much space in the final third. The Blues never let up, continuously pushed and repeatedly found space in dangerous attacking areas to grab four well deserved goals.

Worryingly for everyone else, they seemed to do even more in their 5-0 thumping of Everton at the weekend. As they continue to settle and find a rhythm in the new formation, they are finding even more exploits against teams that are even looking to set up as a counter.

111214104_victor-moses-sport-large_transvtsjnnt2oymwi4cknl7hjepr1ayebbzlmraxi8udwbe

Moses has really blossomed in his new role and has finally found a home at Stamford Bridge. Source: The Telegraph

With Ronald Koeman playing a 5-3-2, he looked to match Chelsea in the key areas and make sure his team were not overloaded when Chelsea were in possession. Instead, the slick interchanging of passing in the final third killed them off, Conte’s men have simply created a great understanding quickly of this formation and add confidence to that, you can see the results.

It was fast-flowing, unselfish football at its best. All they did was shock and awe Everton with their passing play, not allowing them a moment’s rest and without an outlet to get the Toffees further up the pitch, Chelsea simply picked them off at will.

So how do you solve the riddle? Do you attack at will, hoping to overpower them? Do you defend like your lives depend on it? Do you try to counter through the wide areas left exposed when Chelsea push too far forward?

It’s quite possibly a mixture of them all but much like anything in world football, eventually someone will work a worthy counter. The two-game run against Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City will be the biggest test that will really show if this formation makes Chelsea title front-runners or just another within an ever-increasing pack.

What it has been is a breath of fresh air. It’s always interesting to see something a little different in the Premier League and Conte has done that, with a thoroughly interesting formation that has left his opponents perplexed, at least for now.

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Has The FA Cup lost its magic?

Oh Trophy, we art thou magic gone?  Source: The FA

Oh Trophy, we art thou magic gone? Source: The FA

In the wake of Chelsea’s 5-1 win against a Manchester City side littered with a number of debuting young talent on Sunday afternoon, a debate has begun as to whether the FA Cup has lost some of it’s magic.

The short answer is yes. The long answer is to follow but it’s also not really that surprising that even the oldest club competition in the world has lost a little of its shine, but it’s due to a number of factors.

Starting with the media and the hype of the competition, the moving of games for TV hasn’t helped at all. Place like the BBC are desperate to air an all-Premier League tie like the one on Sunday but with both teams also in Champions League action, neither were happy with the news.

The fact that the next round will very likely be competing with Premier League games, along with Football League games, means that some attention has been drawn away and can make a league like the Championship look like a mess. Some teams have played 29 games, some have played 32, which is going to cause a pile up of fixtures for a team.

The youthful Manchester City squad came under scrutiny.  Source: Sky Sports

The youthful Manchester City squad came under scrutiny. Source: Sky Sports

The competition itself hasn’t adapted out of stubborness and calls that it would harm it, but stagnating it hurts just as much. Replays are a nightmare for schedulers despite the money-rolling opportunities for smaller clubs, which is literally the only benefit other than for the fans of said club.

As I’ve already mentioned, scheduling them on a weekend also doesn’t seem to work when there’s league fixtures on too. Why not move them to the mid-week, when they’ll be appreciated more, or in a more drastic move, change the league fixtures to a mid-week?

It works in literally every other big European country. Spain, Germany, France and Italy all have their big club competition in the week, two of them even have two legs and the fact that the League Cup already does it means it shouldn’t be too big of a shift, especially as that finishes in late February.

We can still have it start on a big Saturday in January too, much like the Coupe de France does, before moving to a mid-week schedule before the final on it’s own Saturday. It may mean the semi-finals have to be away from Wembley as that would be a scheduling nightmare but it would help give the competition more prestige.

Was Pellegrini's team disrepectful or a sign of the times?  Source: soccernews.com

Was Pellegrini’s team disrepectful or a sign of the times? Source: soccernews.com

The cup’s importance has also dropped below the league for pretty much any team. Hull City of the Championship made 10 changes because promotion is much more important to them than a cup run and rightfully so, they aren’t likely to win it and the money they’ll get from going up will be enormous.

Big teams have to rotate at least because of how much are on their plate but even smaller Premier League teams do as they want to stay away from relegation. It’s always difficult to balance it correctly, the likes of West Ham have probably shown it the best, but the very top clubs have to make sure they make the Champions League and that means there tends to be an impact.

So how do you change things? A stipulation on having a certain amount of “first-team” players is absurd. It’s slightly insulting to those who do start, a club would simply promote them if they didn’t meet the criteria and it will promote teams keeping a large squad together.

A Champions League place is an interesting thought but too much of a risk to the co-efficent. The fact that it could have been won by Wigan a few years ago shows you how it could drastically harm the English league and no other country does it.

In the end, something needs to give. Manuel Pellegrini’s side was clearly a message to say that something needs to be done. It has a little bit of dust on it but with a few little shakes of a duster, it could become as good as new.

Tagged , , , ,

What do Manchester City’s rivals do to react to Pep Guardiola’s arrival?

Now that Pep Guardiola’s arrival at Manchester City has been announced, what do his opponents have to do to match his clout? How do they deny the Spaniard from gaining glory in his first season? Here’s a look at their main competition (yes, for the time being, I’m excluding Leicester City) and what they need to improve.

Manchester United

Will it be Van Gaal? Or Giggs? Or even Mourinho?   Source: The Guardian

Will it be Van Gaal? Or Giggs? Or even Mourinho? Source: The Guardian

Old Trafford will have eyes on them all summer as they could go in a number of directions but the best advice is to go one way as soon as possible and back them to the hills.

If Louis van Gaal remains, which is the most unlikely outcome it seems, allow him to complete the process and build a very strong team for next year. If it’s Jose Mourinho, give him the funds to make the moves needed and allow him to have some control as to not restrict him completely and hinder any positives he could make.

Should Ryan Giggs be promoted, which should be their manner of thinking, give him the keys. Allow him to express his tactical ideals, allow his passion for the club to come out in every game and watch the squad quickly rally around him. From then, improve the youth set-up again to match City’s and while it’s a risk, if Giggs performs well, it could set up a great city rivalry for years to come.

Chelsea

Hiddink will likely not stay, his successor is a vital decision.  Source: Sky Sports

Hiddink will likely not stay, his successor is a vital decision. Source: Sky Sports

It is vital for Chelsea to find the right man to succeed Jose Mourinho, back him to make the right moves and get them back on track.

Whether that be Guus Hiddink, someone like Antonio Conte or a Diego Simeone, they need to make sure he has enough clout to get this team back to where it should be. Some will need to be moved on, there will be a need for another defender as well as potentially a centre midfielder and even an extra attacker.

Get him in place early so he can plan out, which is a worry if Conte is the choice as he has Euro 2016 to deal with. Bring through some of their interesting youth talent, get the squad playing football again and get back to challenging for Champions League football at a very minimum. They have the financial ability to compete with City, they just need to bring through their own players to get a little ahead.

Arsenal

Wenger will need to spend a little and make up a lot.  Source: UEFA

Wenger will need to spend a little and make up a lot. Source: UEFA

This one is maybe the toughest to judge but with a few key players, they should be able to challenge Guardiola’s City.

Wenger can’t sit down on this one and not buy an outfield player again. They desperately need a quality defensive midfielder with the ability to begin attacks, someone like William Carvalho would be ideal but there are a few more out there.

Buy a more reliable partner next to Laurent Koscielny as well as an extra young forward behind Olivier Giroud and they should contend again. He then simply needs to keep them running all season long, fix some injury issues and make sure they can stay the course. They have more in place than anyone, therefore they should be the one’s able to compete on the pitch the quickest.

Liverpool

Klopp needs to geggenpress the club into backing him and him alone.  Source: The Telegraph

Klopp needs to geggenpress the club into backing him and him alone. Source: The Telegraph

The Anfield club need to back Jurgen Klopp all the way in the summer to make the squad fully competitive next season.

It has been pretty clear since the German’s arrival that the squad does not have enough quality or depth to really challenge on a number of fronts. A cup victory will give them European football but should they miss out at all, it could give them another false image of a squad just about good enough to cope.

Back his ideas, allow him and only him to clear the squad while bringing in what he needs to make Liverpool at least challenge for the top four again. From there, if he has a nice solid base, he could certainly challenge for the Premier League and be a real threat to Guardiola’s Manchester City, we could be in for some exciting encounters between the two again. Don’t expect too much too soon, Klopp needs the time to turn the ship around.

Tottenham Hotspur

Spurs, hold on to this man. Tightly.  Source: ibtimes.com

Spurs, hold on to this man. Tightly. Source: ibtimes.com

The memo for Tottenham should be hold on to everything you have as the vultures will begin to circle in the summer.

There is no doubt that they have a quality manager, who looks likely to stay unless a Spanish giant has a vacancy, a good first-team squad that actually has a surprising amount of depth. They have some very good young, English players mixed with some solid foreign exports with Premier League experience, which is invaluable.

Unfortunately for them, that means that other clubs will be looking, especially with the home grown quota in mind. The likes of Dele Alli, Harry Kane and Eric Dier are not only quality players but big commodities that those struggling to meet them on their own will pay a tidy price for them. Keep them if they can, or at least get plenty for them, but regardless of that, keep searching and growing until they don’t struggle to hold onto that calibre of player, because they can compete.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Adebayor signing personifies 2016 January window

Adebayor was a symptom of the window, he was simply the easiest person to do business this January.  Source: Sky Sports

Adebayor was a symptom of the window, he was simply the easiest person to do business this January. Source: Sky Sports

Last night, Crystal Palace announced the signing of former Arsenal, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur striker Emmanuel Adebayor until the end of the season. The move raised a few eyebrows, the Togolese international known for his fleeting successes and tendency to peter out, but this deal is the epitome of the winter window this season.

No one wants to play ball.

It’s highlighted by some of the moves this summer, with some only really coming to fruition because they had to. Charlie Austin joined Southampton for £4m because he had just six months to run on his contract QPR, the same reason Leeds United allowed Sam Byram to join West Ham United.

With so much pressure on teams to stay in the division, they are trying their best to find deals but finding anyone domestically has been a real drag.

Austin was a great signing but forced by his contract situation.  Source: The Express

Austin was a great signing but forced by his contract situation. Source: The Express

Players like Loic Remy, desperate to play some first-team football ahead of Euro 2016 has been forced to stay at Chelsea. That may change for him now it looks like Alexandre Pato is joining the club on loan, but that leaves clubs just a few days to fight for his signature.

Clubs like Sunderland and Aston Villa are wandering aimlessly in their search for reinforcements but can’t find what they need. Other teams won’t sell them the quality they need as most still need it themselves, anyone who they can get then either is hesitent about joining a relegation side on a permanent basis or simply not a step-up to what they’ve already got.

Even those surplus to requirements have simply been bumped up in price. Jonjo Shelvey and Andros Townsend have both joined Newcastle United and while they do have quality, they were deemed as not needed by other clubs yet still cost £12m each.

Those astronomical prices and the unwillingness to sell has teams looking abroad, where they can be more likely to allow players to leave. But even then, some drive a hard bargain and the likelyhood that any should meet the expectation to make an immediate impact for those clubs in need is a little farfetched to say the least.

Shelvey was a solid signing, but £12m still seems a lpt.  Source: The Guardian

Shelvey was a solid signing, but £12m still seems a lpt. Source: The Guardian

All that leads to why the Adebayor deal makes sense. He’s a free agent, you don’t need to negotiate with any club and the only thing that stalled a deal was to get Spurs to pay a percentage of what they still owe him to see it through.

Seeing as the Palace strikeforce has scored just once all season, it shouldn’t be too hard for him to be at least a minor success. He’ll be gone at the end of the season, unless he really impresses and brings his wage demands down, and Alan Pardew will look to reinforce with a better option in the much less restrictive summer window.

There have been calls in the past to end this window because of what it can do to smaller clubs. What has been evident this time around is that it’s affected everyone, dominoes have failed to fall and therefore clubs have been stuck in a rut with nowhere to go.

Again, especially in the Premier League, this may change when the new money comes in next year and teams just spend willy-nilly. However, should this happen again next season, it could actually be the beginning of the end for the January winter window.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

When is the perfect time to sack a manager?

Benitez never had his feet under the desk.  Source: Bleacher Report

Benitez never had his feet under the desk. Source: Bleacher Report

With the sacking of Rafa Benitez yesterday, it seems like there is no better time to look at when it is the right time to dismiss a manager of a football club.

For starters, it should be a difficult decision not done on a whim. Several disappointing results can sting but things can change dramatically in two months’ time and snap decisions have more often than not had pretty dire consequences.

At the same time, when problems arise that may not be fixable, you cannot fear pulling the trigger when change is needed. Even if it’s not seen on the outside or there is an opportunity to get someone better, clubs shouldn’t fear in making a short-term negative decision for a long-term gain.

In the case of Benitez at Real Madrid, it seemed like a marriage doomed to fail from the start. Taking over from a hugely popular coach in Carlo Ancelotti and seen as a poor choice by the fans, the former Liverpool boss was always walking on a tightrope from the minute he walked through the door.

He didn’t seem to have full control of the team, his style clashed with the players at his disposal and people called for his head at the first sign of trouble. Now, with no more options available, Zinedine Zidane takes control much sooner than expected and is thrown right into the deep end.

Van Gaal is on thin ice but if he turns things around, other clubs should take notice.  Source: The Telegraph

Van Gaal is on thin ice but if he turns things around, other clubs should take notice. Source: The Telegraph

Timing a firing can be so difficult, when the pressure to get results is high but the space to bring in new ideas that can work so limited. Without a break like the rest of Europe, where it seems like a logical time to change things, managers have to simplify things before gradually adding their own spin, which takes too much time.

Take a look at Chelsea sacking Jose Mourinho, who had clearly lost the effort of his team and could not find a way to fix things but was then sacked just before the hectic Christmas period. Whether it was right or wrong, Guus Hiddink had little time to fix things and only now does it seem like they are clicking into gear under the Dutchman.

The one to watch will be the rest of Louis van Gaal’s reign at Manchester United, when many other managers would have been dismissed immediately after a fourth loss and a dismal display against Norwich City on Boxing Day.

They may have picked up a few points since then and could be back on the up, if he recovers and creates any kind of success this season or even possibly next season, it may show that sticking by someone might be the best option.

Short-sightedness tends to come with those at the bottom, as we have seen with constant Sunderland managers over the past few years but without a plan in place, teams sink. Newcastle almost fell after not having a plan after Alan Pardew and Norwich took too long to swing the axe on Chris Hughton a few years ago, giving the job to a man who brought them down and was sacked six months later.

Sherwood is prime example of a team rushing a decision without a plan.  Source: The Telegraph

Sherwood is prime example of a team rushing a decision without a plan. Source: The Telegraph

Another example of that poor forward-thinking was the hiring of Tim Sherwood, an unproven manager that ended up saving Aston Villa on the virtue that other teams were worse. He then had a pretty poor summer, the team was not tactically prepared and now Remi Garde is running around in January to fix all the problems he created.

Some sackings felt needless, such as when Mauricio Pochettino took over at Southampton or when Quique Sanchez Flores became the Watford manager, but both have shown why that decision was made. They both had plans, they have a tactical nous that brings the team an identity they can follow and in the long run, both have worked very well.

In the end, long-term ideals need to take much more of a prominent standpoint over possible short-sighted advantages. Bringing someone in to save the club does not mean that same man can take you forward, therefore the thinking has to be that he can deliver for many years rather than for just this season, as it usually leaves a club in a mess.

There may never be the “right” time to sack a manager. The off-season would be much easier, much like in other sports, but with the risk of relegation or not succeeding so high, owners feel compelled to do something as soon as they spot a problem.

What needs to happen is for them to get it right in the first place, a man who will add structure to the entire organisation and build rather than a fire-fighter because, in the long run, that short-term thinking always lands clubs in trouble.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

A look at Pep Guadriola’s Premier League options

Pep Guardiola, a wanted man.  Source: The Sun

Pep Guardiola, a wanted man. Source: The Sun

On Sunday, Bayern Munich manager Pep Guardiola revealed that he will be leaving Bayern Munich at the end of his contract, which also happens to be the end of the season. There has been numerous links to the Premier League in the past and with it looking increasingly likely that he is about to move, here’s a look into some of his future options.

Chelsea

1ca56254e76a51084906b0da65521853-e1450535280818

Chelsea could certainly be a real option of Pep, to follow in his rival’s footsteps. Souce: NBC Sport

Starting with the only team that currently has a managerial vacancy, Chelsea would look like the ideal opportunity for Guardiola.

The positives are that it’s a club who have won recently, they have plenty of interesting youth players that he may want to intergrate in to his style and they already have a few of his former players in their ranks. The likes of Cesc Fabregas and Pedro will certainly be pulling him towards London

Their style will not have to change too much and with players like Oscar at the club, it should be relatively simple to implement his ideas. Getting the best out of the likes of Eden Hazard should not be a tricky task, getting the best again out of Diego Costa in his system may be another challenge entirely.

The worry for him might be the perceived ‘player power’ at Chelsea and that despite his incredible tactical nous, his training methods of getting everything out of players could wear thin on some. If it brings plenty of success, then they will be quietened quickly and the hope will be there that he has plenty of allies in that dressing room already.

Although, even that did not save Jose Mourinho. And be prepared for more anger at the medical staff if he hits any injury curses like he has at Bayern.

 

Manchester City

A deal to manage City may already have been agreed.  Source: zeenews.india.com

A deal to manage City may already have been agreed. Source: zeenews.india.com

Manchester City are the club that has the Spaniard has been linked with the most and for good reason, the Citizens clearly see him as their final cornerstone in making them win it all in Europe.

The club have made sure they have laid out their best plans, with a revolutionary youth setup ready to go and former Barcelona man Txiki Begiristain in there as director of football. Pep would be their centre-piece, where they would finally get the recognition in Europe they feel they deserve.

Implementing his ideas should not be too different either, with so many interesting attacking players that suit how he wants to play. His issue will be shoring up the defence, something that he hasn’t nessasarily had to do before but shouldn’t be put beyond him.

The main issue is there is already a man there but also whether it’s the right fit for him. It certainly looks like it should and everything is in place, with the potential to make yourself a legend of a ever-growing club, but he has so far taken control of teams with a history of longevity.

City have the added factor of they already have a decent manager, who can still win a few things this season. If he manages the league, gets far in the Champions League and possibly wins a domestic trophy, it will be harsh to kick Manuel Pellegrini to the curb.

However, with reports that he has already signed a deal and combine that with Bayern Munich chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge stating he already knows his next move, this looks like his most likely destination.

 

Manchester United

Manchester United would be the hardest job for Guardiola, with assembly needed.  Source: The Standard

Manchester United would be the hardest job for Guardiola, with assembly needed. Source: The Standard

A relatively attractive post for any manager in the world, would Guardiola want to oversee a still growing team?

The pluses is he will add to what Louis van Gaal started in a possession and defensive standpoint. Adding his high-pressing and work rate to that should help lift what is still a talented United squad to the next level, along with plenty of young players he can mould.

This would also be reportedly the job he ideally wants, the challenge of being the first to really succeed after Sir Alex Ferguson and even following a high profile manager in Van Gaal. Again, that’s just reported so take with a huge grain of salt and he’s certain to be proud of managing any of the clubs mentioned.

The issue will arise from the fact that this would be the first club he is rebuilding a little rather than advancing or continuing recent success. That’s not to say United are particularly poor squad or that none of their players have won things in the past, it’s more that this may require a little more time than the others to improve.

The other is from the fact that Van Gaal is still there and could likely still be there in the summer. It could even be the case that he’s immediately replaced by Jose Mourinho but given that Pep has already come out to say he is leaving Bayern, United’s movements in the next few weeks should suggest their likelihood in getting him in.

 

Arsenal

Arsenal would be an unlikely yet very intriguing move.  Source: IB Times

Arsenal would be an unlikely yet very intriguing move. Source: IB Times

The most unlikely candidates but potentially the most intriguing, it’s not hard to imagine Pep being incredibly interested in the manager’s job at the Emirates if it became available.

They absolutely fit his style, probably better than any of the other clubs. They have an emphasis on possession, they have some quick, creative players that work well in the final third and that he can get to press the ball.

It’s another that he’s reportedly very interested in, being the successor to a great manager and it’s another club with recent successes (although only in the FA Cup) that he likes to build on as well as an established history within the English game.

The obvious and major issue is that it’s highly unlikely that Arsene Wenger will leave or retire this season. He’s a superb manager that could win a few things this year again and the tiny hope might be that he wants to go out on top should he win the title.

He would also need to find a more suitable defensive midfielder, as he has with Sergio Busquets and Xabi Alonso/Philip Lahm in the past. He needs someone to hold and to play neatly, along with the potential to split the defence and he won’t even get that from Francis Coquelin, despite his recent quality displays.

 

Overall, Pep is a great manager that will likely improve anyone he goes to. He speaks great English, so communication will not be an issue and he’s likely to bring entertaining football once he gets to grips with things.

My advice to any fans of a club that get him is trust him. He may slightly infuriate, like playing the best full-back in the world in central midfield (even if it works), but he brings a balance and a style that can be altered to create continued success if and once he leaves.

Tagged , , , ,

The striking position changed because of wingers, not Drogba

Bellamy made a good point, but the stats here back up the argument that advanced wingers made more of an impact on the frontman.  Source: The Mirror

Bellamy made a good point, but the stats here back up the argument that advanced wingers made more of an impact on the frontman. Source: The Mirror

On Monday Night Football, guest analyst Craig Bellamy correctly pointed out about how Didier Drogba had changed the striker’s position forever.

Everyone tends to play the one up top now, he will tend to be a combination of height, strength and power with a hopeful bonus of speed that crops up in some of the younger players. It works for some teams, it has shifted the quicker players out wide and has dynamically changed how teams play.

However, I would like to argue the point that teams are moving forwards with this model and the 4-3-3/4-2-3-1 style because of the changes in how wide men play, rather than how the front man has morphed into a physical behemoth.

Let us start where they did on Monday night, back in the 2004-05 season when Drogba first came to Stamford Bridge. In that season, he scored 10 goals in 26 league appearances with eight coming off the bench as he split time with Eidur Gudjohnsen, who got 12 in 37.

They are by no means measly goal totals, especially for his first season in English football, but once you start seeing where the other goals came from, the picture becomes a little more clear.

Players like Robben, who drift inside rather than run down the wing, have really changed the game.  Source: goal.com

Players like Robben, who drift inside rather than run down the wing, have really changed the game. Source: goal.com

Frank Lampard led all goalscorers with 13 goals. Some may think that because he’s a midfielder that it doesn’t show how wingers influenced the games but taking out some of his individual finishes, the “classic” Lampard goal comes from a cutback as he ghosts into the edge of the box.

A type of ball, usually, played by a wide man getting to the byline and creating the chance.

In that record title-winning season, they essentially rotated three wingers when they were fit, Arjen Robben, Joe Cole and Damien Duff. They scored seven, eight and six goal respectively, very healthy totals from wingers that were a little different from what we were accustomed to in a 4-4-2.

They enjoyed cutting inside a little more, they enjoyed creating the space in behind from advanced positions rather than taking players on (although they certainly did that too). That was the original role of the second forward but with players doing it on either wing as they were given less defensive responsibility that they would have had in the former in-vogue formation.

The main striker had to be morphed into a target man, much like they discussed on Monday Night Football, to accomodate those buzzing around him in those areas. However, it was still those quick wingers that changed that, Drogba was just the ideal forward man that could perform that role and score goals.

The growth of the defensive midfielder has also helped mould that. A central player willing to stay deep and distribute to those around him that are better in advanced areas allowed wingers to be covered when they ventured forward, sometimes with a box-to-box midfielder who would do all the running or even a second DM in a 4-2-3-1.

These three in particular, who are rather prolific, shows how the forward does not need to be a target man and how wingers as almost extra strikers has changed the game.  Source: itv.com

These three in particular, who are rather prolific, shows how the forward does not need to be a target man and how wingers as almost extra strikers has changed the game. Source: itv.com

It also opened the role of the advanced playmaker, adapted to the number 10 role for some teams, who would get you those vast amount of goals that the second, quicker striker used to pick up.  Lampard scored 20 goals in the 2005-06 season as Chelsea won the title again, with Drogba only beginning to pick up steam as their top scorer the season they finished second.

That’s not to say Drogba didn’t change things with his incredible play but pacey strikers still have a role. Look at the successes of Sergio Aguero, Luis Suarez and Antoine Griezmann, who do have a decent amount of strength for their size, but also have advanced wingers that support them much like bigger forwards do.

This is never to say that 4-4-2 is dead, it’s not too long ago when it was used regularly by Sir Alex Ferguson when he could and there are always reasons to experiment with what works best with the players at your disposal.

In fact, the 4-3-3’s we see are always adapted from that 4-4-2, shifting some of the faster forwards out wide and giving a playmaker more freedom by adding a shield.

That quicker striker no longer has to face that strong, powerful defender that can occasionally bully him in matches, he gets to face the also pacey full-back but he can cut inside and use the runs in behind. That’s where it has significantly changed, as wingers are much more advanced and look to be played in behind.

Tagged , , , , , , , ,