Some strategic advice for Antonio Conte
Dear Mr Conte,
I may be just a humble Chelsea fan who spends more time strategizing about Chelsea formations than is healthy for a man of my age, but I think, if you value your job, you might want to take 5 minutes from your busy day to take a quick read of this article. You see, I’m not a lone voice shouting some kind of insanity. What I am about to tell you is what the majority of Chelsea Fans are feeling right now.
First, here are some observations:
- Matic was bought by the club to be a solid shield in front of our defence. Go watch his highlights reel. Every frame is him intercepting the ball — this is the man described as a Monster by Mourinho. He’s a defensive midfielder.
- Hazard has often spoken of his desire to play centrally. In-fact, against Bayern Munich in the super-cup, he tore through their defense time and time again in that role. He loves to run at defenders and open up space.
- Our defense is still shaky. You then buy Luiz and claim you will play him as a defender. I like the first part of that sentence but not the last.
If you are noticing a theme here, then you have correctly spotted what I and every other Chelsea fan has noticed. Our team lacks Positional Balance. This is enough of a problem on its own, but then let’s add some additional insights:
- You make changes far too late into the game. Bringing on players with 10 minutes remaining is not enough if you are trying to claw back from a losing position into a winning one.
- Fabregas cannot defend to save his life. Yet he is by far the most brilliant visionary you have when it comes to unlocking defenses and has already saved us once as a late sub.
So, now we know that players are not being played in position, let’s talk about some specifics on solving this problem.
We have a pretty awesome and tall defender named Ivanovic who actually prefers to play in central defense. He marshaled our defense brilliantly, alongside the young Tomas Kalas, against a Liverpool team with Gerrard, Suarez, Sterling and Sturrige. He has been utilized on the wing by other managers, but he is slowing down now and had a clunker of a season out at right-back last year. Imagine what would happen if you replaced Cahill, who has been all over the place lately, with him? Who fills the right back? Oh, some more good news. We actually have a natural right back who has been forced out of position due to Ivanovic’s form in recent years. Azpilicueta! Stick him on right back, in his natural position, and suddenly you have just moved two players into positions where they are going to be even better. And now you have left-back free. Well guess what? You just purchased a player with very good stats who can play on the left. Marcos Alonso. Wow. All of this fit together like a perfect puzzle, didn’t it!?
Okay — let’s just be honest about Matic. His form has slumped and I highly doubt you and Mourinho were telling him “Get up the pitch, son!” The guy has a job and he is not doing it. He seems to fancy himself as an attacking midfielder, which he is not. If we’re going to have a midfielder that breaks up attacks alongside Kante and can actually be creative and dangerous moving forwards then the good news is we just bought one: David Luiz. His best moments were when Benitez and Mourinho employed him in front of the back four and he was fucking incredible. The best part of that role is that we then don’t need to worry about his “playstation” defending, even though on his day he’s solid as a rock — it’s just a case of how often he has a good day. And once again, everyone is saying this!
As for Hazard, he’s devastating centrally and his motivation is to play there. Pedro or Moses would be far better on the left with good old Willian on the right, who is always consistently dependable.
So what to do with Fabregas? My opinion is that he would work in a midfield 3. If we switch to a 4–3–3 or the 4–3–2–1 “Christmas Tree”, I can see Kante and Luiz compensating for Fabregas’ weaknesses defending. But having him on the pitch would give us the levels of creativity we truly need against the stingier defenses. Of course, you could always bring him on around the 60th minute if we are trailing. But no more of these substitutions at the 11th hour. Roman will start to get sick and tired of that, believe me.
So below, please see two teams with some real positional balance that I feel may help you keep your job longer. The last thing any of us want to see is another Chelsea manager lose their job so quickly. Best of luck.