Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Ancelott's Diamond Midfield Under The Spotlight

Continuing on from last week's debut debate column against Chris Norman, this week on the Football Fancast website we've decided to look at the formations Chelsea can and should use this season. I picked 4-3-3 and the reasons are below:

When talking formations and Chelsea, which one has given the Blues all their success in this recent era? Which formation is so flexible that it can encourage all out attacking play, be used as a good counter-attacking system and can also be used to stifle the opposition when needed?

That's right, the 4-3-3. Now, Carlo Ancelotti might prefer the 4-4-2 diamond and admittedly it has brought him relative success both domestically and in Europe, but as far as I can recall it hasn't been used at all in the English Premier League and definitely not with any success.

Both Claudio Ranieri and Jose Mourinho (in their last and first seasons, respectively) tried it for a spell, but their teams struggled for goals with it and they returned to their own more orthodox formations very quickly.

In many ways, Ancelotti's version with the diamond in midfield and one striker tending to drift is not that different from a 4-3-3. Both use holding players and have one midfielder generally working in a more advanced role. But where the 4-3-3 relies on its wingers to both create width and track back, the 4-1-2-1-2 asks for two of the central midfielders to push out wide when needed.

To see how vulnerable this can be, re-watch Inter Milan's home 0-0 draw with Manchester United in last season's Champions League. Mourinho employed this tactic and used Javier Zanetti, Dejan Stankovic and Sulley Muntari in front of Esteban Cambiasso. Both Zanetti and Muntari were continuously dragged back and forth across the pitch by quick ball movement and United dominated as a result.

Not only did Inter fail to create much, but they were worn out by the eventual runners-up (*snigger*) use of full backs to occupy the space vacated by their opponent's overworked midfield.

With fitter and quicker players such as Yuri Zhirkov and Michael Essien there is no reason why Ancelotti cannot do better and of course he should be able to make use of the extra man up front, but a lot will rest on these two's shoulders, should they prove to be first choice.

However, one look at the current Chelsea squad and it still looks like a group of players most suited to a 4-3-3. There are three traditional wide players on the books - Malouda, Joe Cole and Zhirkov - as well as Salomon Kalou (if he counts as a football player at all!) and in Didier Drogba, a man who could not be better designed for the central striking position.

With Nicolas Anelka inked into the other striking role this means someone else must drop out and it seems like that player will be Joe Cole as Frank Lampard will take the spot at the head of the diamond. I’d prefer to see a formation that allows both to play! As good as Anelka is, I personally would rather have the industry and creativity of Cole and how do you get that? With 4-3-3.

So head on over and vote for 4-3-3. You can also find a link to Chris' piece in favour of the 4-4-2 diamond there.

I have some news to announce as well. At the end of last week I was offered a blogging position at The London Paper for a Chelsea column. I duly accepted, am meeting them on Friday and expect my first blog there to be in the week between the Community Shield game against Manchester United and the opening home Premier League game at home to Hull City.

This of course means an end to my blogging on Chelsea here, but I will regularly link to pieces for to you view and keep on writing on other sports as well. I will continue my debate column with Chris at for as long as we can manage and there's no getting me off the Chelsea Podcast either!

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

John Terry Has No Price

So over on the Football Fancast website, my good friend Chris Norman and I have decided to blog head to head on all issues Chelsea. This week, the first in the series, we cover John Terry and the "let's hope he's not going to City" debate.

My side (I lost the coin flip) was that he doesn't, he's too valuable to the club to put a price on his head and here is what I said:

One of the advantages of having an owner who ranks among the richest people in the world and who's willing to bankroll a club to trophy after trophy is that on the occasion another team comes in and bids for a player, and in this case a great player at that, there is little pressure or indeed reason, to accept.

John Terry, who lest we not forget is just as fine a central defender as he is a leader, is completely irreplaceable as Chelsea captain. Often heard complaints such as he's a bully with the turning circle of the QE II (and the speed to match) should not be listened to. He has a lack of pace, admittedly, but anticipates the game brilliantly. He knows how to defend and he's also a threat going forward.

More importantly in some respects is that he commands the dressing room at Chelsea in a way that gets the team playing well, even when the team is not playing well, so to speak. His ability to lift spirits and demonstrate by doing is something very few players have. What's more is that he is the organiser of the defence; he communicates with other players, sets how high the back four plays and arranges defensive set pieces.

Man City can come in and offer £60-80 million and although Chelsea have ready made replacements (except when it comes to homegrown players for UEFA competitions, which would become very tricky without him) at his position the club doesn't have a ready made 'heroic JT' nor does it actually need the money.

If Ricardo Carvalho ends up leaving the club, that would leave Alex and Branislav Ivanovic as the first choice partnership with only Michael Mancienne as back up. Still a good pairing, but it just doesn't look as good without Terry does it?

Furthermore, a glance at the City first team sees these names; Given, Richards, Bridge, Kompany, Barry, Ireland, Robhino, Adebayor and several other handy players. A Citizens team with Terry at the back clearly looks like a side capable of challenging the top four. The race for the title is becoming more and more of a dog-fight, even without the other half of Manchester. Do Chelsea really want another mutt at the table?

Chelsea reportedly still have a budget in the region of £40 million to spend, along with a few assets to be offloaded. With such a comprehensive squad already, who is there left to buy for £100 million anyway?

Please forgive my lack of blogging in recent weeks, head on over and vote for my clearly superior reasoning! Jokes aside, I hope you enjoy both pieces.

Ross Mooring