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!

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