When a Premier League team come up against Chelsea these days it may feel like a totally different fixture than it was only four or five seasons ago.
When Jose Mourinho arrived and brought Chelsea back-to-back Premier League titles he also created a style for them, which until last season had been kept fully in tact.
This Chelsea side were as tight as any team at the back; the John Terry and Ricardo Carvalho partnership was one of the best the Premier League has ever seen.
In the middle they had strong and powerful men to choose from with the likes of Frank Lampard, Michael Essien, Michael Ballack and Claude Makelele in their ranks.
Out on the wings they had the choices between Arjen Robben, Damien Duff, Joe Cole and later, Florent Malouda. At the time all four of these men played as out and out wingers. Only drifting into the middle if they were cutting inside on a run.
Up front they’ve always had a beast of striker – whether it was Eidur Gudjohnsen, Hernan Crespo or Didier Drogba. All these men were constantly involved; they were the peaks of the team.
The wingers out beside of them had the role of providing for them and the midfielders behind them had the role of playing balls in behind the defence for them. Even Petr Cech’s role on occasion was to fire the ball up to them and get himself on the assist list.
That Chelsea side were a lot more direct in their attacks. No matter what way you looked at it, the old Chelsea – even the Chelsea that won the Champions League two years ago – was always set up to get the best out of their striker. And that was usual Drogba; and he usually didn’t disappoint either.
Those Chelsea sides of old were always known for their height, strength, and tightness at the back. Overall they were a team based on ‘power’, and no other team could overpower them.
Now when a Premier League side comes to face Chelsea at Stamford Bridge that ‘big man up front’ is probably the last of your worries.
Chelsea’s defensive ethics have never changed and won’t as long as they have John Terry in the side. The more him and Gary Cahill feature alongside each other the stronger their partnership grows.It almost feels as if Cahill is his natural successor.
It’s the midfield and forward line that’s changed the most in the past season. The acquirements of Eden Hazard and Oscar at the beginning of last season cause a headache for Roberto Di Matteo.
He now, along with Juan Mata, had three first class attacking midfielders – none of which wanted to be a winger. Rafa Benitez came in to replace Di Matteo once he was sacked, much to the dismay of Chelsea fans, but credit where credit’s due, he got these three stars working in tandem together in a system that could accommodate for their individual needs.
Now Kevin De Bruyne has arrived back from loan that’s another to add into the fold after his impressive debut against Hull. New signing Andre Schurrle is more of an out and out winger, so it won’t be too difficult to fit him in.
What we’ve noticed over the past season is that the Chelsea attacking midfield ‘three’ seem to drown out the striker, often making him appear as if he is in the way. Torres was guilty of this many times against Hull last week; he almost had to run away from them at times.
With Chelsea’s team now built around patient build up play and interchanging runs and passes from the attacking midfielders now instead of being built around getting the best from their striker, they may be interested in looking at what Barcelona do with their ‘false 9’ system.
Lionel Messi is a goalscoring machine, but he isn’t a striker. On the team-sheet they have him in the middle of the forward three, but how often do we seen him in similar positions to the likes of Oscar, Mata and Hazard. He likes to drift in from the wing and let someone else go through the middle, then switch around again.
All three Chelsea strikers Fernando Torres, Demba Ba and Romelu Lukaku have had around 60 minutes of football in Chelsea’s two openers and none of them have scored; none have even had a clear cut chance. Maybe it’s Jose Mourinho’s time to look at the way his old rivals Barcelona operate up front and give it a go at the Bridge.
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