Chelsea FC: Their Ideal Formation Would Be 4-3-2-1
What has been a strength for Chelsea in previous years—its stellar defense—has slowly turned into a liability in West London over this past season.
And anyone watching the Blues closely knows it’s certainly not the fault of goalkeeper Petr Cech.
Defenders Ashley Cole and John Terry have been fighting injuries this season and David Luiz, whose temperament sometimes gets the best of him, is often caught out of position due to his tendency to rush up the field to be a part of the offense. Newbie Gary Cahill just hasn’t had enough playing time yet, and should soon get into the flow of things at Stamford Bridge.
What should they do to try to shore up the Blues defense? Employ a 4-3-2-1 formation that returns the team to the defensive prowess that served Chelsea so well in recent years.
Here’s the best starting 11 to go with heading forward as the team fights to try to stay alive in its current UEFA Champions League matchup with Napoli later today and in the future as it fights for UEFA qualification next season down the stretch in the English Premier League against Tottenham and Arsenal.
A no-brainer here. Probably the most consistent player on the squad, Petr Cech is almost always spot on. The 29-year-old was named Cech the Player of the Year for a record-tying fifth time on Feb. 28 and is in the top 10 goalkeepers in the world. Fans from London to Las Vegas will tell you Cech isn’t part of the problem at Chelsea.
Ashley Cole was probably the Blues' best player last season, and he seldom makes the stupid mistake or is in the wrong position. The Englishman—the former husband of singer Cheryl Cole and a distant cousin of Mariah Carey—also helps the flow.
But Cole hasn’t scored a goal in two years now and needs to put a ball in the back of the net in the next couple months for his confidence.
Cech’s best friend in the box this season has undoubtedly been John Terry. At 31, he may be getting older, but the co-captain is certainly not losing his skills or determination to win. And after suffering a knee injury against Portsmouth in the FA Cup on Jan. 8, Chelsea struggled.
Now, Terry’s back, and the team should respond behind his leadership.
Brazilian David Luiz has had his bad moments and his good moments. His push on QPR’s Heidar Helguson on Oct. 23 at Loftus Road resulted in a yellow card. The subsequent Helguson penalty kick goal gave the Rangers all the scoring they would need in a 1-0 win.
His controversial near-red card on Dec. 3 vs. Newcastle showed a tendency for rough play in the box. But his brilliant goal at Bolton showed why Chelsea went out of its way to obtain him last year.
Although Luiz has talent, he is young and needs to cool his temperament and avoid storming up the field so much, leaving the back open. Veteran Gary Cahill seems like a better fit to start these days, and the way he played against Stoke City shows he’s quite capable.
In a situation where the Blues cannot afford to give up a goal, chasing a 3-1 deficit against Napoli in Leg 2 of their UEFA Champions League matchup on Tuesday, Cahill would be the safer starter.
The Serbia international has been pretty dependable and always works well with Petr Cech, Ashley Cole and John Terry in front of goal. His toughness is very necessary these days in what’s probably the strongest league top-to-bottom in all of professional sports.
If luck were on his side last weekend against Stoke City, Branislav Ivanovic could have scored two, possibly three goals.
The the toughest call but Michael Essien’s experience and reputation can’t be denied. When he’s healthy, he should start. Raul Miereles has been inconsistent and Flourent Malouda’s unhappiness at Chelsea has shown lately. But letting the Frenchman go would be a big mistake, as he can score when he’s used to the flow.
Having a talent like him on the bench, as well as Miereles, is a pretty nice problem to have. Essien’s the call here.
CENTRAL ATTACKING MIDFIELD
Chelsea is at its best when co-captain Frank Lampard is on the pitch. His rocket-hard shot, penalty kick prowess and leadership are necessary. He needs to stay at Stamford Bridge.
The 31-year-old Lampard became the only player in the history of the EPL to score 10 or more goals in nine straight seasons with his tally against Bolton. When Lamps plays, Chelsea finds a way to win.
Both Michael Essien and John Obi-Mikel’s games have dropped off a bit, so it’s been a pleasant surprise to see the Brazilian Ramires getting starts. With his blazing speed, Ramires is good for both the offense and the defense, and he should be a fixture in the team’s starting 11 for years to come.
LEFT WING: DIDIER DROGBA
The straw that stirs Chelsea’s drink, the oft-injured Drogba is still the guy who gets helps the club get wins when he starts. Instead of playing him at the front striker position, where’s been of late, the Ivory Coast international would be better served on the left flank, where he was so good two years ago.
There, he could avoid nagging injuries he often gets jumping for headers surrounded by opponents and create scoring opportunities for others. He could still score as many goals as he would in the middle.
Youngster Romelu Lukaku—a huge Drogba fan himself—is the perfect sub and protege in this position.
RIGHT WING: JUAN MATA
Probably Chelsea’s best player so far this season, Spaniard Mata can easily evolve into a 10-plus goal scorer every season and has proven to be the team’s best passer. Mata's the kind of player a team can build around.
Ivorian Salomon Kalou is unhappy with his playing time, but is a great striker to have coming in off the bench when the situation dictates.
The future offensive star for Chelsea, Englishman Daniel Sturridge would be better served up front in the middle for the Blues as he’s much younger and more durable than the now 34-year-old Drogba. It’s only a matter of time until all the world know Sturridge’s name, and he starts scoring double-digit goals annually.
Multi-million dollar bust Fernando Torres is a nice name, but his play has been abysmal. Torres has scored just five goals in his tenure in West London so giving him minimal playing time or trading him would be highly recommended.
Owner Roman Abramovich and management must bite the bullet on the Spaniard and do what’s best for the team.
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Kevin Stott has written for the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s View Newspapers and Gaming Today and is not to be confused with the soccer referee of the same name.