Thank goodness that season has finally started, it is great to watch here in the United States on ESPN with NFL quality recording.
On to the Blues vs. Tigers which led the way for ESPN's new contract with the EPL.
Again, Chelsea falls behind rather quickly only to not only comeback, but to dominate the second half with multiple corners and on target shots. However, one must ask why Chelsea fell behind at home to a side that barely held off relegation with a side that is supposed to win the Premiership this season.
The question before us is whether or not Ancelotti's formation is suited for the rigors of the Premiership.
I am not saying that Italy is not full of great players and athletes, but the environment they play in is simply different from England. When I say environment, I mean the physical environment.
I believe that it was Don Fabio who said he could not believe how English players practice considering the amount of wind that is constantly buffeting the country. It is hard to work on technical factors because of these environs. Multiply this to the entire professional football environment and you can see the differences on how play has developed.
One need look no farther than teams in the Northern United States that play outdoors as opposed to fair climate areas and indoor teams in American football. These teams must run the ball more and depend on power instead of throwing it where the environment takes control of the ball.
Likewise, the fairer Italian environment breeds a style that can be slower and more deliberate with more technical passing. In England, some of these qualities are replaced with speed and physicality, leading to the "pinball pace" and exciting games that has made the EPL so popular worldwide.
Ancelotti's diamond is built on side midfielders that fight like brawlers for possession, (something that is not uncommon in the EPL), defenses that butcher possession (also another trait of the EPL), and essentially two playmakers, one on each end of the diamond.
And there lies in the problem, imaginative playmakers are rare in the Premiership, pinpoint passing is significantly harder when the Earth itself is fighting against you. Little mistakes are ruthlessly exploited with speed that is very different from other leagues.
With the departure of Xabi Alonso, how many truly creative forces are there left in the EPL? Cesc? Gerrard? Deco?
Ancelotti's diamond is not a flawed tactical system so much as a system that is handicapped by a league that prefers counter attacks and isolations.
The fact that the team performed markedly better when Ballack and Deco came on is a sign of what the diamond requires: creative passing to cover distance instead of faster pace and side midfielders that are willing to battle instead of isolate on the wings.
While Mikel and Malouda are perfect for the 4-3-3, Ballack and Deco are perfect for the diamond. Both are technically gifted and sure tacklers that are now willing to play their roles.
Malouda is a good attacker, but his defensive skills are negligible for the level of Chelsea.
Mikel is a very good defensive midfielder, and maybe even a decent holding midfielder, but he is not yet the deep-lying playmaker that Ancelotti needs.
Ballack can be an enforcer, but is creative and a good passer of the ball so he can play the "Pirlo role" if necessary.
The more interesting development however is the great Chelsea play as soon as Deco came onto the field.
A year ago he proved he could be great with Chelsea until injury and weather took its toll. However, if his form manages to hold up, him playing at the back as he did in the pre-season will make Chelsea a very, very scary side to play.
The final player to look at in this adjustment is Frank "SuperGoals" Lampard.
While not a born playmaker, his passing was still very good and always a threat by the goal.
If this diamond plays the way it did in the second half, Chelsea is undoubtedly the team to beat. That is a big if though, an if as big as to whether or not England's environment is too rough for the an Italian diamond.
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