Carlo Ancelotti was heard, in the aftermath of Chelsea’s deconstruction of Sunderland’s defensee, saying that “this is how we are going to play for the rest of the season."
Now, the big question is was he referring to a more attacking mindset, or the 4-3-3 system used on Saturday in the absence of Didier Drogba.
The much publicized diamond midfield has its critics, and the Blues’ performances in December gave those critics plenty of ammunition. Everything in the middle of the park was too crowded and teams found it easy to shut us down if they marked our fullbacks out of the game.
Admittedly Sunderland was poor at the weekend but the presence of wide players Joe Cole and Florent Malouda in the final third of the pitch allowed Ashley Cole to shine the way he did; his overlap for Lampard’s first goal is a perfect example of this.
Now Ancelotti will be looking to push on in the title race, especially since his side has let several chances to pull away slip through their fingers given the recent erratic form of Manchester United.
It now looks as if Arsenal will become Chelsea’s biggest threat, and with the Gunners due to play the Blues, United and Liverpool in their next six games, now would be the perfect time for the league leaders to go on another winning run, and ditching the diamond might be the way to kick-start such a thing.
There’s no doubt Ancelotti brought the diamond to Chelsea with the Champions League in mind and the Italian knows full well that European ties are settled in the centre of midfield where things get tight.
Jose Mourinho tried something similar in his third season at the Bridge when he realised winning the Premier League wouldn’t satisfy Roman Abramovich’s thirst for continental dominance.
It affected the side domestically and Mourinho had to settle for the Carling and FA Cups as United got their hands back on the league title.
Ancelotti will be weary of making such a mistake given that victory in the domestic cups won’t wash with the board; it’s the title and the Champions League, or nowhere.
There’s no doubt that Chelsea are potent when they play the diamond, particularly when Michael Essien is the holding player, but this does neutralise the threat of the Ghanaian, who is the powerhouse of the side, and on his day is one of the best players on the planet.
John Obi Mikel is not good enough to fill this role, his passing isn’t precise enough, and he lacks the pace to keep moves going.
Chelsea fans may look upon the "Makelele role" with a fair amount of nostalgia, but The Blues have evolved since then, and this position is no longer a secret. Every club in the land has tried it, and most now know how to nullify it.
With us heading for the business end of the season, Ancelotti will want his side at its most potent and eliminating potential weaknesses is an obvious step to take.
The diamond without Essien leaves Chelsea looking not only narrow, but lacking strength in the middle of the park, something we’ve prided ourselves on in recent years. 4-3-3 is more fluid and has made Chelsea one of the best teams around in the last 5 years.
The only other issue will be the use of the two frontline strikers, Drogba and Anelka, when the Ivorian returns from the African Cup of Nations.
Anelka looked out of sorts when deployed on the left wing under Avram Grant, so Ancelotti will have to find a way of keeping the great duo together up top.
There’s no doubt that come April and May Chelsea will be contesting the big prizes, the only question is how will they be set up to play, and crucially can they capture one of the major trophies?
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