How Chelsea Signing Raul Meireles Changes Andre Villas-Boas' Starting 11

Allan JiangTransfers CorrespondentSeptember 2, 2011

How Chelsea Signing Raul Meireles Changes Andre Villas-Boas' Starting 11

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    Talk about coming out of left field: On transfer deadline day, Chelsea pulled off the shock signing of Raul Meireles for £12 million.

    He's not exactly what fans wanted, but I'd take it.

    Keeping in mind André Villas-Boas' preference to give his Portuguese compatriots a chance like José Bosingwa at right-back and Hilário pipping Ross Turnbull between the posts, it's fair to assume someone of Meireles' quality will get an extended run in the first 11. 

    Let's look how Meireles changes Villas-Boas' starting 11.

Starting 11 vs Norwich City

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    Coming into Chelsea, André Villas-Boas had used a conventional 4-3-3 formation in 93 percent of his games. 

    Yet in our first three games, he's yet to use a 4-3-3. 

    He used a 4-1-2-3 against Stoke City and West Bromwich Albion, and a 4-4-2 diamond against Norwich City.

    Against Norwich City, our midfield looked stagnant, it lacked ideas, it lacked creativity, it lacked incisive passing. And you wonder why Fernando Torres can't score a goal.

    Though this all changed with the introduction of Juan Mata. 

    In 34 minutes, he made 27 successful passes and delivered a beautiful cross to Torres.

    Whereas in 68 minutes, Florent Malouda made 32 successful passes and also gave away possession 12 times.  

    So where will Mata and Raul Meireles fit in?

4-4-2 Diamond

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    Let's assume André Villas-Boas persists with a 4-4-2 diamond, which I'm not sure why he would given how Chelsea barely escaped out of jail against Norwich City. 

    The talking point with this lineup would be the exclusion of John Obi Mikel. 

    For a 4-4-2 diamond to work, it has to have a deep-lying midfielder who can set off attacks with crisp and preferably accurate passing. 

    Mikel is a better passer than Ramires, who is at his best as a box-to-box midfielder. So playing Ramires in the pivot is redundant.

    But how can you drop Ramires when he has been in such good form?

    No Romelu Lukaku? Such a good prospect, but if I was to predict a lineup, I'd say Nicolas Anelka, who looked quite sharp for us, would be given seniority.

    Raul Meireles would be quite at home playing in this formation. He can bomb forward, he can enforce his high-tempo game on opposing midfielders and a potentially link up with José Bosingwa could be lethal. 


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    In this instance, André Villas-Boas is reverting back to the 4-1-2-3; remember that he used this formation against Stoke City and West Bromwich Albion.

    This is a very realistic formation because it's not too top heavy, with John Obi Mikel adding balance. 

    Surely we need Ramires in the lineup. He and Raul Meireles would be such a dynamic duo. 

    Though for this formation to retain balance, Frank Lampard would have to sit in the middle and distribute. We all know the Lampard we want to see is the one scoring 20-plus goals a season.

    Another worry is Fernando Torres being bullied by the centre-back. 

    Forget about crossing the ball to him, because he hasn't scored a headed goal in the Premier League since March 2010 against Manchester United.

    Torres needs the ball at his feet, so unless Juan Mata waltzes his way past the entire opposing defence, Torres being isolated and not scoring goals will again be a problem.


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    This is a standard 4-1-3-2, but in reality with Juan Mata playing a withdrawn role, the formation is actually a 4-1-3-1-1. 

    But Mata played most of his career as a left-sided midfielder at Valencia.

    Are you saying that a Spanish footballer can't adjust, can't play in other positions and can only play in a set rigid formation?

    I watched him play as a forward in a 4-3-3 for Spain during the UEFA Under-21 Championship, and he interchanged positions with the likes of Thiago Alcântara and Iker Muniain with such efficiency. 

    Here, Chelsea would play Mata behind Fernando Torres simply to help Torres score some goals.

    Mata is Chelsea's most creative player. The object here is to get him as close to goal as possible.


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    André Villas-Boas has never played a 4-3-2-1, but this was Carlo Ancelotti's bread and butter. 

    But Ancelotti didn't have Juan Mata, which could have saved his job.

    Our wing-backs in Ashley Cole and José Bosingwa provide the width, John Obi Mikel sweeps up in midfield, and our engine room is dependent on the work ethic of Raul Meireles and Ramires. 

    Frank Lampard will score goals with Mata providing it, and hopefully this enables Fernando Torres to score freely.

My Way

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    André Villas-Boas made it by playing a 4-3-3, why is he changing it? 

    What happened to the fluid, free-flowing and entertaining football at Porto? 

    Do away with the holding midfielder, have David Luiz step up into midfield and create. 

    Let's play Branislav Ivanović at right-back, because he's been so out of shape at centre-back, plus he's more solid and dependable than José Bosingwa. 

    Frank Lampard could be bombing forward.

    We have Daniel Sturridge cutting in to shoot and Juan Mata being the Spanish magician he is. 

    We actually have a centre-forward who can bully centre-backs and influence the game rather than be a liability. He'll also be a legitimate aerial threat.

    Raul Meireles and Ramires have to play together because it will be their up-tempo box-to-box running that makes this formation work. 

Your Opinion

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    How did I create the formations?

    What would your formation and starting 11 be? 

    Would Raul Meireles even feature in your starting 11? 

    Please also read Transfer Deadline Day: Grading the Major Premier League Signings and Loans.