Words by Shakhti Vel
There’s nothing you could say that would upset a Chelsea fan right now. Let’s just say that it’s a good time to be a Blue’s fan. I get what you are thinking, how are we so positive in spite of having a 2-window transfer ban? It’s because the man at the helm, Super Frank Lampard took charge of Chelsea on July 4, fulfilling the dreams of the Stamford Bridge faithful. He succeeded Maurizio Sarri who left for Turin to take charge of the Italian champions Juventus. Sarri had a love-hate relationship with the fans as some fans weren’t admirers of the possession-based ‘Sarri-ball’.
Lampard has now taken over, after having taken Derby County to 6th place in the Championship last season. Having reached the playoffs in his first-ever managerial season, he impressed fans with what he was able to achieve with a squad filled with youth prospects loaned in from various clubs. Fans were happy to see Lampard sign for the club after seeing the potential he has to conjure something with talented youngsters in the squad.
The news of him arriving has now overshadowed the negatives of losing their marquee player Eden Hazard. Now that Chelsea is serving a transfer ban this season, it is imperative that it utilizes the infamous ‘Loan Army’. Sarri having finished last season at third and winning the Europa League means that Chelsea will be playing in the Champions League too. So let’s take a look at how Chelsea could line up in the various competitions this season.
Lampard brought success to Pride Park with a solid 4-man backline, a fluid midfield, and an out and out striker. Although this formation has a semi-offensive approach, the two holding midfielders tend to slot back with the center-backs while the full-backs support the midfield up the field. The full-backs drop back when possession is lost and this sends the midfield duo to go about and win the ball back in the middle of the park. The holding midfielders, along with the offensive midfielders work as a unit. All the players involved in the middle can play in the other’s position, leaving other players to fill in any gaps left in terms of defending. This is Frank’s go-to formation and this will predominantly be the most favored formation, as it eliminates the need for wingers on the flanks.
We saw this formation frolic in the pre-season games in Japan. This was the starting formation in games against Kawasaki Frontale & Barcelona. What started out as a 4-2-3-1 on paper, quickly transitioned into a 4-1-4-1. Jorginho went back to his lone holding role, with the wingers paired with the offensive midfield. This formation showed glimpses of the possession-based football that Sarri trained them to play last year. Lampard looks to use this knowledge to his advantage by employing it as a base and increasing the number of chances created, by making a few offensive tweaks. While defending, the holding-man slots himself in between the center-backs, essentially making a 5-man defence. The choice of player to play this position will be pivotal, as they need to be defensively solid, with a vision to feed the ball into the final third.
4-4-2 (Diamond) [Ultra-attacking]
This formation was used in the second half of all preseason games. Although it looks like the primary reason for this system was to give both Abraham and Batshuayi playing time, it could evolve into a full-fledged attack-minded formation. This will be the ideal formation to go for if they find themselves 2-3 goals down at half time, and have to throw the kitchen sink in the second half. The midfield diamond is fluid, transitioning into a 3-man offensive midfield, giving the forwards an opportunity for linking up with the midfield.
Who to play?
With the 2-window transfer ban looming over their heads, coincidentally when the team is undergoing a transition, there is no possibility of reinforcements or big-name signings. Yet, the restraint could prove a blessing in disguise for those craving the cabaret of academy talent in West London. Lampard instilled faith in young players at Pride Park – Chelsea youngsters Mount and Fikayo Tomori became key members of his Rams side. Lampard now has to turn to the club’s neglected stack of youth starlets to bolster his side for European football.
Experience is imperative
They say “Old is Gold”, but that may not apply to sport – especially football. However, with age comes experience. This experience could prove vital for Chelsea as they stand to face European opposition with an Eden Hazard-shaped hole in their line-up. There is no way that a man of Lampard’s intelligence would field a team of youngsters against Real Madrid on a Wednesday night at the Bernabeu. Hence, he will look to the veterans to lead the team and help the youth transition into Champions League football carefully.
Although there are a few experts on the flanks for selection, Pulisic will definitely be a starter for Lampard on any given day. Giroud should be given the nod as he can link up with the young wingers effectively. The number 10 role is sure to give Lampard a hard time – with Barkley and Loftus-Cheek keen to start over the other. Kante at midfield is a given in any Chelsea team, with Jorginho alongside him. Kepa has the keeper spot in his hands, with Luiz and Azpilicueta looking to lead the team to European Glory.
Let’s see what the kids can do
The youth is definitely more exciting to watch. More stamina, more energy, more chances – but will this translate into successful football? The kids are generally fresh with talent and buzzing to get on to the big stage to showcase their talent, but not in this case. Every Chelsea youngster has been a part of the mighty Chelsea ‘Loan Army’. Although the club is criticized for shipping their youngsters off to other clubs to get more playing time, this is exactly what is going to help them this season. Mason Mount, Tammy Abraham, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Fikayo Tomori, Reece James, Andreas Christensen, Kurt Zouma, Callum Hudson-Odoi, ironically, are all youngsters with valuable experience that can help them bring the team home. Although there are some irreplaceable players in a few positions that are vital to the team, the offensive line can always be experimented with.
All things considered, this is a tough time for the Blues as they have to depend on the youth to a large extent while the club is in transition. The fact that Chelsea fans aren’t a patient bunch will be on the back of Lampard’s mind, and will definitely influence a few of his decisions on and off the pitch. The board have promised two full seasons for the club legend to prove his worth – not as a player but as a leader off the pitch.
El Arte Del Futbol is now an official content creator for One Football. Find more original features, Player Profiles and tactical analysis on www.elartedf.com. If you are reading this on our website, we’d like to thank you for your continuous support!