It’s a system Chelsea fans (and the rest of football) fell in love with when Jose Mourinho first appeared at Stamford Bridge. It was the backbone of three Premier League titles in five years. And yet, Chelsea have very rarely used 4-3-3 since the departure of Carlo Ancelotti.
It almost feels as though we are cheating on the system. Think about it, it’s always been good to use, we’ve been very happy with it and we’re very familiar with it – everything fits. But things change and the allure of the younger, more attractive and sexy formation of 4-2-3-1 has caught our eye.
Don’t get me wrong, I completely understand that football changes and so do the tactics and formations. If they didn’t clubs would still be playing 2-3-5! But I can’t help looking at our squad and think that it suited to 4-3-3. I’ve never been a fan of 4-2-3-1 – yes, you benefit from the added excitement of the No.10 role (especially with Mata filling it, in the past two seasons anyway!). But far too many times have we been left short in midfield when the opposition counters.
Admittedly, the plethora of attacking midfield maestros does put pressure on any manager to use 4-2-3-1 (AVB, RDM, Benitez and Mourinho all used it). But the squad is much more suited to the system that has served us so well.
Our catalogue of managers have struggled to find the right pair to fill the defensive/central midfield positions. Too many times have they looked helplessly to each other after failing to make a tackle or close down an opponent. Mikel performs much better as a single defensive midfielder, allowing the two in front to act as box-to-box men. And not for the lack of effort, Lampard and Ramires often struggle in defensive situations.
Much has been made of the fact that Mata, Hazard, Willian, Schurrle, De Bruyne and Oscar are competing for three positions. But in reality, Oscar and De Bruyne could operate (especially Oscar, based on his work rate, tracking back and tackling abilities) in deeper midfield roles.
I have long been of the opinion that Chelsea should revert to the trusted 4-3-3 – less susceptible on the counter and still dangerous with the likes of Hazard, Schurrle, Willian, Mata, De Bruyne, Oscar, Ramires and Lampard able to run riot in attack (depending on selection of course). We’ve won three league titles with it, and following two poor performances – I’d argue that we were more dangerous against Fulham after switching to 4-3-3. Come on Jose, end this affair and go back to your wife…I mean 4-3-3!