The jittery excitement was difficult to bare at times on Monday. Sky Sports News gave us the usual giddy coverage and left many with Tinnitus from Jim White bellowing about the next ‘SSN exclusive’. There were helicopters hovering about, insane last minute bids (not all, but most, from Harry Redknapp) and a general air of mild panic. It seems Liverpool wanted to spend Roman’s cheque as quickly as possible, presumably in fear of it bouncing. Newcastle tried to salvage a striker and are left with Shola Ameobi instead. Blackpool were busy rejecting silly money for the vastly overrated Charlie Adam. Incredible stuff. Meanwhile Blues fans faced an agonisingly long wait for any confirmation. Rumours were flying that David Luiz was hauled off his plane to London because the deal was off, Torres was wrangling over image rights – would they ever sign?! We had been here before of course. In the final hours of the transfer deadline Scolari had Robinho in the bag only for a last minute gazump from City and a confused looking Brazilian putting pen to paper in Eastlands. Thankfully we were left with not one but two genuinely world class additions to the team and a general feeling of euphoria.
Once the dust had settled following the manic Monday of transfer activity it was time to wonder how the team would actually shape up to accommodate the new signings. Carlo certainly gave us a clue at how the shape of the team might be tweaked. He started with the Christmas tree, with Anelka and Kalou supporting Drogba and a flatter midfield three. The wider forwards, as ever, tucked infield to allow overlaps from full back. What was interesting as the game progressed was Anelka tended to drift deep and Kalou pushed on. Nico had a superb game in this role and will be a certainty to start on Sunday as, we can assume, will our new number nine. Although it’s edging closer to the diamond formation of Carlo’s early tenure I think the formation will be more fluid than what many commentators are predicting. I think once in possession the front three will have licence to go where there is space. Last night it was in the hole, on Sunday Anelka might have to drift wide. Similarly if an opponent’s full backs are pushing on a forward will have to work back on the nearest flank and the midfield slide across, just as what happens now.
One thing that Torres will create is space for Anelka, Lampard and Drogba to do some damage. Given his pace and tendency to push higher up the pitch defenders will want not want to leave much grass behind them and may end up sitting deep. This could leave gaps ahead of them for the likes of Anelka (who’s no slouch himself), Malouda and Kalou to run into and commit defenders. It may also leave pockets for Lampard and Drogba to ping off a shot. With both Anelka and Torres available as options on the break it also is sure to lead to some brilliant opportunities to counter.
Midfield will be interesting. I thought the increasingly impressive Ramires was unlucky to lose out to Essien on Tuesday night. As has been mentioned on these blogs he works excellently on the right of a diamond and offers both strong cover and forward running on the right flank. Essien’s passing has been hit and miss of late, he’s going through a sticky patch of form, but certainly has the quality to turn it around. Mikel is very strong in the anchor role but Essien might offer more attacking options from central midfield. Malouda can easily adapt to Anelka’s floating role or on the left of central midfield. Top players such as Benayoun, Zhirkov and McEachran will also be itching to get some minutes during the second half of the season.
Defence now gives us a few nice options. We could, in theory, adapt a back three of Brana, Terry and Luiz with Cole and Ramires as wing backs. Much more likely is switching Ivanovic to right back and Luiz in the centre next to JT. Bosingwa’s pace would make a dynamic substitution (or likewise Brana’s solid defending depending on the situation) and the centre backs could get some rotation as in the earlier part of the season. David Luiz will be a fantastic addition and his ability on the ball will give us an edge going forward as well as in defence. What is clear is that £71m has suddenly bought Carlo is a hell of a lot of options. Granted, Phil Neville would have been cheaper.