There is an argument in some cases that a manager is to build the formation of his side based around the players he has at his disposal rather then to mould his squad into his preferred method. The story of Ancelotti’s time at Chelsea is the perfect example. Take Frank Lampard as an example, we are talking about a twenty goal a season free-scoring midfielder who had become stifled in the diamond formation playing the deeper role. Carlo Ancelotti could see what had been happening and made the switch to our tried and trusted 4-3-3. Lampard and the others instantly were set free and Chelsea’s free scoring end to the season took off.
With all the technology available to managers, scouts etc you have to wonder why someone like Aston Villa, Stoke, Wigan and now West Brom were unable to deal with our formation. Surely these sides had done their homework?. The key to the formation for me is the freedom our front five are given week in, week out in the attacking third of the pitch. Take for example Nicolas Anelka. He struggled to play out wide for the majority of games he played there in a rigid version of the formation under the likes of Avram Grant. He made no bones about the fact he preferred not to play there but understood at the time when he was required to do a job for the side.
Look at him now under Carlo Ancelotti its almost as if he has been told that this is his starting position but he has the freedom to come inside, drop deep or even play as our main forward looking to get past the last man and into the box. Florent Malouda is another of the front five who is given the same instructions. Naturally left footed Malouda’s instincts are to stay wide left to get the ball then maybe beat his man or come inside. The fact is he has the freedom to wander about the pitch.
You can even argue at times last season and even on Saturday it’s the interchanging of their positions that has caused the biggest problems for the opposition. For example, our sixth goal on Saturday and Malouda’s second of the game. Nicolas Anelka had dropped off the forward line to come deep and look for a ball to into feet. In turn Malouda spotted the gap that had been left by Anelka, made a run beyond the defence that had been immediately spotted by Anelka and a sublime ball over the defence from him found Malouda and with a great first touch, took the ball past Carson and slotted the ball home.
The opposition are unable to deal with the way that we play purely because they are unable to man mark our attacking players. Managers these days work on their sides defensive shape. If one of their players was to drift out of position to follow the likes of Anelka or Malouda they would become exposed leaving space in behind them for the likes of Lampard, Essien or Ashley Cole space to run into. It quite simply has baffled the opposition more times than not no matter how they have all prepared and planned to counter it and looks as though it will continue to do so.
With Ancelotti’s 4-3-3 looking like the trusted favoured formation once more this season you have to wonder just how far can this formation can take us this and in addition to Saturday’s result Carlo said we are four to five weeks away from full fitness. The signs can only be good for Chelsea.
Andy Seaby is founder of Chelsea website and blog www.chelseadaft.org