Chelsea Defense: Suffering at the Cost of a Stronger Attack?
When Jose Mourinho arrived during his first spell at Chelsea in 2004, we broke several record most notably having the most number of clean sheets and also conceding the least amount of goals in a season. The team had a well organized and compact chelsea defense which resulted in a lot of 1-0 wins for us. It was famously termed as the “Mourinho way” of playing.
Fast forward to 2013 and its a well-known fact that Roman Abramovich wants his team to play an attacking and exciting brand of football. Lots of attack minded players like Juan Mata, Eden Hazard, Oscar were purchased for the said pursuit. We also saw a frequent managerial changes during this time, but no one was able to impose the said philosophy which Roman aimed for.
Entered Jose Mourinho.
When Mourinho arrived for his second spell here, he promised a more attacking brand of football to the fans and Roman compared to his last stint. And that’s what we saw at the start of the 2013 season; we started to impose a high-pressing system which in turn helped us to play a higher-line than we were used to previously. The change did pay dividends, and our game was more attacking and exciting to watch but there was a little problem, we started leaking too many goals at the back and the chelsea defense started detoriarating.
At the start of the last season we had David Luiz and Gary Cahill at the back and with Luiz’s frequent stupid moments and our forwards not able to score goals we started leaking more goals than we scored and the system had to be withdrawn. In all honesty, we didn’t really had the players to play the game we wanted. So we reverted back to the Mourinho Way, and we did achieve good results, but that wasn’t the philosophy Mourinho promised to implement.
Jose understood the exact problem and, as a result; we went berserk quite early in the summer market this season acquiring the likes of Diego Costa, Cesc Fabregas and Filipe Luis when other teams still hadn’t identified their targets. Acquiring a proven goalscorer, and an assist master meant we would be able to create and convert our chances into goals, and that has been evident so far this season.
Costa has already banged seven goals in his four games while Fabregas with his six assists has lit the league on fire. But if you look at the recent results, 6-3 against Everton, 4-2 against the Swans its a very “unmourinho” type of performance. The game last night against Schalke was more of an off day for the blues when we were unable to convert any number of zillion chances we created. But other than that we have been pretty devastating in front of the goal. The team has been a playing a higher line, putting pressure on the opposition in there own half thus creating plenty of chances and converting them.
And that’s where the difference lies; we were converting those half-chances through proven goalscorers, unlike last season when we were on Torres’s mercy. We are certainly more attacking and entertaining in the final third playing a beautiful brand of football which looks soothing to the eye. But it does have its downside too which i will explain in below of points:
1. Playing a higher line means the defenders have to be higher up the pitch to cover for the mid-fielders when the central midfielders move into the opposition box to put pressure on the opposition players.
If the defenders don’t do that the spaces will open up in the midfield for the opposition players to run into so the team-chemistry has to be pin point when you are trying to play a high-line pressing game. Otherwise, it will be a chaos out there similar to what happened in the first 25 minutes against Swansea.
Our midfielders Matic and Oscar were higher up the pitch putting pressure on the swans players but our defenders in turn were not covering the spaces left by the absence of Matic and Oscar which gave Jonjo Shelvey a free licence to run into the vacant spaces in the first half.
2. Another problem with this system is the counter-attacking threat that chelsea defense gets into if you lose the ball in the midfield.
During the second goal Jonjo Shelvey scored, both of our CB’s Terry and Cahill were very high up the pitch pressing the Swans player but once Shelvey was able to get past them none had the speed to get back and tackle Shelvey leaving him one on one with Courtois.
Losing the ball in the midfield when most of your players are in the opposition box could mean a counter attacking threat to chelsea defense and given that our defenders are not necessarily lightning fast it could well result in an one on one situation with the goalkeeper .
3. Similarly in the last game once Fabregas got dispossessed in the midfield our midfielders Matic and Ramires were nowhere to be seen in the picture.
Them being higher up the pitch meant Draxler had to get past couple of defenders and lay the ball for Huntelaar in the box who in turn made no mistake in rounding of Gary Cahill and putting it past Courtois. It was a classic Counter-attack from the German Team, and we have been unable to deal with them this season.
4. The thing is when you play a high line the defenders had to be athletic and speedy enough to get back fast.
During a counter-attack or when you lose the ball in dangerous positions while Terry has certainly lost a yard of pace, he looks quite vulnerable and exposed in a high-line and that sometimes leaves Cahill with too much to do on his own. Last season when we got too leaky Jose reverted back to his old ways which resulted in a low block defense with most of the players covering for our defenders.
But this year we are playing a more attacking game and it has resulted in us being more open defensively. The more adventurous we get in attack, the more vulnerable we will get in the defensive areas. Although it is a good thing, we are playing a more pressing game, but Jose must be fuming at the number of defensive mistakes and unforced errors we have made this season that has resulted in a goal.
We still haven’t played against a top team this season and these problems must need to be sorted out otherwise it could prove lethal when we face off against Man city next weekend.
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