Antonio Conte agreed to switch Gary Cahill’s position against Roma in midweek on the advice of his own players, according to the Daily Telegraph.
Club captain Cahill has endured a difficult spell but has remained a mainstay of the Italian’s three-man defence. During the midweek defeat against the Serie A side, however, he lined-up on the left, rather than his usual position on the right.
The change of position did little to rectify Chelsea’s recent defensive problems as they shipped another three goals in a calamitous defeat which could cost them the chance to top their group.
Ahead of Sunday’s crunch meeting with Manchester United on Sunday, Conte confirmed he would return Cahill to his more customary position but remained coy on why he enacted a change in the first place. When asked why Cahill was played on the right, Conte hesitated before replying:
‘I think… honestly, I don’t want to answer this question, its not a disrespect for you [the reporter], but who must understand, understands. This is my answer, do you understand?’
Asked if he will play on the right again, Conte replied:
‘No, no. ‘He’s very good to play on the left. We won a league with Cahill in this position, I don’t know, I don’t understand why we have to try again to try put him on the right. This is a good question.’ And when asked if Conte was admitting to making a mistake over Cahill’s position, the Italian replied:
‘Maybe, maybe. ‘I think Cahill can play on the right or the left, but the best position for him, for me, is on the left, but sometimes it can happen, some misunderstanding, but it’s then to clarify the situation.’
Chelsea can put their season on track by graduating from the 3-4-3 to the 3-5-2
Antonio Conte is a fantastic coach but, like all people, he has his weaknesses. If there is a positive to find in Chelsea’s loss to Roma, it is simple: The 3-4-3 is dead. Let it lie.
Antonio Conte is perhaps at times so eager to win that he forgets to look deeper. Lessons can be learned in losses and positives can come out of them. After their visit to Roma, Chelsea must take all the lessons and all the positives they can so the loss was not in vain.
The 3-4-3 is a beginner’s version of the 3-5-2, and the natural evolution is to advance into the five-midfielder version at some point. Chelsea were able to make progress with the 3-4-3 last season, as much because of the shock of their using it as their skill. Teams were simply not used to it.
The 3-4-3 has two wide attacking players and two wide wing-backs. It has a lot of width, and yet not much defensive solidarity because of the two men in midfield. Chelsea subverted that last season by choosing industry and steel in midfield in their coupling of Nemanja Matic and N’Golo Kante, two inherently defensive workhorse players. Between the two of them they made up for a lot of the frailties offered by the formation.
The reason for the 3-4-3 as a learning tool on the way to 3-5-2 is simple. Most teams in modern football do not play with three at the back and wing-backs. The classic “chalk on the boots” winger has been commonplace for a long time. The 3-4-3 inherently has a lot of the angles and passing lanes necessary to understand the 3-5-2, while also playing into the players’ inherent understandings of more common methods.
With the players available last season Chelsea were able to make up for the lack of personnel in the middle of the field in many ways. Diego Costa’s interest in coming back to win the ball and involve himself in interplay with the midfield aided this. It is why Eden Hazard had so many touches forward of him. Marcos Alonso and Victor Moses then provided the width, while the center of the park was controlled by Costa, Matic, Kante and David Luiz.
Chelsea need to get back to the “graft over gravy” style of football. It’s a simple thing, if a funny phrase. Chelsea need to favor handwork over anything else. With the 3-5-2 Chelsea will use Hazard as a trequartista on the break. He should be an outlet, slipping wide to get the ball and then moving forward. Alvaro Morata should constantly lurk on the back shoulder of his defender, showing to the ball for a 1-2.
The reason why the Roma game was so dispiriting is not because Chelsea lost. That’s part of sport. You win, you lose and you draw. That’s the gamble you take when you choose to take part. For the joy of winning, you must be willing to gamble on losing as well.