This is it. Chelsea are finished. Not just for this season, but for all this seasons. It will cease to exist as a club. Jose Mourinho will leave. Eden Hazard will float to another happy shore, find another Eden in which to reside. Diego Costa will get so angry at a ref that he will just vaporize. Roman Abramovich will go bankrupt, not because of the Russian economy’s troubles, but because Chelsea failed to defend their title. This is it.
Or at least that’s the vibe you get reading websites in the past two weeks. Every respected news outlet, and many of the non-respected ones, have published some article along the lines of “Chelsea In Crisis!!!”.
They have a point though. Chelsea are already behind leaders Manchester City by 8 points, and with only 34 games and a paltry 102 points left, Mourinho must be worried. The Blues must come out of this international break strong, because otherwise the title might be decided by October (notwithstanding, of course, a mid-season slump by City, like Chelsea experienced last season, allowing the chasing team (Chelsea) to catch up by New Year’s, also like City last season).
With that in mind, here a few completely unbelievable, but still slightly feasible, statements on what Chelsea must do to save the season.
Change the Formation
Forget the 4-2-3-1. Never mind it was one of the reason’s Chelsea dominated the league last season, and fits the team perfectly. IT DOESN’T WORK ANYMORE!!!
It’s time for Jose to open his mind a little. Chelsea need a new tactical shape (disregard the fact that formations are fluid and are not the greatest influence on shape).
He should take a glance up the road to Manchester, where his friend and mentor Louis Van Gaal is managing United. Van Gaal has brilliantly and deftly installed a 3-5-2 formation at Old Trafford. It’s made the Red Devils one of the stoutest defenses in the league, conceding just two goals in the opening four games!
Never mind that United can’t score; offense clearly isn’t Chelsea’s problem. The defense on the other hand… John Terry looks like a dried sack of potatoes. Branislav Ivanovic must have switched his boots for cement blocks, because he’s getting burned by wingers every week. Kurt Zouma looks like a 10 year old who’s just picked up football, and only knows “whenever the ball is near me, I kick it as hard and far away as possible.”
Gary Cahill has to clean up everyone else’s messes, and does a poor job of it. Only Cesar Azpilicueta can honestly say that he has done a good job defending Stamford Bridge from the enemy forces.
A formation change will fix all of this. The centre backs will immediately have better positioning, because there will be three of them! Chelsea will stop losing midfield battles, simply because there will now be three central midfielders (!) with two more wingbacks! And better still, the finishing problems will disappear. Now, instead of Costa alone up front, there will be a second striker, probably Falcao! Two strikers equals even more goals!
The switch to a 3-5-2 will fix everything. It’s so obvious it is quite amazing that Jose hasn’t already made the decision. So, Jose, since you’re probably reading this, take my advice: 3-5-2 is the way!
Bring in the Youths, Drop the Veterans
Okay, so forget the formation change. Bad idea.
Yes, it wouldn’t actually address Chelsea’s structural problems. Yes, it didn’t fix the fact that the wings are wide open, allowing the backline to be stretched. And yes, playing with two other centre backs wouldn’t automatically make Kurt Zouma the new Franz Beckenbauer.
What Jose really needs to do is incorporate the youths. Get rid of the old, worn out veterans and bring in some fresh blood. Let the young lads get out there and run. They’ll inject some good pace and enthusiasm into the squad.
The Chelsea youth system has long been fruitless. Since Abramovich took over the club in 2003, just one player from the academy has made it into the first team consistently: John Terry.
But things have begun to change. Abramovich, over the years, has paid more attention to the academy, and results have followed. Four FA Youth Cup victories in the last six years, as well as a UEFA Youth League trophy last season and Barclays U-21 Premier League title the season before, are indicative of the results. Yet almost none of the talented youths have made it through. Ruben Loftus-Cheek is establishing himself as a permanent member of the match day 18, but has rarely played in meaningful games.
It seems like club policy to send the youths out on loan once they outgrow the academy, instead of keeping them at Cobham to train with the senior squad. Jeremie Boga, Lewis Baker, Dom Solanke and Izzy Brown can all testify to this.
Beyond the academy, Chelsea have numerous other young players on the team. Kenedy (19), Kurt Zouma (20), Abdul Baba Rahman (21) and Bertrand Traore (20) all train with the first team. None were trained in house. Beyond Zouma, none have consistently played in matches (albeit, Kenedy and Rahman were just bought this summer).
Time for that to change. Jose, listen up. Your veterans are old and out of shape. Ivanovic has been, as previously noted, rubbish. Cesc Fabregas and Nemanja Matic have been bloody awful.
Forget trying to raise their form. Move them out!
Here’s what I envision: a backline of Ola Aina (rb), Zouma (cb), Cahill (cb), and Baba Rahman (lb). Then, a midfield pivot of Loftus Cheek and Oscar (moving him back is best; the lad is physical and will stick himself into a few challenges). The attacking three: Bertrand Traore, Kenedy and Pedro. Finally, Costa will retain his spot up front, but only until Dom Solanke gets back from loan.
Now there’s a fearsome lineup. Its young and vibrant. What the new boys lack in skill, experience, cohesion and nearly every other important category, they make up for with athleticism. They won’t be afraid to get stuck into a few tackles. The only worrying part is that just three of the players are English. Never mind, though. One can’t have everything one wants.
Watch out Eden Hazard, ‘cause Bertrand Traore’s coming!
Go With the Pep Talk
Okay, another bad idea. Maybe suggesting that dropping the PFA Player of the Year, along with four other members of the PFA Team of the Year, for untested U-20s wasn’t such a good one.
Yes, the youths are inferior in nearly every category, most importantly experience. And yes, panic is not what the Blues need right now.
So let’s scrap it. Forget all about. Don’t think for one second that maybe a little bit of it is any good. And certainly don’t think that maybe mixing a formation and tactical change with an injection of youth is a good idea. That’s silly, foolish. No fool would take the middle road.
What really needs to happen is dependent on Jose more than any of the other options.
Let’s be real: Jose’s been off his game this year. Even he has admitted it. He’s been outsmarted by every manager he’s faced, even Alan Pardew. He has been hampered by controversy at every turn, and not the type of controversy he thrives in.
Chelsea haven’t been set up at all right. The weaknesses that teams began to exploit at the end of last season weren’t fixed, or even covered. Instead, those same weaknesses are being made clearer, week after week, by lesser sides.
More importantly, however, is the lack of fire in the team. You can just see it in their eyes. They don’t have the desire, that boyhood love of the game. They’ve lost the feeling of just playing to play.
Jose’s got to put it back into them. How, you ask? A good old fashioned pep talk.
Forget fancy statistics and analysis. Tactics, smchatics. He needs to give the boys a fire and brimstone speech. Win one for the old Jose. Tell them to go out there and fight for Jose, club and God, preferably in that order.
Light a fire under them. Send the lads out there with passion, ready to get stuck into challenges and belt shots at the goalkeeper like it’s a game of hot potato. Stop thinking and do!
Now is the time for action! It’s time that Jose takes drastic measures, or else by the end of this weekend, the title will be decided. He must do whatever is necessary to save the Blues season, or else.
Featured image provided by chao1989.
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