Roman Abramovich always craved for his team to play fantasy football,for them to play with style,panache and mesmerize the opponents. And this time,Jose Mourinho has probably promised him that. The last time when the Portuguese took over at Chelsea,he immediately installed Claudio Makelele in front of the defence. Ahead of him,he played two more midfielders and this became a midfield triangle which easily dominated English football. Then at Inter and at Real Madrid,he played with a 4-2-3-1,which was easily the most popular formation before,during and after the 2010 World Cup.
Strangely just a year before the next World Cup,we see a lot of teams ditching the double pivot. They might still just be experiments,but there is this feeling that playing with a double pivot is too defensive. Spain did it in the Confederations Cup albeit to a disastrous loss in the final. Pep Guardiola has ditched the so called best double pivot in the world in Bastian Schweinsteiger and Javi Martinez and now is playing the German in a lone holding role. Real Madrid in their first match played with Luka Modric and Sami Khedira as the men shielding the defence. The Croatian doesn't have the required physical presence to play in that position,and at times this showed as Betis were able to run through. City,under Pelligrini were almost playing a 4-4-2 with Dzeko and Aguero upfront. We rarely saw City without the midfield protectors under Mancini.
Against Hull City,both Lampard and Ramires on paper playing as the '2' in the 4-2-3-1 were allowed freedom to move vertically,sometimes both of them together. Oscar showed in his performance for Brazil that his tactical intelligence belied his age and his work ethic along with his positional sense is rarely found in number '10s'. So at times,he dropped deep in to midfield to allow Lampard and Ramires to burst forward. Only time will tell,whether Jose allows this freedom to his double pivot in the big games.(Actually we ll get to seen very soon,with games against Bayern and Manchester United coming up)
Another interesting point to note is the positioning of the full backs. Both Ashley Cole and Branislov Ivanovic rarely overlapped,especially in the second half when Chelsea saw less of the ball.
|Ashley Cole and Ivanovic's heat map against Hull|
It is rare that we see such a restrained positioning from the full backs in modern game especially of a top team. Especially considering that Ashley Cole is one of the best attacking full backs, and Kevin de Bruyne cut inside usually to leave space for Ivanovic to run into which he rarely did. It's also worth checking live scores site http://www.scores.co.uk for any of Chelsea's upcoming fixtures.
Across Europe,there is an attempt to ditch the 4-2-3-1,or atleast an attempt to play a more mobile and creative double pivot than usual. So far,the experiment isn't very successful,but maybe time will tell us differently. If we look at the past five years,only Barcelona and Manchester United were the teams who reached the final of the Champions League without playing a 4-2-3-1.