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The Deeper Issues

The Deeper Issues

Capital One Cup semi-final first leg - final scores, Chelsea 0 Swansea 2.

Even though the match statistics reveal Chelsea was the dominant side, but at the end it's the final score that really matters, such is the cruelty that football brings sometimes. Going through the match day thread, I was surprised to see ardent Chelsea fans still angry at yesterday's result when in truth the result only followed the story of our season so far.

I thought our expectations should have been on reset mode on the back of events that have both occurred previously and sadly events that might still occur in the near term. Instead of focusing on the obvious, such as Torres being done and dusted and Tubby benching an in-form striker for a mirage, I took a broader view and focused on what I consider the core issues with our present team largely considered to be in transition.

We have spent fortunes trying to assemble a new attack minded team but for me the key issue killing us is a lack of balance in a variety of ways. If these imbalances are not curtailed in the near term, it might have far reaching implications for the club.

Attacking third First - the attacking third and the pivot. We all know what the major limitation of playing MAZACAR is lack of natural width, needless to say, that was evident yesterday. The problem is there was only one natural winger on the bench to give some width. One could understand why Benitez did not start Marin as the guy is just building fitness and will take some time for him to start games consecutively.

Mata is the brain box of the team (sad but true) and when he is off the team is lethargic. But for that role there is no like-for-like replacement just yet. If Mata was fresh, the Swansea game would have been wrapped up in the first half. The dilemma is with the games coming thick and fast, how long can Mata carry on playing every three days without suffering a total burnout? (we'll be playing every three days till end of January, then Europa starts!!).

I would like to bring to our remembrance that the guy only managed to get 10 days off after the Euros and has played all almost all the matches this season. Pivot RDM introduced the 4-2-3-1 formation and it`s looking like we intend to stick with it even after his departure. The pivot is a very vital part of a 4-2-3-1 and in our present team, the pivot simply does not exist - fact, which has skewed the balance of the entire team structure.

Here are the combinations we currently have;

(Mikel and Romeu are excluded as one is away and other is injured. I am more concerned about our present results)

Rammy/ Lampard = box to box/orthodox AM in a 4-3-3 (e.g. cwc finals)

Rammy/ Luiz = box to box/ (DM/box to box/CB/) (vs Swansea)

Lampard/Luiz = orthodox AM in a 4-3-3/(DM/box to box/CB/) (vs Everton)

Key weakness of these combinations are: Disjointed transition (lack of CONSISTENT crisp and incisive ball distribution linking the defense to the attacking third), defensive indiscipline due to undefined roles and overall confusion (who stays deep, who attacks, who covers the full backs and center backs when they dash forward.).

While the pivot did not directly contribute significantly to our loss vs. Swansea, it does contribute in no small measure to the overall imbalance within our team at the moment. A traditional pivot has a schemer (or deep lying play maker) and a destroyer with well-defined roles.

There are numerous examples.

At Real Madrid, Alonso is more of the schemer, Khedira blocks and destroys. There is a clear understanding as they alternate attacks.

At Bayern Schweinsteiger is the schemer, Martinez/Gustavo blocks and destroys.

Even Tubby's Liverpool team, Alonso schemes and Mascherano blocks.

Arsenal is suffering at the moment due to a lot of factors but one of the most obvious weakness in that team is the lack of destroyer in the pivot at the moment (Diaby is the closest matured destroyer they've got and is always injured) as they play a combination of Arteta and Wilshre who are both schemers thus lacking steel in front of the back four.

Truth is we do not have the required overall squad depth (RW, CM, CF) as well as mix for the pivot within this present squad be. The type of midfielders we have (Rammy, Lampard, Luiz (if you see him that way)) at the moment favor a 4-3-3 more in my opinion, a formation that thrives on hard working box-box midfielders and a traditional anchor.

Conversely playing 4-3-3 will either push Mata to the right side of the attack as an inverted winger or make him the most advanced of the three midfields. In both cases, he'll have more defensive duties which is clearly not his strength and the team will still not be balanced so we are somewhat stuck with the 4-2-3-1 except we are prepared to bench the maestro.

The summary is our entire squad does not have the required depth and does not even have the complete personnel to play a 4-2-3-1 perfectly at this time. In terms of the players we have been linked with, the board might not be as clueless in terms of transfer needs as we make them seem on VC.

While I did not understand it at first, it now appears the thinking behind wanting to sign Isco is to rotate him with Mata, Taison to play as a RW since Moses is away and Marin still requires a bit more time (which we can`t afford) to play 90 minutes consecutively.

Moreover Walcott has agreed a new deal with Arsenal which makes the Taison signing more attractive at the quoted price of £11m. The Fellaini link for me is delicate and requires some thinking. Except we have other plans for him outside the pivot which is possible given that he is a utility player (e.g. rotate him with Mata to play a 4-4-1-1), pairing Fellaini with any of the other players we have at the moment in the pivot (except Oscar),will still leave the team unbalanced.

Oscar is the closest we have to a deep lying schemer. The alternative is to play Fellaini in the pivot next to a deep lying playmaker such as Benat or Montinho which requires spending more money and frankly I don't see that happening (i.e buying both Fellaini and a deep lying playmaker). Signing Fellaini could have made a lot more sense for the pivot if we had not extended Mikel's contract except we intend to sell one of Romeu or Mikel.

The last source of imbalance that I taught about is the popular manager instability. I keep trying to assess Tubby after each of our matches to see if he stands a chance of staying beyond his short contract.

While I admit that a complete assessment is rather early, I must say to arguments against seems to be a lot more than those for him to stay on. I have been doing a little work on the sequence (W-D-L) of every single match results he has had since his Liverpool days (Inter Milan inclusive) and while I have not concluded this exercise, his biggest problem appears to be his inability to string together a sustained winning run (except for the season Liverpool finished second in the league) and that is why he has not won much after his stint with Valencia.

Recent results do not suggest that is about to change and that alone is enough reason to be gone by the of the season . I intend to discuss the details of my findings at the right time (end of the season so I can include our results till the end of the season) with the aid of clear pictorials (uncle Merlin permitting).

If Tubby walks away at end of the season, I do hope the board and the owner understand the importance of stability and bring in someone who will stay with the team for 3-5 seasons at the very least without much interference. But right now, since we have chosen not to recall any of our highly talented youngsters, we will have to spend the cash in this window to bring in the reinforcements highlighted above and hopefully with loads of prayers, we can grab a champion's league ticket next season. I am blue at heart so I remain optimistic, Chelsea all the way.

Click here to join in the debate on the club forum.

Date:Thursday January 10 2013
Time: 5:10PM


heres hoping it all pans out
10/01/2013 17:27:00
A decent article layorh12 but unfortunately the obvious is the biggest problem. A hungry striker will lift the midfield, in fact the whole team, an apparently disinterested one is currently dragging the team down. I will support anyone in a Chelsea as long as they are trying, our 9, for whatever reason, did not try last night.
10/01/2013 17:32:00
@analooish...why i played down the striker bit is even if we have Falcao...certain players playing every three days can never take us far...our overall squad is still quite light and actually totally lacks some specific skill set especially the RW, Pivot (DM and CDM)...If we address the imbalance within the squad..then it makes the job a lot easier...whoever the striker is....even though everyone knows torres is bad.
10/01/2013 17:37:00
What about character. Drogba, Lampard, Terry, Cole and many of those that came before (Makele) had it in droves. If you were up against it these are the kinda guys you could rely on. Look at their replacements who from the new mob could you rely on? Torres? Luiz (how many times has he gone AWOL when the chips are down?) ~ I won't go further with our players as we have a season to complete. As for Benitez, for me he's poison with the motivational capabilities of a dollop of bulls. We once bought footballing warriors, lead by men. We need more of the same to add the resolve to win by any means.
10/01/2013 17:38:00
mtcheew!!!!what did you just say??You made whole lot of sense to youself I guees?
10/01/2013 17:38:00
just play 4 1 2 3 syatem....everyone will play in their respective position.....chech...cezar iva cahill cole....luiz(dm)...oscar and mata behind ba as our no 10....hazard and marin on wings....we would get width as well both mata and oscar will play their natural position...i think this is the best option for us if we have to use our attacking option in full effect...but i dont understand how cant our managers dont even try this....olaying the same pivot and going nowhere...
10/01/2013 17:39:00
I've heard people on the radio saying the Stoke game is more important that's why we didn't start Ba. What garbage. For a young team winning a cup is more important, it gives them belief. If we drop points at Stoke we can make them up somewhere else, we are only going for 3rd or 4th, these teams drop points all the time. And anyway Chelsea are used to playing their strongest team in all competitions it was only last season when the league was long gone we started to rest players. Also, to play a cup semi-final without Terry or Lampard was crazy. We needed leadership so with Terry being injured Lampard should have started. Lampard & Ba played together for 10 minutes and managed to create a great goal which was wrongly chalked off no matter what Sky say. Torres should never play for Chelsea again.
10/01/2013 17:41:00
@Panti..the character bit is delicate...asides Terry...players like Drogba, Lampard, Cole, Makalele..came to the chelsea with some level of maturity...the club's strategy at this time appears to be to sign really young folks and groom them to maturity while winning a fair share of trophies...that is why i continue to fault this rash action of letting the all the old guards go at the same time..since we dont have any considerable level of stability in terms of coaches (at least not yet)...the senior players would have played a huge role in grooming this young players to maturity and developing the 'character' is obviously another source of imbalance within the can only hope the board has a clear workable plan...
10/01/2013 17:45:00
No chance for a Tubby contract extension but he's a good manager. I didn’t really rate him before he came to Chelsea but I can see changes in our team structure since he’s been here, that I was begging for in the early part of the season, so he has gone up in my estimation. We havent lost any games by more than the odd goal or due to individual error, so it means we’re a lot tighter at the back. With a little more playing time for Ba, we may yet go on a winning streak which turns our season around. Loosing a game to two really elementary errors doesn’t make you a bad manager. The sticking point is that he didn’t bring Ba on earlier, but he is the team manager and I think he was trying to manage Torres so as to keep him productive till at least the end of the season...that plan has clearly backfired now as I don’t see how FT9 (with his well documented mental fragility) can come on at Stamford Bridge in the future and perform. Keep the Faith y’all
10/01/2013 17:46:00
a good observation and i agree that the weakness in our squad is in the pivot and the lack of width. I do not think fellaini is the answer because he plays alot better further up the pitch. I would prefer chelsea to sign benet from Betis as he has the qualities chelsea lack in the pivot. I think now we have Demba Ba the team should now look to go out wide and get crosses in. Playing through the middle becomes very predictable and the lack of width is costing us big time. It does not help when we have a non existent striker playing upfront.
10/01/2013 17:47:00
First a winger shouldn't be a priority because chelsea was never a team that played with a striker,secondly,you are talking of deeplying playmaker,with all the playmakers we have up the pitch what have we done with them,you tend to paint fellaini as a man not needed in the squad because you want a benat but let's be sincere,fellaini is best needed in our squad,though benat would make a good option for fellaini,the CF is also important because if you sign all the players in the pivot and RW,who will score those chances???even in barcelona where you have playmakers everywhere,their centr forward scores most of the goals,if we must get a rightwinger,we must get one that can score goals like ronaldo,if we can't as we know that there are none,then we must get a good CF,the team is creating the chances but aren't scoring them you can't get more wingers and a deeplying playmaker to create more chances when you know you won't score lot of them when torres plays.......we need a CM(either a benat or a fellaini) and a CF,I won't go for a winger now because we are not the type of team that plays wing football but united is that team
10/01/2013 17:50:00
@Cobhamblue..the frustration is quite clear...but then thats what you get when you have Tubby as coach who i think is very self opinionated...i expect to see this type of bizzare actions till the end of the season..i mean how can you possibly explain the line up against QPR and the timing of yesterday's subs?...i can remember coaches like Hiddink and Jose making changes at any point in a given match if they think somthing is not right..but with tubby i dont i said, hopefully we can start afresh again (for the final time hopefully with some patience and planning)...when Tubby eventually leaves...i dont even think he feels bad about the losses to be honest..he knows its a marriage of convenience and is more concerned about his cv and next job..the feeling of hate between Tubby and the fans is mutual....
10/01/2013 17:52:00
I meant to say chelsea was never a team that played with a WINGER not a Striker,football is more than formation,tatics is as important as well,fergie plays a 4-4-2 and a 4-5-1 and both has proven successful for him so far,its not about getting this or that,its about playing a formation that suits your team,even if its a 3-5-2,man utd doesn't have the best defence or a best DMF,yet they are dominating england....formation or no formation what I see we need is a goal scorer to compete and assist demba ba and a CM,For the winger it isn't a priority
10/01/2013 18:01:00
@Hazard11..''first a winger should not be a priority because chelsea was never a team that played with a striker''...finding it hard to understand you...i think our understanding of football is way different and it will difficult to discuss with point with fellani is that i dont think crisp passing from from deep midfield is one of his core strengths even though he is a fantastic player across the midfield...what i think is our core need is player that can dictate tempo from deep with some incisive passing beside a destroyer in the pivot...even if get Fellani (wh ich will be good) we willl still need a deep lying play maker...and ''with all the playmakers we have''..clearly you do not understand that there is vast difference beteween a playmaker who sits deep and initiates attacks..and one that functions in the attacking third..we have plenty of the latter (Hazard, Mata, Oscar(who i think can adapt to the deeper role))..and zero of the former...hence my view of the imbalance within the team..if you have problem understanding my decriptions..i fully understand that..its no worries..just jog on!!
10/01/2013 18:01:00
EA sport are thinking about removing torres from their fifa game....there is lot of complaints from clients that he is not even scoring there also...
10/01/2013 18:01:00
sorry Layorh12 that line up against QPR had more than enough quality to win the game. @Hazard11 so why not look to sign a winger? who says he has to play week in week out? at least its an option to have when we are running out of ideas. Chelsea do not have a plan B but with wingers along with Ba upfront we can play it out wide at times if we can not break teams down through the middle
10/01/2013 18:04:00
@Mr Dax...yes you have a point on paper those guys should beat qpr hands down...but what i am trying to fault is this over tinkering by Tubby somtimes which is really annoying...when you tinker with the squad way too often leads to the team loosing momentum if you get what i am saying...what i have found about tubby is very interesting in terms of his ability to have a sustained run....I am sure his over-tinkering habits contributes in no small measure to erratic results.... but i will still wait till the end of the season before discussing the details...
10/01/2013 18:12:00
layorh12, massive frustration. On the basis that we've burnt our bridges with all the elite managers in Europe I'm starting a campaign to getting Michael Laudrup asap.
10/01/2013 18:13:00
When Football Fair Play is introduced, Roman Abramovich will become a liability as opposed to an asset if he continues to run the club as it is done at present, having to pay managers off season after season and continuing to just buy players that do not make up a team which we are witnessing at present, problems lie ahead. Unless drastic changes are made, sadly it is difficult to see how things will change.
10/01/2013 18:17:00
It's important to know, when to cut the losses, and move on. Torres, as almost everyone had noted, is not suited, when playing against deep defenses as he lacks the natural imagination needed to make intelligent runs. Perhaps management is still hoping that Torres may eventually come good for the money that has been spend on him, but naive hope leads to frustrations and more loses. I do Agree, that to address the imbalance the team needs to add a quality play maker in the Pivot, Natural winger to add to the width and also in the future a mobile, reliable and quick Center Defender, as Ivanovic and Terry, as good as they are in the Defense are not suited to playing a high line or for quick reliable transitioning the ball out of the defense. There are a few coaches left, that are available and have the pedigree to coach a top team, so just firing Rafa without first addressing the core issue of the team will be a mistake.
10/01/2013 18:20:00
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