City Away: Tactics Board
So we all know Big Sam got a share of the spoils at Stamford Bridge Wednesday by means of a 19th century football retro, according to Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho.
Right then, but isn't the Special One aware the pioneers of footie in the 1800s played the beautiful game with nothing short of six to eight enthusiastic forward players with little or no understanding of the need, let alone art of defending and doing so in droves?!
Oh well, but it can be taken for granted Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini will be employing no such negative tactics as espoused and perfected by Sam Allardyce as his West Ham side ran away with a 0-0 scoreline up at The Bridge.
If the foregoing is anything to go by, and if the idea is to become the first team to beat City at the Etihad this term, let's now take a cursory peep into Mourinho's tactics board and try a tentative forecast of the possible lineup that might well help achieve this near lofty objective.
Here the defence pretty much picks itself, with the quintet of Petr Cech, John Terry, Gary Cahill, Branislav Ivanovic and Cesar Azpilicueta all but assured of their starting berths.
But should that really be the case? I know the golden rule is never to try fixing it if it isn't broken, but with the out and out right winger, Jesus Navas almost certain to start for City, the question arises if inverted left back Azpilicueta's left foot will be enough to nullify Navas' right foot which is bound to flood our defence with a flurry of crosses after crosses; because trying to stop the Spanish high-flying livewire with the wrong foot may prove an effort in futility especially when the former Sevilla man is in his groove.
It is trite in the beautiful game the best form of defense is attack; and since Azpilicueta offers little or nothing going forward as a left back, and having rested the proper left back Ashley Cole in the midweek game, does the England Centurion not have a strong case to get a start against the Mancs, with Azpilicueta shifted to the right side of our defence? I'd have thought so.
My take is to rest Ivanovic for once and have him as a contingency plan; start Azpilicueta at right back to give Gael Clichy or Aleksandar Kolarov a better run for his money.
I know some would say "Cole is done...blah blah blah" and can't match Navas pace for pace, grit for grit and wit for wit; we don't need a win at the Etihad to keep our title credentials creditable; but with his recent showing in the fourth-round win over Stoke in the FA Cup, I beg to disagree as I'm sure he's still got it and is a better left back than Azpilicueta will ever be, and a win over the bookmakers' installed favourites for the title gong would certainly not hurt, would it?
Let's take the game to City!
The Central Midfield.
A hitherto conundrum shrewdly solved this transfer window, I'll eat my hat and flush it down with a barrel of vinegar if new signing Nemanja Matic doesn't start this one. But the million dollar question is who partners him in the pivot?
Personally, I'd fancy David Luiz for this job detail, what with his excellent ball-playing and incisive passing ability and capability to contribute immensely to attack with those quick turnovers he's becoming famous for but Super Frank's form lately suggest he's the more logical one to start; after all, the 35 year-old featured prominently in the 2-1 win over the blue Mancs earlier in the season!
So, since the theme is to take the game to City and possibly beat them on their turf, I'd suggest a Matic and Lampard pivot is the way to go. David Luiz and Ramires should then make the Match Day squad as possible impact subs, especially the former!
With an embarrassment of options with the arrival of Mohammed Salah, this is also the one area of our team that more or less picks itself barring any unforeseen happenstances.
Salah is pacey with or without the ball and is the type of player that loves to beat his man and get behind him, with a wicked merciless eye for goal. Alas, this game is too big to hand him a start in what will only be his Chelsea debut, though I see him making Match Day squad and possibly playing a part in proceedings late on.
Thus, the triumvirate of Hazard, Oscar and Willian gets the nod here [even though Andre Schürrle was on the score-sheet as we beat City in October].
And for his heroics against the red Mancs a fortnight ago when he scored his first Chelsea hattrick, picking the mostly hit-and-miss Samuel Eto'o over the galloping Demba Ba is a no-brainer really.
That said, if we score first and are still in the lead in the second half, throwing on the Senegalese for Oscar who often peters out in any high-pressure matchup between the hour to 70 minutes mark - with Eto'o dropping into the 'hole' to feed Ba, after all that's where he'd been playing at Anzhi to devastating effect - will be the most effective way to frustrate Pellegrini and keep them firmly on the back foot whilst giving Kompany and company more things to worry about and physique to deal with at the back.
If Eto'o doesn't work in the 'hole', shift Hazard right in there; sub the Cameroonian and hand Salah his debut on the left wing vacated by Hazard.
Don't get me wrong, we should defend and stay compact all game, but never cagey; at no point should the Special One gift the brilliant engineer from Chile any faint, let alone blatant hint that he's playing defensive [or not to lose] as that will undoubtedly hand them the initiative to attack attack and attack, since that is exactly how teams get burned at the Etihad.
Mourinho should go back to what worked for him at Stamford Bridge when we reduced The Citizens to just a couple of shots at our goal, whilst not necessarily ceasing to attack as we ran out 2-1 winners with Joe Hart getting one of his busiest days at the office in a sky blue shirt.
Alternatively, Mourinho should borrow a leave from "The Macky Mackay Manual of Beating Manchester City 2013/2014", even as condescending as that sounds.
It is incumbent on the Chelsea boss to prove that whilst Big Sam is allegedly stuck in the 19th century, he's the quintessential 21st century football manager that has not only won the UEFA Champions League more than once, but also the Premier League twice with a far inferior squad compared to this galaxy of technicians he's now managing!
I don't like City but I certainly respect the monster they've managed to build for a team, and how I love how they usually trounce the likes of Manure, the whinny crying Gooners and the small backstreet stuttering Spuds from North London.
We beat City before and can always do this again. Yes, we can; we can knock them off that perch if we try.
Carefree & KTBFFH