Burnley have made an incredible start to their first Premier League season in 33 years, already heaving Manchester United and Everton into off-track ditches. However Carlo Ancelotti seems to have made intrinsic notes after the Blues’ opening game against Hull. He appears to have cracked the Da Vinci code through a so-far almost faultless approach. Having struggled to break through a well organised and disciplined Hull City 4-5-1, Ancelotti has introduced a Christmas tree formation in order to combat this. The 4-3-2-1 places emphasis on the midfield two, and gives them free roles behind the lone striker making them near enough impossible to mark. It draws the opposition’s holding midfielder to one side of the pitch allowing space for players such as Frank Lampard and Deco to fully influence the game.
The formation is coming into its own for both the players and manager alike. After hesitant starts to the first few games, the players clearly demonstrated some unease in their new assigned roles. However all was put to rest against their London rivals on Sunday as, for the first time this season, Chelsea managed to both score first and not concede. In all honesty this never looked in doubt as each player in blue stepped up to the top of their game – free flowing football and aspects of intrusive interplay destructed a poor Fulham show. The formation applies huge pressure on both Ashley Cole and Jose Bosingwa as both are required to offer natural width as well as defensive solidarity. Cole is more than capable of achieving this – his resilient engine has never failed to disappoint. The England left-back has been attacking the left-hand side for the last decade, making himself a consistent first team performer for both club and country.
Bosingwa has cemented the right-back position amid pre-season reservations he may be on his way out of the Bridge. The Portuguese international is known as the ‘machine’ for his similar stamina to that of his opposite-flank counterpart Cole. The two were influential against both Sunderland and Fulham, comfortable on the ball and neither is afraid to beat a man and deliver testing balls into the six-yard box. Both players have rapid pace allowing them to recover should they fall out of position – this was on display a number of times against Sunderland as Cole frequently outpaced Jordan Henderson. The two wide players will be crucial in combating the Burnley side that capitalised on Manchester United’s lack of width.
Burnley compressed the play against United and broke wide when the opportunity arose – hard-working Martin Paterson was able to chase the ball all day long bringing in wide players whenever possible. Burnley made Sir Alex Ferguson pay for his over-reliance on Wayne Rooney and for his lack of an outlet by replacing Antonio Valencia with a more centrally inclined Anderson. Ancelotti may therefore opt for Florent Malouda or possibly reintroduce Salomon Kalou to offer accompanying width to that of the wing-backs. Chelsea, however, have not lost midfield goal-scoring prowess in the way United lost Cristiano Ronaldo – Frank Lampard, Deco and Michael Ballack were amongst the scorers at the Stadium of Light. Fans and neutrals can expect tinkering from the big Italian as the four changes made ahead of the Fulham game did not disrupt the fluency or cohesion on show in the Sunderland tie. This Saturday’s early afternoon kick off will be a real test of Ancelotti’s formation against a team favourable of the underdog title. Chelsea looks set to start with a 4-3-1-2 formation as the manager prefers two up top at home. Chelsea’s concern may however be found in Burnley’s decision to drop two midfielders into deeper roles as opposed to the normal 4-5-1 where one midfielder occupies the shielding role. Lesser teams may opt for this approach in order to contest with Ancelotti’s as yet indestructible tactics.
Over in Monaco, Peter Kenyon was on hand to witness the Champions League draw which sprung up a number of crunch ties, but Chelsea managed to steer clear of the tougher battles. The group was kind on the Blues who are saved from difficult away journeys to Russia or Turkey, with trips to Atletico Madrid, FC Porto and Cypriot side APOEL to contend with. Taking nothing away from their opposition, Chelsea will be expected to top the group although Porto and Atletico may provide some resistance. John Terry also collected the accolade of European Defender of the Year award, the third time the Chelsea captain has received the honour.
Chelsea Club Focus
Terry commits future to positive Blues set-up – July 29
Reading ask all the questions of Chelsea – August 5
Chelsea start as they mean to go on – August 12 Patience is a virtue – August 18
Christmas comes early for the Blues – August 21
Chelsea maintain 100% record – August 25
Blues to cruise over Burnley pot-hole – August 28