Ancelotti intent on 4-4-2, but can Chelsea accommodate both Torres and Drogba?

On Thursday, Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti made clear his intention to ultimately get the Fernando Torres-Didier Drogba strike partnership working, with the possibility of the two starting together this weekend against Tottenham Hotspur. His comments come after both strikers scored against West Ham – albeit each as the main striker at the time – and just as his side look to be finding form for a late, yet unlikely, title charge.

Six points behind leaders Manchester United with the second league fixture between the two still to play, Chelsea have scored nine goals in three games and kept alive the slim opportunity of retaining their Premier League crown. Despite that recent revival proving Chelsea currently play best with a lone forward in a 4-3-3 formation, Ancelotti, said to Sky Sports: “The best solution would be to play 4-4-2 if they play together.”

This is despite recent evidence which, instead, suggests the best solution is to stick to what is currently working, i.e. an in-form Drogba. When the two have been paired since Torres’ arrival in January, they have failed to forge a genuine understanding, during which time Chelsea’s poor form continued and they looked to be very much out of the hunt for the league. Over the last month, however, the Italian seemingly dropped the idea of starting both and persisted with just one as his team responded to a more familiar system to punish West Brom, Birmingham City and West Ham in consecutive games.

However, by suggesting that “when you have very good players, you have to try to put them together”, Ancelotti has hinted strongly that he will soon try again to establish the partnership. The Italian is under pressure to accommodate two highly paid, world-class strikers, even if all evidence points towards both Drogba and Torres having most success in a solo role up front.

Just last season, as the focal point of Chelsea’s attack, Drogba hit 29 league goals. Torres, too, scored more than 50 in three Liverpool seasons as a lone forward finishing the chances made by his creative teammates. Perhaps the issue is that in a three-pronged attack the main man is allowed to sit on the shoulders of the defence, pressuring and waiting to break at any moment. As a two, the strikers must be more aware of their defensive duties or, at the very least, must take it in turns to help out. With years of having teams built around them, both Drogba and Torres understandably expect to be fed chances throughout the game, and are more unfamiliar when having to share a responsibility.

The Chelsea team Ancelotti has is geared much more towards the 4-3-3, with pacey wide-men to open up space for the lone forward. Ancelotti’s suggestion that “maybe they [Torres and Drogba] can sacrifice something of their ability, of their skills” in order to play together makes clear his struggle with his two options: playing to his team’s strengths with one man up top, or weakening his side by trying to incorporate both outstanding strikers.

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