As of April 1st, the Premier League title race was all but over – Chelsea were champions elect and it was a matter of when, rather than if, the Blues would lift the crown. However, defeats to Crystal Palace and Manchester United have hindered their chances of running away with the title.
With Tottenham Hotspur now just four points behind Antonio Conte’s men, the Blues boss may need to mix things up at the back to fend the north London side off. Here are a few different options for the Italian to consider ahead of an important six weeks…
Switch to a traditional back four
First and foremost, Conte might consider a move back to a 4-4-2 or 4-3-3 system. With Cesar Azpilicueta on one side and one of Victor Moses or Marcos Alonso on the other, Chelsea can still maintain a solid line whilst offering an offensive threat in wide areas.
The Blues, currently 1/7 for the title in Premier League betting markets, don’t necessarily have to mix things up but Conte may be tempted to do something after recent results. A third defeat in April would hand Spurs momentum in the battle for top spot.
With the likes of Kurt Zouma and David Luiz, Conte could use one alongside N’Golo Kante in midfield to offer additional protection to the back four. The Italian almost certainly won’t bother changing from the current system but a more traditional formation is a viable option if Chelsea continue to struggle.
Ask Pedro to step in for Marcos Alonso
Ultimately, get Pedro to do Alonso’s job. The former has found himself in and out of the side since Conte arrived at Stamford Bridge but he is more than capable of carrying out specific instructions and he is one of Chelsea’s more defensive options on the wing.
If Alonso, who has been struggling with a sickness bug in recent weeks, is forced to miss an extended spell, compatriot Pedro might be the best man to fill in. His presence going forward could give Chelsea an added edge, especially at home where they tend to dominate possession.
Pedro is far from a like-for-like replacement but he would certainly do a better job than the likes of Willian or Eden Hazard. In addition, using Hazard in that role would only diminish his impact at the other end of the field and too many replacements may hurt Chelsea’s balance and momentum in the title race.
Promote somebody up from the youth squad
Predominantly a right-back, Todd Kane could be first in line for a shot in the first team if Conte believes that some young blood is required. Kane has been with Chelsea since he was just eight years old and he signed a new three-year deal as recently as September.
Looking at the long term plan, Kane fits the bill to succeed at Chelsea. In a way, his style is very similar to that of former Blues full-back Ashley Cole; he is very aggressive going forward but also reliable at the back. Most fans won’t have seen too much of him but he looks a solid prospect to say the least.
Kane has Championship experience but he has featured mainly for Chelsea’s development squad in recent years. Conte offering him a new contract in September suggests that he could be set for a bright future at Stamford Bridge – keep an eye out for him.
— Todd Kane (@Toddy_Kane) March 6, 2017