Football is constantly changing, every manager has his own ideas, implementing his style and others follow suit when trying to replicate the success. The change over the last 10 years has been extraordinary. From Pep’s Tiki Taka, to the 4-2-3-1 craze. Then came Antonio Conte’s 3 at the back which the entire league tried to replicate as did England, who had relative success at the World Cup. Now the modern trend is a possession based, high defensive line, pressing game. Adopted by the likes of Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp, Maurizio Sarri, Mauricio Pochettino and Unai Emery in the Premier League alone.
In order to achieve the success that Klopp and Pep have had, you need a good team of players, more importantly very good fullbacks. After one season, Pep completely changed his team, spending over £50 million on Kyle Walker and Benjamin Mendy. Two modern day fullbacks, with pace and stamina. Klopp meanwhile hasn’t spent what Pep has, but still has amazing fullbacks with the likes of Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson. You look at Barcelona who have Jordi Alba, Nelson Semedo, Sergi Roberto. These fullbacks are constantly dominating their respective flanks, keeping their wingers and fullbacks occupied, leaving space for their wingers to attack. The fullbacks Sarri has at disposal simply are not good enough. Azpilicueta while being the best defensive RB over the last 5 years, is simply not good enough to attack and stretch the team and provide the width required. Alonso does not have the pace for his role, and his decision making his terrible. He has attempted 88 crosses this season with a success rate of 10%. And in 28 appearances, only created 3 big chances. Comparing that to Roberston’s 11 big chances created, it becomes clear where some of the problems lie for Sarri.
So, what are the solutions? Well, our youth team and Army of Loans, particularly Reece James who is having a breakthrough season at Wigan. But can he make it at Chelsea? While he does have the stamina to make the right flank his own, he isn’t particularly quick. However, he makes up for that with his great tactical mind, his great close dribbling ability and his ability to read the game. On average, he completes almost 3 dribbles per 90 minutes, with a success rate of 85%. His delivery from wide is one of the best aspects of his game, constantly beating his man, and delivering a low hard cross that is accurate and leaves no time for the keeper to come out and collect. Currently he has countless man of the match awards, being Wigan’s best player for a while.
As for the left flank, Chelsea do have Castillo and DaSilva in their youth setup and out on loan respectively, but they would require time to adapt to the Premier League. Personally, Chelsea should invest. My favourites would be Alex Telles or Ferland Mendy, both have the pace and stamina to bomb up and down the flanks, and both have the skill to beat their man, and deliver an excellent cross into the box.
It is evidently clear Sarri needs new players that can help him challenge for titles, and while there will be a lot of work required, the first step would be fullbacks. Players that can add more attacking threat to the team. That can provide the width, like a wingback would, but also someone defensively strong. Fullbacks are fast becoming one of the most important positions in the modern game, its only right Chelsea invest in some if they want to compete again.