Every formation seems to be ineffective for Lampard’s backline. Whether 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 or 3-4-3, it doesn’t help the fact that lots of goals will be conceded. The formation only changes the structure it doesn’t change the organization. As a result of this every individual in the defence probably just had their worst season ever in a Chelsea shirt. It doesn’t matter whom the Manager plays, he gets the same result with them all.
A statistic that Chelsea conceded 16 goals in just 8 UEFA Champions League matches blur the image more. 54 goals were also allowed in all 38 Premier League matches, the most amongst the Premier league final top 10 teams. The situation has lessened the confidence of individuals in the defence including the man who had let in 8% of Chelsea’s Premier League all-time goals in just 2 seasons. Kepa Arrizabalaga.
Who’s to blame? Let’s look at how Frank Lampard set his defence:
For a footballer who refined his game under the watch of Jose Mourinho, some positions will surely be a priority for him. Although Lampard loves to press, he also uses his sense. He never waltzes with the central areas of his half. As a proven shooter himself he is well-aware of the key positions to attempt shots. Hence his defending philosophy revolves around protecting the central areas.
Whether the adopted formation is 4-3-3, 4-2-3-1, 3-4-3 or 4-1-4-1, Lampard’s team will always deny opposition central spaces and half-spaces. This often sees them fall into a 4-5-1 shape. This is very efficient by having three midfielders at the centre, two wide midfielders tracking the opposition fullback, and Chelsea fullbacks in their traditional role.
NB: This is just the basic and the most used shape, a lot of other shapes have been adopted by Lampard to neutralize his opposition.
What then is the problem? There are two major glitches to look into;
Compactness is staying as one skeleton in defending situations. It means every member of the team positions himself in a certain scope of space to give the team a solid shape. It takes organization and it can only be achieved as a team. This was Lampard’s problem at the start of the season which he corrected afterwards but the problem reemerged later due to another factor.
The latter compactness problem resulted from disorganized pressing. Players stepped out of their assigned position to press unnecessarily. This is very common to the central and defensive midfielders.
The solution to this is to organize the press. An organized pressing system means every player knows when to press and when not to. One of the benefits of pressing organization is the understanding it gives the players of their teammates’ action. It gives the team a finite shape, that doesn’t mean robotic – but a designed machine whose components are working effectively.
Few numbers in defence:
Systematically, a 4-3-3 double eights pivot is a too-attacking formation for Lampard’s team. This shape is throwing too many players forward that would mean fewer men protecting large space. The 4-3-3 shape always changes to 3-2-5 in the attack; in the final third both fullbacks would attack the wide areas, the two wingers and a striker position in the box waiting for crosses. Sometimes the two eights are asked to create an underlap inside the box which will realistically leave just 3 men behind.
Aside from the system, the problem of leaving fewer men behind was also caused by the type of central and defensive midfielders Chelsea has. Every player in these positions has a trait of winning the ball high up the pitch and getting into the opposition half. This is a trait that is difficult to unlearn. In other words, Chelsea don’t have a midfielder that can hold his position
The system situation can be adjusted by requiring less attacking duties from the central midfielders. Or by instructing fullbacks to sit deep when the central midfielders are attacking – Lampard can’t just attack through the flanks and the middle at the same time and expect a fair defence let alone good.
The trait conundrum can only be dealt with by signing a holding midfielder. A holding midfielder would work well with every Chelsea’s current midfielder. He will provide the balance and helps the team to maintain its compactness.
In conclusion, this is the system Kepa and Caballero are expected to perform in every week. It is true individually they looked poor but it could be proved that this system made them lose their confidence. This is not a theory about one player or two, it applies to everyone in the defence which isn’t a coincidence. I’m confident addressing these issues can make us a solid team defensively without needing to buy a defender.
What do you think will solve our defensive problems? Let us know in the comments below!