Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Why it’s About Time Conte Goes Back To his Favoured Defensive Setup At Chelsea

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Aakarsh Bommakanti
Was diving around lush green grass not so long ago but my keyboard is all I have now. An avid observer of detail in sports with a passion to make myself heard. Can find me playing on a field if not in front of my screen.

A defeat to an inter-city rival will never go down well anywhere, let alone in the Premier League, and Chelsea were on the receiving end this past weekend as they were taught a lesson in football when the two faced off at the Emirates on Saturday. The manager termed his defence as ‘spineless’ and spoke about the need to reshuffle it to avoid further embarrassment after the loss to Arsenal. Reports today have also revealed that the manager wants to get rid of the likes of Gary Cahill and Branislav Ivanovic in the next transfer window, which shows that Conte now has serious doubts about the strength of his side at the back.

The loss to Liverpool at home would have hurt but the Blues tried to stage a comeback on the day that could have reduced the embarrassment. However, the loss to Arsenal exposed the many flaws that the team has at the back and it might be high time for Conte to start reshuffling his back-line before losing ground in the race to the top-4.

After the defeat to Arsenal, Conte spoke about the change needed at the back for Chelsea and acknowledged that he had some options to assess before the next game. Speaking to the media, Conte said, ‘I have to solve the situation because every game we concede two goals minimum. I have to solve the situation because every game we concede two goals minimum. Whether it is two back, three back or four back, I must find the right solution for this team and I work a lot to do this.’ This might be a clear indication that the manager might be moving back to an unorthodox 3-at the back formation that has served him well in his time at Italy.

3 at the back incoming?

The Italian manager is known to use a three-man defence with two wing-backs on either side, a tactic that sees the club have an overload in the midfield. It not only helps strengthen the defence but will also allow the team to have an extra member at almost every area in the field, outnumbering their opponents even in dangerous areas. At Chelsea, Conte has not used such a formation, especially with the lack of top class defenders who can take the 3 places at the back.

COBHAM, ENGLAND - MAY 15: David Luiz (L) and Gary Cahill of Chelsea walk off the field after training at Chelsea Training Ground on May 15, 2012 in Cobham, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

John Terry and Gary Cahill, the first choice centre-backs at the club may be decent options but the third centre-back, or the absence of one, has seen the manager hesitate to use that formation. David Luiz, though a decent player, is not the strong, commanding centre-back that Conte wants in his defence but with the recent losses, the boss may not have another choice.

Club skipper John Terry is currently injured and Conte might not want to risk him before the international break at the end of this week. But the weakness at the back for the Chelsea side need to be addressed and with not enough personnel to go to, a change in the system is the only option for the manager.

Cesar Azpilicueta though has had his bad moments this season, has been decent and will take the wing-back spots alongside Marcus Alonso on the other flank. David Luiz and Gary Cahill are the only senior fit centre-backs at the squad and will take their place in the middle while Branislav Ivanovic, who was more than decent in the previous season in the absence of Terry, will have to take up the third place in the back three.

It is a risk worth taking, at least for the trip to the KC Stadium this weekend. The orthodox 4-man defence has served the manager well this season but the last two games have left the manager with a lot to think about before the game at the weekend, and the only thing he can change to his setup is to completely change it, at least because of the lack of quality players to replace the weak links in the squad.

Terry and Kurt Zouma are not available for some time and will leave the manager with no extra options at the back, so it might be high time for Conte to go back to a system that he is familiar with to get his team back on track. When they do return, the gaffer will have more options and he could potentially have the stability that everyone presumed Chelsea would have when the Italian took over.

Do you think it is time for Conte to move back into a 3-man defence?

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