Jose Mourinho’s men didn’t face too much of a challenge against Maccabi Tel-Aviv in their Champions League opener on Wednesday, comfortably winning 4-0. The Israeli champions didn’t offer much at all, and so it would be wrong too many conclusions, but there were a couple of individuals for Chelsea that stood out and shone.
The feel-good factor needs to return to Stamford Bridge, and even though the win in Europe was a step in the right direction, the revival will only be complete after a good run in the Premier League. The Blues only have 4 points in 5 games, and find themselves in 17th place in the table.
They face Arsenal on Saturday, and with the Gunners losing to Dinamo Zagreb in their Champions League tie, it is the perfect opportunity to record a morale-boosting win. Jose Mourinho has never lost to Arsene Wenger in the league in 10 meetings, and must absolutely make sure that that record stands after this week. Manchester City already have a massive 11 point lead over Chelsea, and it will certainly be game over for the Blues if they are cut further apart.
A major reason for Chelsea’s poor performances this season has been the amount of space that the opposition midfielders have had to exploit. Cesc Fabregas has been beaten far too easily, while Nemanja Matic has also looked a shadow of his dominant self from last season. The defence has been in tatters as well, but they have been left far too exposed by the men in the middle of the park.
Playing Ramires or John Obi Mikel hasn’t really proven fruitful, and it is quite apparent that Mourinho needs a different solution. That solution may have appeared on Wednesday, in the form of youngster Ruben Loftus-Cheek. The Englishman was one of the standout players against Tel-Aviv, and even though facing Santi Cazorla and Francis Coquelin is a different proposition altogether, he certainly has the confidence and ability to successfully do it.
Playing Loftus-Cheek alongside Matic will allow Fabregas to push further forward and have more freedom to roam. The lack of defensive responsibility on the Spaniard’s shoulders may see him have much more of an impact going forward. He is yet to register a goal or an assist in the league thus far, but managed one of each against Tel-Aviv.
With Willian and Pedro both out injured, it is the perfect opportunity for Mourinho to try this out. The 4-3-3 formation was the cornerstone for his tremendous success in his first stint with Chelsea, and he more or less pioneered the trend of playing a lone striker in England. This time, he hasn’t had the players to replicate the same, but that may be changing now.
Loftus-Cheek is just 19, but looks ready to take on the big-time. He has the support of his manager as well, which is clearly exemplified by the fact that he has made the direct jump to the first-team without going out on loan.
This is how Chelsea would shape up with a 4-3-3 formation:
The players shown in defence are prospective. It is very likely that Branislav Ivanovic returns to the side despite his poor start, along with John Terry. If Mourinho decides to stick with the 4-2-3-1 formation, it will in all likelihood, be Loic Remy who starts on the right. The Frenchman played there after Willian got injured in midweek, and did a passable job.
In a way, Chelsea don’t have much to lose at this stage. Change is needed, and a 4-3-3 is not a risky experiment by any means. There will be more cover in midfield, and Fabregas will be more in his comfort zone. This formation will work both home and away, no matter who the opposition.