Can Chelsea Play a 3-5-2?


“We will play 4-2-3-1 in the first game, my favourite system, though sometimes I change the triangle and play with one in front of the defenders and two players up. Other times I play with double midfielders and a No10. This is a team where we have not one or two but three or four players who like very much to be a No10: [Kevin] De Bruyne likes it, Oscar likes it, Mata likes it, [Eden] Hazard likes it. It is a natural system for all these players to play.”

“But in another match I could change it. If we are losing, we might need to have two pure strikers. It is something we will work on because I would like to have this capacity to have it ready to play, independent of the players we have. Naturally, we will have four at the back and in my team, the attackers are attackers. Some guys say we play 4-2-3-1, blah blah blah blah, and sometimes the attackers have a defensive job so it is more like 4-5-1. But it is not 4-5-1, it is 4-3-3.”

Not that it’s going to happen anytime soon.

That was Mourinho, back in July, confirming that he’s not afraid to change things to achieve a result. And the Everton game was proof that he refuses to live by anything other than his word.

A loss against Everton, some may take it harder than others. For a few, it was a performance that was planned wrong, the constant change in formation left a few baffled. The substitutions, Lampard and Torres, were seen as weak options.

For the rest of us, it was a chance, early in the season, to see what Mourinho was capable of. He switched us from a 4-2-3-1 to a 4-3-3 to a 4-5-1 and we ended the game in a 3-5-2.

The final formation was an eye-opener for football enthusiasts. One we’ve seen being played magnificently by Antonio Conte’s Juventus. The 3 at the back stay wide, Pirlo drops deep in midfield, which allows him time to analyse the best passing option. That’s 70% of the work complete. The other 30% is made up of clever passes in attack, playing into gaps in defence, resulting in the inevitable.


But do Chelsea have what it takes to play a sucessful 3-5-2?

Going by what we saw on Saturday, we have a world class keeper, three solid defenders that are capable of handling a defence, a packed midfield with different qualities and strikers that can’t quite keep up, unfortunately.


Defensively, we seem to have tightened up since last year, we’re not leaking as many, though we may have the odd game where we concede a silly goal. Mourinho’s known for his having his team play in a somewhat defensive manner, hitting teams on the counter. What we saw on Saturday was the perfect defensive setup for a 3 man defence.

Ivanovic, strong on the right side, wins 99% of aerial duels, can cover a large amount of ground very quickly. John Terry, a master of positioning, sets up offside traps, the centre of every last-ditch tackle and also wins majority of aerial duels. David Luiz, uses his pace to intercept passes, aerially very good, shows composure when under pressure, and also likes advancing forward to create chances from midfield. Added to this is a Terry-esque player, Gary Cahill, who offers what our Captain offers, but has a lot more pace in his game. Though he is yet to learn the art of holding the line perfectly, Cahill is someone we can rely on if we are to play a 3-5-2.


No one can say we haven’t got the numbers in midfield. We’re absolutely packed. We haven’t got many defensive midfielders, but do have central midfielders and attacking midfielders in abundance.

For a more defensive 3-5-2, we would need to use a 3 man defence with two wingbacks that join midfield. Those wingbacks would be Azpilicueta and Bertrand. We would also need another defensive midfielder, one that can sit in front of defence, play the ball out wide or through the middle and is capable of holding onto the ball with ease, especially in a league that presses hard to win the ball. We needn’t have to look too far for one either. People seem to write off McEachran far too easily, though he’s still not ready for Chelsea. Give him 2 more seasons, let him bulk up, get some good Premier League experience. He’s capable of becoming one of the best in that position. His vision and ability to execute a pass effortlessly is brilliant. More strength would mean he could muscle off a player in a 1 on 1, and he defends like a natural, even now. At the moment, Mikel seems the most obvious choice for the role.

For a more offensive 3-5-2, we could have Ramires or Mikel holding in the middle with Oscar or Kevin De Bruyne and Mata on either side, who tend to drop deep and get the ball out of midfield. Out wide we could have Schürrle on the left and Willian on the right. Schürrle and Willian’s defensive duties will increase of course, and them dropping back to defend would mean the players on either side of Ramires will have to advance, which they love doing anyway.

Up Front:

Though we’re not blessed with a strong team of forwards, one player that could change our luck up front is Eden Hazard. Immense dribbling ability, can beat his man in a 1 on 1 with extreme pace, has a powerful shot and most importantly he likes bringing his teammates into the game. Though he’s been asked to be more selfish, Hazard still looks to play the ball around and allow others to have their chance. He’s strong enough to hold off a challenge and his ability to turn his defender with ease makes him an ideal player to have supporting our striker. At the moment, it looks as though Eto’o will be our main striker, and the link up play with Hazard would suit him well.

We’re still in desperate need of a top class centre forward, one in the mould of Lewandowski, who likes linking up with players around him as well as making himself a target man for long balls.

All in all I feel we are capable of playing a good 3-5-2, we have a good set of players who are able to adapt to new shapes, and a manager that is brave enough to try it out, though it is interesting to see whether it’d work in the Premier League.

Here’s a quick explanation about how a 3-5-2 formation works.


Defensive 3-5-2

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Attacking 3-5-2

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