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No Meireles, No Essien: Back To The Drawing Board For Robbie?

Does Robbie Need To Rethink His Tactics?

The end of the British transfer window proved just as eventful for Chelsea as the entire transfer window did. While we weren’t as busy as most clubs on deadline day, we did manage to send Michael Essien & Yossi Benayoun out on loan. After that, I thought we were fully done with any transfer dealings. How very wrong I was.

Yesterday, the club announced that we had agreed to sell Raul Meireles to Fenerbahce, a move that surprised most Chelsea fans considering how short of personnel we already were in the midfield. This sudden flurry of dealings mean that many fans began to question whether Robbie had the personnel to continue using his favoured 4-2-3-1 formation. Lets take a look.

As I have highlighted before, in the double pivot that Chelsea use, 2 different types of CM’s are needed: one must be a passer, a player who has the ability to pull the strings from a deep-lying position. The other must be a defensive-minded player, a player who provides cover for the back four. The best example I could use would be of Real Madrid. They too use the same 4-2-3-1 formation, and their double pivot usually consists of Xabi Alonso & Sami Khedira. While Alonso controls the game from deep, Khedira provides that stability in midfield that is so necessary in modern football.

At Chelsea, the usual combination is Frank Lampard & Jon Obi Mikel. Lampard’s job is to control the game, while Mikel sits back & defends. However, the combination is far from perfect. While Lampard sometimes lacks the ability to play that killer pass, Mikel’s inconsistency can be worrying. Despite Mikel erratic form, my major concern is who Robbie uses as a playmaker. The defensive-midfield slot can be ably filled by both Oriol Romeu & Jon Obi Mikel. The other combinations we can use are:-

1) Oscar-Mikel/Romeu. Sounds good enough, doesn’t it? We know that Oscar can play as a deep-lying playmaker & Mikel &/or Romeu won’t have to worry about the passing aspect if Oscar is playing. Then again, it’s an untried combination. Pre-season is gone, the time to experiment is over. Plus, it would be a bit unfair on Oscar if Robbie handed him such responsibility so early on in his Chelsea career. I don’t doubt Oscar at all, but the way Robbie is integrating him into the team by regularly bringing him off the bench is best for both the player & the club in the long run.

2) Ramires-Mikel/Romeu. This combination looks good on paper. Unfortunately, it won’t look so good if actually used. While Ramires does provide plenty of energy in the middle of the park, his passing isn’t the strongest aspect of his game. As a result, Chelsea’s midfield will look sluggish. A slow midfield is what prompted Robbie to change to a 4-2-3-1 in the first place. It would be silly to have to suffer the same problems again.

3) Romeu-Mikel. This combination might work (“might” being the key word here) but I don’t really expect to see Romeu & Mikel line up together. While it’s a known fact that Romeu is comfortable on the ball & can pass well, I don’t expect him to be given the “passing” role considering that he provides plenty of stability when played as a proper DM. This combination will provide plenty of stability in midfield, but will most probably slow the game down. A lot.

So these are the options ahead for Chelsea. There’s also the option of reverting back to the 4-3-3 formation, but I don’t think Robbie will even consider that. My reasons for saying so can be found here. He still has the personnel to use the 4-2-3-1, but there’s no doubt that he needs to go back to the drawing board, re-evaluate his options & pick the best one.

Shayne Dias

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