Chelsea’s always been a midfield-centric club, despite boasting the presence of some of the best strikers in the game – former league top scorers Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka, not to mention the devastating (back in the day) Fernando Torres. Unlocking the potential of its midfield has often been the key to a successful campaign – separating the managers who go down in history, from those who will unceremoniously be reduced to a mere footnote.

Lampard’s prolonged absence from the side last season, and Chelsea’s subsequent meltdown have led to some smart purchases in the midfield department under the watchful eyes of Chelsea’s resident chief-tactician and newly-appointed manager Andre Villas-Boas. What would have come as a season-ending sucker-punch in earlier seasons, in the form of Essien’s injury is now an opportunity, especially considering Lampard’s star is on the wane, for a new era in midfield to dawn.

So what formations can Chelsea try out, ensuring its legs don’t give way before the end of the season, while also ensuring every player is played in a position that serves to showcase his strengths? With the talents at his disposal, Andre Villas-Boas could opt for either a four-man midfield or the more tried-and-tested three-man version.

 

Four Aces

Diamonds were supposed to be forever. Ancelotti would probably disagree considering he dropped it like a hot potato, and reverted to a 4-3-3 after he got found out. But could the diamond have succeeded with someone as abundantly blessed like Juan Mata at the tip of the diamond? With Lampard and a fully-fit Essien on the sides of the diamond, you might get a bit short on width, considering they’re more inclined to stick to the centre of the pitch. With Romeu handed the responsibility of the holding midfielder, the onus will be on Lampard and Essien to keep in mind their defensive responsibilities too.

 

Another more adventurous variant of the four-man midfield could be the T-formation. With Mata operating on the left flank, Meireles taking to the centre of midfield and Mikel sitting back just in front of the back four, you’d need an attack-minded player on the right flank. Chelsea doesn’t necessarily have a dedicated right-winger, which is where David Luiz could be tried. The world knows him as a central defender for the Blues, taking turns with Alex and Ivanovic to partner Terry. But Luiz can also play as a full-back on either side. And as someone who’s proven to be quite adept at scoring goals in crunch situations, Luiz wouldn’t be the worst choice for the spot. Of course with his penchant to go marauding up the pitch, you might want to have Ivanovic at right-back instead of Bosingwa. The Blues will need someone to tidy up after the young Brazilian.

 

Carlo Ancelotti seemed to have concerns with fielding the young McEachran in his side, last season, when the talented Wilshere was making a name for himself in North London. The young Englishman proved to be a revelation whenever he played for Chelsea last season. He’d be perfect in central midfield where his impeccable range of passing would make him the perfect foil for an advanced Juan Mata. Lampard and Ramires will flank him in this position, and McEachran could count on the former’s experience and the latter’s indefatigable stamina to make his life easier.

 

Let’s give the T-formation another shot, shall we? We’d omitted Lampard the last time around, so he pencils his name right away in this one in the centre of midfield, in a slightly retreated position for an attacking midfielder in order to enable his characteristic late runs. Malouda on the left would add the width, while Ramires will need to do likewise on the right. The reliable, though not exciting, Mikel will be the defensive midfielder holding fort.

 

David Luiz as a defensive midfielder. Puzzled? If you have a resolute centre-back pairing,A� why not try the Sideshow Bob-lookalike as in this role. At Stamford Bridge, he was critical in denying Rooney quite a few chances at scoring last season. His head and youthful exuberance get the better of him, but on his day Luiz will be more than a handful regardless of what position he plays in. It’ll take a lot of bravery to try this out against a more established team.

Remember that Champions League quarter-final when Essien kept Gerrard silent all day-long operating as a defensive midfielder? There are few players out there with the strength, the technical excellence and the presence that Essien does. Upon his return, Essien could be called-upon to carry out a one-man hit job on the most influential player in some of the best European opposition. With Lampard, Meireles and Mata completing the diamond, this is a formation to die for.

 

Now how impressive would this formation be. If you’re not convinced Luiz is the man for the right flank, perhaps Ramires might interest you? And how about Meireles instead of Essien in central midfield? If Chelsea need to dominate the midfield while also setting the wings alight, you would need to give this formation a look. Would it be taking too far to suggest Meireles could sit back as the fifth man in a midfield, while Chelsea play with a solitary striker up front?

 

If the four man midfield brings you bad memories of the team floundering before the dressing room-revolution turned things around, then perhaps a threesome might be in order. Just what midfield trio that would be, is something Villas-Boas would be spoiled for choice with again.

 

A Trinity

 

This seems to be Villas-Boas’ midfield of choice for now. Having Meireles reprise his role as a defensive-midfielder during his Porto years, is clearly meant to reassure the new manager with a familar face in a familiar position. Lampard on the left would be solid if not spectacular, while Ramires could have his moments on the right. Mata will need to operate as part of the offensive line, but in a wide position.

 

This is the poor man’s midfield. With McEachran, Mikel and Ramires all featuring in this formation, Chelsea will be noticeably lightweight in this area. It wouldn’t be out of place to expect this set-up in a game Chelsea have dominated for the most part and are merely looking to run down the clock. The Blues will need to feature a heavyweight offensive line up to keep the momentum in their favor.

 

Once Essien returns, both in presence and form, he could partner Lampard in central midfield with Mata operating just in front of the duo. Chelsea play their best football in a 4-3-3. Whether they can continue to do so in a formation where Lampard is no longer point man and the Zola-esque Mata is remains to be seen.

 

If Essien’s return goes off-script, Chelsea need look no further than Meireles to take up The Bison’s position. The Portuguese star has played on the right of midfield before, and will hopefully take to the role quite comfortably. If he does a stand-up job, Essien might find himself looking for a new employer.

 

If Chelsea are to win the Champions League, you would imagine Mata would play some sort or role on the left extremity up-front. With Torres, Sturridge, Drogba and Anelka fighting it out for the remaining spots up front, you’d have an impressive trio of Lampard, Meireles and Essien operating in an impressive line. When you consider you can call upon the likes of Malouda and Ramires as replacements for Lampard and Essien respectively, this formation would probably be Chelsea’s default towards the business end of the season.

 

Romeu is a talented defensive midfielder who could potentially bring more to the game than Mikel would. If Meireles were injured or undergoing a torrid run of form, you could expect Chelsea to go in with the tried and tested Lampard-Ramires combo while Romeu sits deep. John Obi Mikel would certainly like to stake his credentials to Romeu’s position here, and you’d be hard-pressed to deny him a chance.

Tell us what you think ought to be the formation Chelsea goes with. Could a four man midfield be the way out of Chelsea’s recent uninspiring run? Or would you rather stick with a variant of the 3-man midfield?

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3 Responses to “Chelsea’s Corner: The Villas-Boas Midfield Mix”

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  1. Fact says:

    Dude serious you are considering Mikel?? First sell him!!

  2. You had made a mess here……stick to 1,2 or 3 formation…..don’t mess thinks here :(

  3. blue 4 ever says:

    Lampard. Raul, Ramires will be good and we should sell Malouda cause most of the time he play’s very selfish……….in January transfer window along with Malouda we should sell Alex,Kalou,Paulo Ferreira and if we can get Kevin De Bruyne,Gary Cahill,Gregory Van der Weil and Joao Moutinho then we can get the epl easily…