Carlo Ancelotti has certainly stamped his mark on Chelsea early in the season so far. A Community Shield victory, coupled with 3 Premiership wins on the bounce has seen Chelsea rise to the top end of the table. So far, so what then? Nothing surprising in that in itself, would we expect the any of the big four to not already be putting markers down for the early running. What did make me sit up and take notice was Michael Essien being placed on the bench so early.
Ancelotti said after yesterdays game that he wanted to rest Essien as he was tired after his efforts in the midweek win at Sunderland. Two weeks in to the season and rotation is already being seen in Chelsea’s team selection. In the two games since the opening day win against Hull, Ancelotti has changed 4 players in both starting line-ups, with only 6 players starting all 3 games.
Cech, Cole, Boswinga, Terry, Lampard and Drogba are the the six in question with only Lampard retaining his place in Ancelotti’s much discussed midfield diamond formation. Perhaps this is the managers way of dealing with the fragile ego’s that modern footballers display on a daily basis by showing that match time is available to as many of the players as possible. Yet, Lampard has been moved around the midfield diamond, starting on the right against Hull, on the left hand side against Sunderland and then at the forward point against Fulham.
Against Fulham, Lampard was consistently further forward throughout the game than I’d seen in a long time. Whilst there is no doubt that Lampard remains the most potent and consistent attacking midfielder in the Premiership, his position often saw him playing alongside Drogba and Anelka at Craven Cottage.I’ve only ever seen him playing so offensively in cup matches against lower league opposition but Fulham never got to grips with Lampard positioning. Chelsea’s were then able to control the ball and Fulham never looked likely to stop the flow through to the strikers.
Perhaps this is a part of the new midfield system that Ancelotti is trying to instill into the Chelsea midfield. By rotating the starting positions of the midfield, especially with such experienced international players keeps their opponents guessing. It seems designed to confuse teams that will be looking to specify defensive midfielders to do a man marking job on Lampard. Clever players can always cope with these systems, that seem to allow the midfield to rotate fluidly throughout the match.
It’s certainly given Chelsea a little bit more mystery when they play. Against Sunderland, they were constantly breaking in waves, pouring forward from the midfield but seemingly taking turns to lead the charge. Deco would go, then Ballack, then Lampard, occasionally Essien would burst forward confusing the opponents even more. Perhaps he’s already trying to work out how things will shape up when the African Cup Of Nations kicks off in January.
I’ve been very impressed with Ancelotti’s work so far, but the first real test will in October when the Blues entertain Liverpool at Stamford Bridge.Once we see this fluid diamond formation come up against top class midfielders trying to dismantle it, it will interesting to see if still works as well.