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Tactical Analysis: Chelsea left back dilemma

Over the past couple of weeks injuries for the Chelsea full back department have left them without Ashley Cole, Jose Bosingwa and Yuri Zhirkov to cover the left back position for 2 vital fixtures.

Malouda filled the void against both Inter in the Champions League and Man City in today’s fixture in the Premier League. I felt that he had 2 very good games on an individual basis, pushing forward to support the attack and tracking back and defending well. However as part of the Chelsea system I felt he didn’t quite fit in and it left them horribly exposed.

In the San Siro against Inter, Ancelotti lined up with a narrow 3 in the midfield which negated the Italian centre of Cambiasso, Thiago Motta and Stankovic. Up front they played Kalou, Drogba and Anelka, a front 3 pairing that would struggle to offer width sufficient to break down Inter.

In this situation Chelsea were relying on the full backs, Ivanovic and Malouda, to get forward and provide the necessary width. For whatever reason most of the action on Wednesday night went down the Chelsea right wing. Perhaps with the intention of getting at the ageing Javier Zanetti or maybe just a coincidence. When Ivanovic pushed down the right, Malouda had to push on the opposite wing to provide width and try to stretch Inter.

Inter Tactics vs Chelsea

Inter setup to absorb this pressure and played most of their football on the counter attack, with the Chelsea full backs out of the equation Inter were able to break and were left 3 versus 3 with plenty of space in the channels (shown in yellow above) to stretch the 3 Chelsea players. If they could have made more of these situations they would have more than a 1 goal lead to take into the second leg at Stamford Bridge in just under 3 weeks time.

Against Man City today, Chelsea went with a narrow-ish 4-4-2. Joe Cole providing a little bit more width down the left but this time Chelsea’s problems came from transitional play. Bellamy’s first goal came about because Chelsea left themselves 2 versus 2 at the back when they had a corner and the scores level at one a piece.

The move began from the clearance of a Joe Cole cross, at this point Chelsea had the situation under control. Carvalho was marking Bellamy and Mikel was free behind him to cover as he retreated to defend the transition. I cannot understand what went through Carvalho’s head, he all of a sudden decides that Bellamy is not important and turns to pressure Gareth Barry who has the ball, he has at least 15 yards to make before he can make any sort of block and leaves Bellamy with some 20 yards of space to play into before he gets to Mikel.

Predictably, Carvalho is in no man’s land, the ball is lifted into the space and Bellamy and Tevez are 2 versus 2 which leads to the goal. You can see the goal here at 101greatgoals.

Luckily it seems that Bosingwa and Zhirkov will be back next week. This will give Chelsea better shape and should see them through to the next round of the Champions League as well as their next few games in the Premiership.

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