Chelsea's 4-2-3-1 Formation - Does Frank Lampard Still Have a Key Role to Play?

These images are referred to in the article below. After the 0-0 draw with QPR, many question have been raised by Chelsea fans concerni...

These images are referred to in the article below.

After the 0-0 draw with QPR, many question have been raised by Chelsea fans concerning the personnel in our starting line up. Robbie has strangely been playing players in their wrong positions. The most notable examples of this are Ryan Bertrand a left back on the left wing, Ramires a central midfielder on the right wing and Frank Lampard an attacking midfielder in defensive midfield. This is a very strange decision in light of the fact that the club spent nearly £80m in the summer on players who can play in the 3 attacking midfield positions. Now there is absolutely no doubting RDM's ability as a motivator, he is top class at what he does, however his team selections leave a lot to be desired.
Our main problem is retaining possession and moving the ball quickly, we need to find a solution to this problem and this is what i have come up with.

The image on the left (above) is my proposed starting line up against Juventus. In my opinion this team would best compliment both Chelsea’s players and their system in the most balanced way possible. It has a mixture of experience, youth, pace, steel and flair. 

I have attempted to "put round pegs into round holes" with this team selection (not the most revolutionary of concepts by any stretch of the imagination, yet undeniably effective). There are only suggested 3 changes, but i honestly believe that this will significantly improve our performance on the pitch. 
  • Azpilicueta is a natural right back and brings balance to the back four. 
  • Ramires is, contrary to popular belief, a central midfielder. The Brazilian has great pace, stamina and is solid defensively, I say why not give him a fair chance next to Mikel in the pivot? 
  • Moses proved his worth when he came on against QPR in that wide right position, he always looks to drive at the full back, take him on and make things happen, I believe he deserves his first start for the Blues.

In any formation, there is always an extremely important part of the system that needs to be functioning perfectly in order for the team to be at its best. It always used to be our striker, in days past we would hit Drogba and it would stick, then we would progress from there. We now have Torres and have switched to a 4-2-3-1 passing system from deep.

The vital cog of the 4-2-3-1 formation is the two central defensive midfielders. These players are of supreme importance to the success of the system. The image on the right (above) is a diagram of what the formation looks like when we are in complete control of the ball.
  • The full backs push up 
  • The centre backs are near the halfway line 
  • The central defensive midfielders are 10-15 yards in the oppositions half 
  • The 2 wide attacking players are near the corners of the box 
  • The central attacking midfielder is roaming freely trying finding space throughout the centre.
The red lines are the passing options for the central defensive midfielders, as you can see they are at the heart of everything and have every player in blue within their passing range. In order to play this position effectively, both of them MUST remain behind the ball. When we have possession, they are there to set the tempo of the game and recycle the ball to keep the game ticking over at a fast pace. They need to be making fast and sharp 1 or 2 touch passes, less is definitely more here.

The attacking players cannot function properly unless they get the ball quickly, the quicker they receive the ball, the more space they have to work their magic. The defensive midfielders should never be making runs in advance of the ball and should be moving horizontally across the pitch simply creating angles in order to give and receive passes. It is imperative that these two players are always available to receive a pass and recycle the possession.

This is where the Frank Lampard discussion comes in. When Frank plays in the defensive midfield position he is constantly making runs in advance of the ball, he ends up sitting in between the striker and the central attacking midfielder in search for goals and his double figure tally. He simply doesn’t have the discipline for this role. This causes 3 main problems for the team;

1.  There is one less option in the centre of the park for us to keep the possession, instead of always being available and helping the team keep the ball, he is actually a hindrance to the team because he turns the formation into an extremely unbalanced 4-1-3-1-1. He leaves Mikel on his own which significantly reduces passing options from the middle as he will only have angles on for half of the passes (either to the right or to the left).

2. His advanced runs close off all the space that our free role player has to work with because he will bring a marker with him. That is 2 more players in the small intricate space that Mata/Hazard have to operate in. This essentially nullifies our attack.

3. This leads to the play being broken up and the opposition going on the counter attack. Lampard is now so far forward that there is a gaping hole through the middle which Mikel has to attempt to fill and we get exploited. Re-watch the Atletico Madrid game (painful I know) and you will see exactly what I mean. Ivanovic also wasn’t fast enough to get back to defend the counter attack, although that is another story.

Do you disagree? If so give reasons and get the discussion going!
Does Lampard still have a key part to play?
What changes if any would you make to the starting line-up?

Thanks for reading, let me know what you think! 
There is a comment section below, don’t be afraid to use it first time visitors!

I would like to take this opportunity to thank ChelseaDaft for the chance to contribute to this already outstanding and successful blog!

Article by Martin Smith


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  1. Superb analysis! U got it spot on. Rdm is having serious team selection problems. I hope he's not too scared to bench lamps

  2. I'm happy cos this analysis is exactly what I've been crying about since this season started. Pair Ramires with Mikel or Romeu in that deep midfield and you'd get the best of both of them. I just wish RDM could read this blog. He might see reasons with us.

  3. Spot on mate!

    I've been a keen admirer of your blog & also a fan on facebook for almost a year & I must say that this is one of the most outstanding blogs ever!
    Keep up the good work mate!

    On the main topic at hand, I have to say that I agree with you fully!

    I always campaign for this on my chelsea blog page on facebook & one of the main problem is that the priceless contribution of Lampard to our club has made it near impossible not to include him in the main line-up.

    The bitter truth however is that, that factor is the exact point hindering our play!

    In my candid opinion, Lampard who is not a natural defensive midfielder has not impressed much in this holding role!
    He must be on the bench to allow Mikel, Ramires, & Romeu must flourish in their natural positions.
    The hard truth is that Lampard who is an attacking midfielder must be used as a sub for either Hazard or Oscar!

    Ideally, in order of priority in our 4-2-3-1 formation should see Lamps as a third choice attacking midfielder behind both Hazard & Oscar!

    1. what I wanted to say, word for word

  4. I liked Lampard. Now he is stopping us play and thinks he is key to us I hate him.

  5. More than lampard..i feel robbie playing ryan in left wing is the issue.. worked wonders on 19th may..but whats the catch here..
    Why now...playing a left back at left wing..
    I love robbie..but this is utter nonsense...
    Keep hazard behind torres..why not mata or for crying out loud..malouda at left wing..why is ryan bertrand playing there...??
    Im not getting really getting frustrated..
    And super frankie..deny it if u want..but its natural robbiez gonna consider the negativity that follows once frank is on the bench...and thats why frankie starts..
    Im seriously concerned..though we r top of the league...unbeaten...3 clean sheets out of 4 played..
    But im not having a good feeling about this..
    Lets hope robbie works it out..
    We all have faith in you robbie...


  6. And players sulking for being left out or being substituted is a very big issue here ..
    Why on Earth is torres sulking now...
    You played for 80 god damn couldnt do squat..we have to win..whats the big deal here..
    We have to win...for christs sake youre not at liverpool anymore..we are about winning and if u cant get that in your head then get out.. We have been patient with you...this is absurd nonsense from your end..
    I hope the juve game i'll get to see some improvement in the overall game..
    Up blues..


  7. the main problem is our 2 holding players. I always told my guys that and i was justified in monaco. I mean how good is a defensive midfielder in he cant win tackles or even chase after players to put pressure on players. So why is mikel on first team list. Lamp will be better if he stop chasing goal and help e attackers instead. Its now boring to watch chelsea matches

  8. First of all nice article you got it right.

    We don't retain the possession, even building the possession from the back four is very slow, we make more back passes than going forward like the one Mikel did yesterday. Some people are blaming Torres I don't think the fault is from him, he's not a striker like Drogba that works for everything instead Torres is a finisher give him the ball he will score like what Hazard is trying to do but if the midfield is not supplying the through balls he can't score and RDM should stop playing players out of positions Ramires is not a winger likewise Ryan.
    About the defence I think Terry - Luiz combo is not working well enough Cahill understand the way to play with Terry than Luiz, sometimes I wonder what Luiz is going forward for because his runs doesn't benefit our attackers.

    Blue is the colour!!!

  9. RDM is seeking a Gareth Bale in Ryan Bertrand.we don't need wingers.we need 3 strikers.main striker is torres and right for moses and left for mata.we need to use 4:2:1:3 formation.hazard will play as a CAM.

  10. let robbie stop startin lampard,its nt evri match we need experience,let him play 4rm d bench,wots oscar doin?wots rami doin in left wing?wots romeo doin?start doz guyz ahead of lamps nd c chelsea winin a more portion of posession,u'll c agility in d midfield,u'll c gud tackles in d midfield.

  11. An interesting read. I think we need to start seeing a lot more of oscar and a little less of lamps and mikel. Frank is not a defensive midfielder and keeps proving that by constantly pushing forward and deserting poor john obi. I agree with you on the ramires/mikel partnership at holding mid I reckon they would be a solid pair with rami's pace and work rate. Oscar surely will start a game soon as hopefully will moses who looked promising against qpr at the weekend. Also I do not think that bertrand in midfield is a problem at all the lad seems to adapt to the attacking roles quite well.

    As the juventus match this week is concerned my starting line up would be a 4 1 3 1.
    Azpi terry cahill cole
    Moses. Oscar. Hazard

    No way I would play torres after he had the cheek to storm off into the dressing room after he came off on saturday wouldn't even be on the bench if I was in robbies shoes. I would stick piazon on the bench instead.

    I have a funny feeling sturridge and moses will link up really well going forward.

    KTBFFH. Up the chels :)

  12. Great blog. I hope oscar and moses start and words cannot describe how badly I want to see lucas piazon play a first team game - serious talent right there. Him oscar and hazard would run circles round defences. I know he is still a bit of a youngsta but damn!!!

  13. i stuck up for lamps as a cdm in multiple posts previously, and i admit i was wrong. it begs the question why cant rdm play cams as cams. i mean bertrand at lw??? seriously unless phillip lahm or ramos is playing rb, theres no need to have a lb up there. not when players like moses mata and sturridge are on the bench. i respect rdm as a manager but lineups have been iffy. of course hazard missed the chance on a platter and we could have easily had a penalty as well, but i feel like lamps should be played as cam alongside mata and hazard, or use him as a sub.

  14. You are right ...but lampard should be punished for moving forward .... And substitute him for oscar...
    I see immense potential in david luiz...he should be promoted central defensive midfield position..... He has amazing running potential...also sturridge really looks wasted.... Wish they play him alongside torres

  15. Nice blog and analysis. Though we need some bit of experience, it shouldn't be in the expense of the teams victory. If a player or two does not fit in the coach's plan of formation,ithink he should be kept on the bench. Lamp is really making our midfield role a porous one as he always makes dirty runs and when he looses the ball, getting it back becomes a problem as age is telling on him, making Mikel vulnorable at the defense, putting immense pressure at the defensive backline.

    Ido appreciate Lamp for his immense contribution to the team, but istill respect that he gives chance for the younger bloods to show case their skills and help the team win games, while he comes from the bench to help where he see's faults and makes the corrections.

    That's my own contribution. Thank you and God bless!!!

  16. Nice analysis hope Robbie can see this and make amends immediately.

  17. Nice write up I must confess. In my own opinion Lampard should be coming in as a sunstitute now. The younger guys can do a better job. Robbie needs to know that Bertrand is a left back and certainly should not bench Mata, Sturridge or Moses. It doesn't make sense. On Torres I've said it on several fora, this guy cannot deliver. And I think apart from Robbie's view at the press conference, Torres is put in his place. He should play for the team and not personal glory.

  18. That has been said everytime.RDM is not ready to bench Lampard for the fear of losing the dressing room support.they will just do waat they did to AVB.maybe bcoz he is ENGLISH n the english fans would lynch the manager.Lampard just like Gerrard adds less impact to the team when started regularly.Moses is more dangerous than our other 2 'wingers' (Betrand n Ramires).i wonder RDM's level of expertise if he hasnt realized this.Ramires is more predictable on the wing (he just gets the ball n tries to run with it).so far the only game we played this season was against yet to c another one.the rain has just started n i cant c RDM making it to the end.i guess thats y he was just given a 2-year contract.all i pray 4 is we manage a top 4 finish but Arsenal should not finish ahead of us.

    1. @nestar i critisized u in an earlier post, but i agree now that rdm has been iffy with team selection. i respect him, but i agree that lamps could be better used off the bench.

  19. RDM is going to be a failure if he continue this way, just take a look at the way meireles play is single match before he was sold, He's performance was highly better than that of lampard, Lampard is old and need to be relaxing on bench coming in at around 10 to 20mins to the end of the match.
    And of Torres i think he need to be bench for some matches and let RDM warn sturigdes to stop he's selfish with the ball and play with the team for i believe He's for now better than Torres

  20. superb i too need to make some suggestions,
    1. Y r we forgetting oscar, we all know wt he can do so y nt play oscar instead of moses atleast for a trial to see who can fit in that position.
    2. D points u have highlighted for lampard, i cmpletely agree with u, but then also i would prefer lampard in place for mikel with ramires, knowng all his previous records and his class.
    3. Finally i would say a 4-3-3 combination can also suit better, leaving ramires lampard and oscar in d midfield, and hazard torres and mata to attack. This way even if lampard goes to attack, we wil still have ramires n oscar in d midfield.. Plz guys i think u all should look forward to these views of mine

  21. Yu guys are forgetting Marin!. He was our best player during the pre-season.

    1. Marin just came back from injury,he didnt play well for the reserve team,he need some time. My view of Lampard;he should be coming in as a subtitute. Why using Bertnand when we have Moses&Oscar! What if Ashley Cole get injured who will be his replacement i wonder. KTBFFH




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