How do you solve Chelsea's defensive problems?

Frank Lampard has brought my Chelsea back! That was one of my previously published articles and it stands true now. We have a young, exci...

Frank Lampard has brought my Chelsea back! That was one of my previously published articles and it stands true now. We have a young, exciting, attacking team that want to move the ball forward quickly as early as possible and is such a difference to what we had witnessed last season. The problem is that despite all this, the main Achilles heel we have is our defence as we leave ourselves far too open at times. How do you solve Chelsea’s defensive problems?

Let’s start by saying that if you had asked me how would start at the back for Chelsea this season under Frank Lampard if everyone was fit? I would have said Cesar Azpilicueta at right-back, Emerson at left-back with Andreas Christensen and Toni Rudiger in the middle. The problem with that is that only Azpi has been fit from the start of the season with the other three having their issues none more so than Toni Rudiger.

Given the early opportunity, Marcos Alonso, Kurt Zouma and Fikayo Tomori have stepped in for the majority of games and overall have done well. Kurt Zouma looks to have recovered from the dodgy start at Old Trafford, Fikayo Tomori has played well and settled into life in the Premier League with Marcos Alonso playing his part also.

The common consensus in football is that you need a settled back four to be able to compete, they need time playing together to understand each others game, how they react in certain situations to form partnerships through the middle, to centre-back and full-back moving forward. In doing so, Kurt Zouma for example will know when to drop deep and cover Fikayo Tomori if he steps forward to make a challenge or to move across to support Cesar Azpilicueta if he attempts to do the same. Chopping and changing players across the back-four will disrupt things and you are asking players to adjust again. Of course when you have injuries this can’t be helped but you need to work hard to ensure there is the right balance.

Looking at the goals we have conceded this season, the games we have lost against Liverpool, Manchester United (twice) and now Manchester City in the Premier League, in addition to the three goals conceded against Valencia and the four goals we conceded at home to Ajax, we have defensive issues that Frank Lampard continues to work hard to solve. The question is “what exactly is the answer?”

We have seen Chelsea adopt a three man defence this season with Azpi dropping next to Zouma and Tomori. In doing so, we are asking the full backs to push higher up alongside the two central midfielders with two players in the number ten role playing in behind the main striker. Common sense would tell you that by adding an extra body in our defensive line would improve our defensive stability. However, look at the possible effect it would have on our attacking play, one of our midfielders would drop out of the side.

The back-four seems like the most viable option and is the most commonly used solution so far this season with as we have seen a variety of combinations being used. Is it those players and the levels of understanding by playing together or not the problem, or is it down the protection that is in front of them through our midfield?

Jorginho has been outstanding this season and Mateo Kovacic quite simply a revelation so far under Frank Lampard it has to be said and you can see just how effective he has been at this PowerPlay Website, but are they also the problem? The debate still rumbles on about N’Golo Kante’s position on the right of the three-man midfield and Jorginho playing in the middle of the three. The Italian has improved leaps and bounds in the defensive side of his game which is important to acknowledge, but there are still areas of concern - for example he was beaten easily against Manchester City in the build up to their first goal.

What I will say is that when we take him off the pitch or out of the side our use of the ball is drastically different. There is no link between the defence and midfield, we are slow moving the ball forward and look at times as though we lack ideas. People can bang on as much as they want to about the fact that we had more possession against Manchester City, but if you looked at the majority of what it was you will realise that it was due to passing the ball from one side of our back-four to the other!

Watching last night’s game back and BT Sport pundit Martin Keown, the ex-Arsenal defender made an excellent observation when Chelsea were holding onto a 2-1 lead against Valencia. He stated that N’Golo Kante was still pressing their players with the ball high up the pitch as we approached the final twenty minutes of the game and that Frank Lampard needed to give him an instruction to sit deeper in midfield to plug the holes in our formation. It’s a simple solution that never happened.

Mateo Kovacic was quite simply world class last night but again, late in the game looking to push forward late in the game to support the three players we already have in attacking areas. It’s clear that when we play with two in the midfield deeper role (if we play 4-2-3-1) or with a three-man midfield as we did last night, we need to understand when the time is right to push forward and when to sit deep.

At times we look good, we look solid and compact looking like we have sorted out any potential issues that the opposition is looking to expose. It’s the time when we look like the complete opposite that gives us all nightmares such as the TWO open goals that Valencia missed last night.

Something has to change moving forward to improve our team without the ball and to close the alarming holes in our defence at times. The problem is that I don’t think any of us can literally pinpoint exactly what the answer is!


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