Flexible Frank | Three different tactical formations beat Arsenal - So much better than last season!

Chelsea received plenty of plaudits from their fantastic fightback against Arsenal yesterday and rightly so. Many of the standout perfor...

Chelsea received plenty of plaudits from their fantastic fightback against Arsenal yesterday and rightly so. Many of the standout performers have been mentioned and championed in the press this morning in the post-match write-ups, however I think it’s just as important to point out just how important the decisions made by Frank Lampard (with the assistance of Jody Morris & Joe Edwards) were key to turning yet another defeat into our second successive win in North London.

Tactical Formation Number One: 3-4-2-1. 

We start by saying that the first thirty minutes at The Emirates was woeful. The only player starting the game that was different from the Tottenham win was Emerson in for Marcos Alonso. On that day we had a real desire to start well, to hassle their players in possession, to press high with intensity and if anything, our starting formation baffled Jose Mourinho and his players who found life so difficult to live with in that first forty-five minutes.

Yesterday was completely different. We were so far off the pace it was unreal. There was no intensity, there was no press and Arsenal dominated as a result. It was so easy for them to play their passes as we had made the decision as a team to sit back and defend our own half rather than push up. A goal down and looking like Tottenham did against us last week in the first half, it was clear that our formation and mentality needed to change. We needed to get hold of the ball and quickly.

Tactical Formation Number Two: 4-3-3. 

The first change to our tactical formation was made after just thirty minutes and with balls from Frank Lampard. Emerson off for Jorginho and we switch to 4-3-3. Fikayo Tomori moves across to right-back, Cesar Azpilicueta to left-back with Toni Rudiger and Kurt Zouma in the middle. Jorginho in the middle of our three-man midfield with Kante and Kovacic either side of him, Willian wide right, Mount wide left with Tammy Abraham up top.

Within minutes you could see the effect the change had on everyone in the team. Jorginho made himself available to the back-four to give them an immediate out-ball whilst forcing Arsenal and Mesut Ozil to focus on closing him down rather than look for space to create going forward. With Ozil doing that, Chelsea’s midfield now had space to play and, for the first-time in the half, we began to dominate possession.

Into the second half and despite Arsenal having the odd moment or two that caused us any real concern we could see how the half would play out. Chelsea dominating the ball and forcing Arsenal backwards inside their own half. We moved the ball well but had not caused them any real problems. We needed to find a solution.

Tactical Formation Number Three: 4-2-3-1. 

Two changes were made by Frank Lampard – Fikayo Tomori off for Tariq Lamptey making his first-team debut and Callum Hudson-Odoi for Kovacic. Chelsea were dominating the game so much that we had to take a further chance and Frank Lampard introduced an additional attacking player. Still dominating the game, we now were playing with real width forcing Arsenal to move from side-to-side looking for space.

Jorginho wins the free-kick out wide left and converts a tap-in from close range following the subsequent ball into the box to make it 1-1 and was well deserved. At that point, all of us would have taken a point but we were still well on top in the game so why not push for the winner?

You look at our winner yesterday and you must give full credit for the positions of our players but also have to be critical of just how many players Arsenal had pushed forward. If anything, it reminded me of the way we counter-attacked Manchester City at The Etihad under Antonio Conte for Willian’s goal to make it 1-2 Chelsea.

Ball is cleared with a defensive header in our box and we win the flick on and are away. On that day Diego Costa held the ball up then played in Willian who was at full speed down the right-wing. Willian collects the flick on, plays the ball up to Tammy Abraham yesterday and was on his bike again with the same run. Tammy plays it back to him, he takes a touch wide right into the box, plays it back to Tammy and he spins and slots the ball home to make it 1-2 Chelsea.

It was just reward for me for a team that had literally shook themselves into life with the introduction of Jorginho in the first half, and with some choice words from the manager at half-time in addition to the players reportedly ripping into each other to lift themselves. Credit the players for picking themselves up and to deliver the message the manager was asking for. They are the ones that go out on the pitch and deliver a performance which must be said.

However, it’s the manager that makes decisions, important decisions to give the players the opportunity to do so and that in my book is just as important. It’s one thing to work on a tactical approach for a couple of days and then drum that into the players. It’s another to see that on the day it was incorrect and wasn’t working.

To then have the balls to switch things after just thirty minutes is not something we see every day. We had all been calling for it at half-time but to see the change made so soon is almost unheard of.
Finally, seeing just how much we were dominating the game, how much we had controlled the game since that first half-half tactical switch, but to see that we still were not causing Arsenal major issues, to then go again and make the third tactical change to chase the game was outstanding.

We had to settle for the same boring formation and tactical approach throughout the whole of last season. Now, we have a manager who is more than willing to adapt to in-game situations in two of the biggest games of this or any season in the past seven days.

The next step for “Flexible Frank” and his team will be to do this on a game-by-game basis and to ensure that we can be as flexible to grab hold of games by the throat against any team in the Premier League.

For now, focusing purely on Tottenham and Arsenal, Frank Lampard has demonstrated that he has real talent as a manager and a very different approach that hopefully, in many years to come, will deliver success at Chelsea.


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