Whereas the discussion in Monday’s match against Chelsea has focused around Clint’s penalty, to me the bigger story in the game was the formations. And how they would dictate the, erm, “spectacle”.
Chelsea came out with the predictable 4-3-3, albeit Drogba started on the bench. Hughes countered with an inverted 4-4-2 — that was mostly a 4-4-1-1 — with Duff on the right and Dempsey on the left. So just by looking at the team sheets, you knew there would be absolutely no width. There’s Route One football, and then there’s youth league soccer where everyone clutters the middle and follows the ball. Sadly, this was a case of the latter.
But, I think this was Hughes’ plan as Rich alluded to. By forcing Chelsea, who have a lot of things but not the quick passing acumen of Barcelona or Arsenal, to play directly up the middle there was never any real danger of us being stretched and ripped apart. Even when they have over 60% possession, and out-shot us 25 to 13 (although we managed to out-shoot them 5 to 3 on target), at no point were we truly up against the ropes. We wanted them to go through the middle, which they did. And we kept a clean sheet.
To illustrate my point, below are the average positions in Monday’s game and last week’s game against Villa. Monday’s game is on the bottom, Villa on the top.
For those unaware of Chelsea’s numerical roster, #9 and #39 are Torres and Anelka respectively. Also notice how our #16, Damien Duff, got so far forward against Villa in comparison to how deep he was against Chelsea.
So unfortunately Soccernet had to go and change their gamecast/data info, so the images aren’t as good as they once were. And they don’t really match up proportionally to one another.
But the point remains: Monday was a clusterfark.