Wednesday, February 22, 2012


Napoli won 3-1 last night and all but decided who's going to be in Champions League's next stage. In fact, with the way things are at Chelsea, it's hard to envision them overturning a two-goal deficit (and not conceding).

Sometimes, it's hard to believe André Villas-Boas was an opposition scout (and Mourinho's, no less). Faced with a very specific opponent - arranged in a 3x4x3 -, the Portuguese coach went for his latest choice of 4x2x3x1, with Meireles and Ramires in the middle of the park, Mata just behind Drogba and Sturridge and Malouda on the wings. As it was, both Sturridge and Malouda turned their defensive chip off too often and Napoli did their usual thing and created overloads on the wings.

With Maggio and Zuñiga pushing forward and Hamsik and Lavezzi working the channels, it was hard to understand what Chelsea's defensive approach was. Because Sturridge and Malouda were reluctant in performing their defensive duties, both Meireles and Ramires were forced wide to try and stop the bleeding and mark either the wingback (Zuñiga or Maggio) or the winger (Lavezzi or Hamsik). With both defensive midfielders almost out of the picture, Cavani and Lavezzi were free to get the ball easily and run riot with it. Sure enough, the pair of them scored the three goals and were involved in several other attempts.

Villas-Boas should perhaps have stuck to his beloved 4x3x3, especially if we take into account that neither Ramires nor Meireles are exactly equipped to perform that role and that both players prosper in making runs into the box and creating mismatches. In this tactical system, they can't take advantage of their strengths and Mata becomes easy prey. By going 4x2x3x1, Villas-Boas wasn't able to outnumber the opposition in the middle of the field, which was odd, to say the least.

Chelsea still look like they are trying to find a remedy to all their problems, but keep failing in doing the simplest things, such as being a cohesive defensive unit or a simple 5-yard pass. While both players and manager don't understand that, it seems very hard to see them holding on to fourth place in their domestic league and ensure Champions League football for next year.

No comments: