Chelsea beat Dinamo Zagreb 2-1 in the Champions League on Wednesday night after conceding a goal early in the game.
It was yet another Graham Potter new formation, lining up with a defense of four. This has and always will be my preferred training, and I really hope that Potter has seen the benefits of this training and continues with it now and in the future.
Potter lined up with a 4-3-3 variation. It looked more like a 4-3-1-2, like this:
There were a lot of positives to this, notably for Raheem Sterling, Pierre Emerick Aubameyang, Kai Havertz, more protection for Jorginho, Mason Mount and better defensive stability. I think César Azpilicueta has his limitations, but he will always feel more comfortable in the defense of four. It’s the way forward for us for now, until we can make more signings.
Sterling was good, much more involved and much more dangerous in and around the box. This is the best position for him for us, and this formation allows it. He needs to be advanced.
I was delighted to see Aubameyang deflected wide to the left, he presented different problems and in fact I think the second half was the best we have seen him so far in terms of team play and ball contributions. I loved seeing him play more as a winger, facing defenders and playing in front of goal. He was cutting with his right foot and he looked really dangerous.
Havertz was given a free role and was able to drift wherever he wanted to go. He was playing in the role of ten, I suppose, and this allowed him to be the connector between midfield and attack, and he did very well. This position suits you.
We played a midfield three, meaning Jorginho had Mount and Denis Zakaria playing very close to him and this allowed him more time on the ball to find passes, and also more coverage and help tracking down runners and bodies to defend. I always pick a three in midfield with this current setup. But I think the way Potter positioned this midfield three was key; Mount and Zakaria were like half 8s, they weren’t full 8s bombing forward all the time, they both stayed very close to Jorginho.
I always want to see Mason play deeper, that’s where you’ll always get the best out of him, and it showed once again last night. He was hungry and always positive and progressive with the ball. He should continue to play as an 8, there is no debate.
Having a back four with full-backs defending heavily over anything else gave us numbers while defending, and also allowed those further forward to focus on attacking. Mount and Zakaria, playing as part of that well-positioned midfield three, were also able to help the full-backs defensively, meaning all Havertz, Aubameyang and Sterling had to do was attack.
It wasn’t perfect, we had to score more and fight again to make that last decisive pass at times. Another team could have punished us for not finding that third goal. The opposition gave us a lot of time on the ball, so we weren’t fully tested. However, the positives I referred to earlier were really due to Potter’s tactical decisions and, once again, he has always proven to be an excellent tactical coach. We saw it again last night. He’s always prepared to be flexible, and I really liked how he prepared himself last night. I just hope that now you have seen that this is what we need to build and perfect, instead of a 3-4-3 and using full-backs (which are not full-backs).