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Diamonds Are Forever?


Dorset
Eton Blue at the Chelsea Megastore

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The sudden rise in talk of decline within our ranks - primarily Frank and Petr, if we’re naming names - leads me to point out one simple truth applying to all sport - form is temporary, but class is permanent. Yet many Chelsea fans will still turn a blind eye to this maxim and tell you that this season has heralded a change in both players that goes beyond a mere dip in form. They may be right, but because the form aspect is so readily ignored by the faithful and replaced by doom monger predictions of inevitable decline you have to think that there is something more to it all. There is, at least for one player, and that is what this topic is about, but first [what should be] some comforting facts to be going on with…

Petr Cech is currently the last line of a defence that has the lowest average goals conceded figure (0.67) in the Premeirship. Compare this with Citeh’s (1.29) down in seventh place and you will see that, if the figures were reflective of league position, Shay Given and his fellow defenders are definitely underperforming. I guess bluemoon and his mates know this only too well, although I’ll make the further assumption that they heap more blame on the outfielders than their goalie, especially in the immediate aftermath of a game in which he saves a crucial penalty. By the same token, is it not somewhat bizarre that we, in full knowledge of the facts, still delve deeper down the Cech declination route, as if searching for something beyond the cliché form loss?

Humouring me for a moment, let’s go a little further with this eccentricity of ours and consider the main point of this topic - Frank’s present misfortunes. Performing in a midfield that creates impressively and achieves the highest goals difference (27) to date in the Premiership, the picture looks just as good here and even after separating out the miserly goals conceded you get the second highest goals scored total (37), only one behind those gloriously gifted Gunners and eleven big ones ahead of our opponents on Saturday. Even so, as with Petr, we have the evidence of our own eyes supporting the claim that Lamps isn’t playing to his usual high standard and we not only hasten to point this out, but blank the cliché form loss argument for him as well. The cynic would say that either the Chels fan is permanently paranoid or remarkably astute when it comes to looking at good times in a bad light, but personally I think we’re missing an important starting point when discussing these individuals and it is this…

It’s been said and sung often enough, but never a truer word - t’ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it. Yes, that’s what gets results and in our case it manifests itself in a new diamond midfield that, in terms of the individuals comprising and supporting it, there are both ‘the winners’ and ‘the losers‘. You don’t need me to point them out, but I’m going to anyway because without a further naming of names Frank might be written off far too early as an old man past his prime. And so, with the diamond in operation, here are your winners…

Look no further than Didier and Nico to start this particular ball rolling, as they are the major beneficiaries of the new system…and it shows. Malouda must be next on the list, being the natural attacking left-sided player who has gained from two strikers being used and he can fit nicely into the Christmas tree formation to boot, though more of that later. Joe should be another winner by mirroring these positions and also relishing the role at the tip of the diamond - it hasn’t quite happened yet, but you kind of think it will, if only he could get an extended run. The stats for his ground coverage that flashed up in the Apoel game prove that his getting the mileage into his legs and I’ve no doubts that he will start adding quality to his tireless performances before long.

In theory having two strikers gives Kalou more opportunities as well, but his season has become too fragmented for him to be called a winner and exactly the same must be said of Sturridge, who now appears to be behind Borini in the pecking order. My liking for Borini grows by the game and the little feint he used to deceive the keeper to almost score from close in last night had Inzaghi’s stamp all over it. That said, none of the players in the peripheral strike force can be categorised accurately in the present climate of uncertainty regarding transfers and the jury probably remains out until the January window opens and someone like Aguero climbs through it. As a lone, albeit mightily expensive, purchase there would be little or no harm done to their winner/loser prospects, but any more than that and at least two of the three would be concerned as to their opportunities in the future.

In midfield itself Essien is peerless, with his ability to play in any role, and he is perhaps the biggest winner of the lot, whereas to a lesser extent, Ballack benefits from being able to dovetail with him [when the Bison is the holding midfielder] on his right, as well as with whoever is playing at the tip of the diamond. Mikel must also be counted as a winner in the system due to the fact that in any other he would not be the automatic replacement for Essien and would have a whole host of rivals for the alternative midfield places, most significantly the ever-improving Matic. The sideways passing of Mikel has reached Ray Wilkins levels of late and one of them cost us a win last night, so here, perhaps, is the moment to mention Kakuta because, whist his first team chances up front may be limited, his guile makes him an ideal option for the diamond tip role. Incidentally, his ability to thread a pass through the eye of a needle was once again in evidence against Apoel, so when you add to this a versatility that enables him to play right across the forward positions as well, he must be regarded as another outright winner under the system. Unfortunately, the good news dries up about now with the losers standing out like sore thumbs and getting the next paragraph all to themselves.

To my mind Deco can be dealt with quickly following the evidence provided in recent matches, which clearly indicates that certain games over here pass him by and they just happen to be those that crowd him out of the action. End of, as far as I’m concerned, although I concede that Ancelotti will have his uses for him, primarily in the Champions League. However, Frank is another matter entirely and his reported dislike of playing at the tip of the diamond, due to his always being in what turned out to be the wrong place at the wrong time [to score] has left him typecast and limpet-like on the left. Trademark ghosting, especially from there, means that he now either tangles up with the furthermost midfielder or he has to dovetail with him, thereby limiting and complicating the runs he makes. How much easier it was in the old 4-3-3 days is plain for all to see and even Capello’s two holding midfielders [one being Frank] seems a much less complicated set up for him to operate in.

Indeed, so much so that if you were to pick Chelsea’s best team tomorrow [deploying the diamond] I’m not sure Frank gets in. My choice [4-1-3-2] would be Cech, Ivanovic, JT, Alex, A Cole, Mikel, Essien, J Cole, Malouda, Anelka, Drogba. Clearly this isn’t Carlo’s choice, as he made his on Saturday, but I would beg to differ due to Frank looking out of sorts and, even if he were to get in by elbowing out Joe, very much like a square peg in a not so rounded hole. Another added complication surrounds Zhirkov’s function in this formation, for if he is not to be seen merely as a deputy for Ashley he becomes another challenger for Frank on the left side of the diamond and, in present circumstances, presumably no more than a permanent £18m stopgap player, despite seemingly providing a better balance to the system.

Suffice to say that the diamond midfield has been a success for us so far this season, but not an unmitigated one for all and sundry. In this respect Frank’s current plight stands out for us fans due to our missing what we’ve become used to over the years - a glut of goals from his midfield runs. This does beg the question that only Carlo can answer and it is this - even though we have gained in other respects, as the statistics prove, do we now need to find Frank a place that’s more like home in a different formation?

If we did, surely t’is time to be jolly [seasonal] and bed in that Christmas tree, rather than merely see how it looks in a dead rubber Eurovision contest that doesn’t even feature the artist who could be its principle beneficiary. That Xmas gift would have had the same back four as above, fronted by Ballack, Essien and Frank, with any two from Joe, Malouda, Anelka, [together with a whole host of aspiring candidates] supporting Didier. To my mind Frank would then have that gap, into which he ghosts so well, restored and not occupied by a colleague seeking to do an entirely different job within the system.

There was a time not too long ago when Lamps was irreplaceably good at the midfielder’s dying art of scoring goals, which in itself begs another question of Carlo - does he really want a ghost-er in a Christmas[tree] present, or must one player suffer for his art, forget the past, and accept that plenty of diamonds are forever more favourable?

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I always look out for our posts, and this is the perfect example of why. Some great points in there and without trying to patronise someone who clearly is a writer, it's fantastically well written. I only wish I could write something even close to that level of quality. Anyway, enough of the sucking up, I've got some thoughts of my own on the subject.

To my mind, the Christmas tree would have the same problems as the diamond, although I'm sure you considered that. The Christmas tree has a similar set up to the 4-3-3/4-5-1, except the wingers are pushed into the centre. Surely this wouldn't reduce crowding in the centre, but rather increase it? There'd now be two attacking mid-fielders where there is only one in the diamond. That'd surely make it harder for him to make his runs? I think that keeping the current diamond is the better option, and really we just need to give Frank one or two more months to see if he can settle into it. The dovetailing with the player at the tip is something he's never had to do before, and after having spent many years playing a very similar role, week in, week out, it might take him even more time to adjust to it. Even if he doesn't quite adjust to it, I'd still rather stick to it and as you put it, have more diamonds shining.

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Dorset, you have echoed many thoughts which have gone through my mind in recent weeks.

I completely agree with you on Petr Cech. We really need to put to bed this idea that he is a shadow of the keeper he used to be. This phantom loss of form is something constructed by an idiot and malevolent media, who after his injury and after the rest of the Premiership caught up with Mourinho's Chelsea, put two and two together and, as these 'experts' oh-so often do, have made five. Note that among the 'experts' the Mirror employs are Stan 'notorious numpty' Collymore.

You have also raised the pivotal question regarding Lampard. Should we sacrifice his superhuman form for the good of the team, or should we revert to our previous midfield formation in order to accommodate this so very special of players?

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Excellent read.

As for the question whether Carlo should sacrifice a winning diamond formation for the good of a single player, even if the player is Frank Lampard, I think the answer is quite straight forward. Even Lamps would agree with that. We might not get 20 goals from him, but then we cant keep expecting that forever and its better that we have a solution, a formation which does not rely on his goals but rather distributes them among more midfielders, before he faded away.

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Excellent read.

As for the question whether Carlo should sacrifice a winning diamond formation for the good of a single player, even if the player is Frank Lampard, I think the answer is quite straight forward. Even Lamps would agree with that. We might not get 20 goals from him, but then we cant keep expecting that forever and its better that we have a solution, a formation which does not rely on his goals but rather distributes them among more midfielders, before he faded away.

Totally Agree.

You're always better off with a number of players chipping in with 5/6 goals each than relying on one player to notch 20 goals a season. No one player is bigger than the team - not Lampard, not Drogba - anyone.

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Totally Agree.

You're always better off with a number of players chipping in with 5/6 goals each than relying on one player to notch 20 goals a season. No one player is bigger than the team - not Lampard, not Drogba - anyone.

I agree too. It doesn't really matter who scores the goals, so long as somebody does, and it makes sense not to rely on one or two players for everything the way Liverpool do. Look at the first title win under Mourinho. Nobody scored 20 goals that season, but the likes of Lamps, Drogba, Eidur, Robben, Cole, Duff etc all chipped in with at least 9/10.

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awesome post Dorset.

Excellent read.

As for the question whether Carlo should sacrifice a winning diamond formation for the good of a single player, even if the player is Frank Lampard, I think the answer is quite straight forward. Even Lamps would agree with that. We might not get 20 goals from him, but then we cant keep expecting that forever and its better that we have a solution, a formation which does not rely on his goals but rather distributes them among more midfielders, before he faded away.

I agree, also I think Lampard's shown that, as a consummate professional, is hard working and perhaps adaptive enough to make his talents pay for us. give him time and he may muscle his way into an unfamiliar role with all the commitment and work ethic that has endeared him to us so much already.... I hope!

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Excellent read.

As for the question whether Carlo should sacrifice a winning diamond formation for the good of a single player, even if the player is Frank Lampard, I think the answer is quite straight forward. Even Lamps would agree with that. We might not get 20 goals from him, but then we cant keep expecting that forever and its better that we have a solution, a formation which does not rely on his goals but rather distributes them among more midfielders, before he faded away.

I'll follow the crowd and agree entirely. It's certainly a positive that the goals have been shared around a bit more, it can only mean we are more difficult to defend against. As I've said previously Frank is still the best distributor in the team and also has a workrate just as good if not better than anybody else in midfield, he's still just as important to the midfield particularly in the big games as he ever was even if he isn't banging away the goals.

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