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Our style of play


Zeta
Eton Blue at the Chelsea Megastore

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Do we actually have one?

 

If you look back at previous periods of success, we had a defined style.

 

Under Mourinho first time around it was a mixture of blistering counter attack play with the likes of Duff, Robben and Cole, and using the presence of Drogba up front and his fantastic hold-up play to bring the midfield into play.

 

Under Carlo it was less counter attack, and more focused on using the wings, especially when Malouda had that amazing season. A left winger on the left and a right winger on the right, actually getting some crosses in occasionally.

 

Even under RDM winning the CL, although it was not really a style as such, we were incredibly organized at the back and were clinical up front taking the odd chance we'd get.

 

 

At the moment I just have no idea what we are trying to do. We're setup to counter attack I suppose, but generally our attacks are very slow. Even when we break with 3 on 3 or something, you just know Hazard or Willian or whoever is going to slow it down and the defence will end up getting back in front of us. 

 

We also seem to play loads of long balls up to Costa all the time, but he only wins 1 or 2 out of 10 of them. It's like Jose thinks he's still got Drogba up front. That or thje players had no confidence in playing a passing game so just hoof it forward.

 

Plus, with inverted wingers all the time, it means we rarely get to the byline and put in a cross. Instead, they cut inside, which means they run straight into all the other defenders and midfielders who are tracking back, instead of isolating the fullback and running at him. The only crosses we ever put in are generally from in front of the penalty area, usually Ivanovic who has gone forward and crosses from about 25-30 yards out, which is much easier to defend against than a ball whipped right across the box.

 

 

It's plain to see in how much we are struggling to score from open play, because we just don't seem to have any kind of decent plan, and it's really starting to worry me, as it's hard to see where the goals are going to come from.

 

 

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Honestly, I don't know. 

 

There doesn't seem to be a clear vision for the squad that we are working towards. 

 

Our player recruitment over the last three years has been all over the place. 

 

Jose's had three summers to build a squad to his liking but it still feels like it needs key elements to be a complete squad. 

 

Whether that's Jose's fault or the boards for not securing the right players I don't know but honestly I don't know how we solve that problem. 

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Sometimes I thought it was to play on the counter due to us having so little of the ball in the middle of the park but it's not that is it?

At other times I think it's set up to be difficult to beat, be solid and take your chance when it comes. We are struggling to score and have been brutal at the back so it's all over the place

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Mourinho has rarely had a defined way to play on offense. We are set up to defend as a team and take away what the opposition does best, on attack we rely more on individual brilliance and fast player that can turn defense into attack in an instant. What we dont have are olayers capable og making that difficult pass that opens up the opponent, so we are left with slow build ups. Prime example against Kiev was the ciunter with Ramires and Hazard were Ramires passes the ball way behind him and we went from a 3-2 vs 5-2 and everything just fizzled out

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Mourinho has rarely had a defined way to play on offense. We are set up to defend as a team and take away what the opposition does best, on attack we rely more on individual brilliance and fast player that can turn defense into attack in an instant. What we dont have are olayers capable og making that difficult pass that opens up the opponent, so we are left with slow build ups. Prime example against Kiev was the ciunter with Ramires and Hazard were Ramires passes the ball way behind him and we went from a 3-2 vs 5-2 and everything just fizzled out

 

Thing is, we had the player who could make difficult passes in Mata but even as a Plan B he was deemed surplus. 

 

We had a player who was confident of taking on chances from range in Schurrle, he was deemed surplus. 

 

We had a player who was an emerging young talent in KDB who Jose could have moulded into the new Lampard or whatever, he was deemed surplus and now we have Troare and Kenedy instead. 

 

We had a young powerful striker who was different to anything we already had in Lukaku, he was surplus and we've gone through five or six other options since. 

 

I'm just starting to struggle to see what vision Jose has for the team, especially in attack where our recruitment has felt scatter-gunned. 

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Thing is, we had the player who could make difficult passes in Mata but even as a Plan B he was deemed surplus.

We had a player who was confident of taking on chances from range in Schurrle, he was deemed surplus.

We had a player who was an emerging young talent in KDB who Jose could have moulded into the new Lampard or whatever, he was deemed surplus and now we have Troare and Kenedy instead.

We had a young powerful striker who was different to anything we already had in Lukaku, he was surplus and we've gone through five or six other options since.

I'm just starting to struggle to see what vision Jose has for the team, especially in attack where our recruitment has felt scatter-gunned.

I think that was the point I was (poorly I admit) trying to make. There isnt much of a plan or vision, more a reliance on a strong defense and individual brilliance

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I think that was the point I was (poorly I admit) trying to make. There isnt much of a plan or vision, more a reliance on a strong defense and individual brilliance

 

Which can work short-term. But trying to build a squad to dominate over the next 10 years, I just can't see it working.

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I think that was the point I was (poorly I admit) trying to make. There isnt much of a plan or vision, more a reliance on a strong defense and individual brilliance

 

And going into our third year with Jose off the back of a title winning season isn't really frustrating that he doesn't seem to have built anything yet? 

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Seem to be relying on a lot of 1-1 brilliance lately.. I don't think it's going to get any more defined in the coming weeks/months either as we try to maintain some form. 

This isn't really a style, but at our best we always looked like there was a pass on.. constantly had an outlet going forward and back

Edited by Van Butsen
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I'm not convinced a few of the things which have been said in here are entirely fair. This isn't addressed at anyone in particular, just a few thoughts about a couple of the comments (Translation: I can't remember who said what)

 

First of all, José has certainly built something. He may have moulded the side in his own image, but that is what managers ultimately do.

 

Regardless of how we started the season the first XI and strategy is completely different to the one he inherited (i.e. Benitez's Chelsea). Before I start banging on about the style of play it might be worth comparing Benitez's first XI and the one we are using now. Not only have we successfully moved on three seemingly nonreplaceable legends in Cech, Lampard, and Cole (and brought back from exile arguably the greatest one in JT), José has also managed to solve a couple of other long-standing issues the side had which we were never going to win a league title without fixing: 1) The lack of a proper striker (Costa); 2) The lack of creativity from midfield (Fabregas), and 3) David Luiz.

 

So Benitez's Chelsea: (n.b. sometimes we had Luiz in midfield and Cahill in the back four)

 

----------------------------Cech

Azpilicueta-----Ivanovic-----Luiz--------A. Cole

----------------Ramires------Lampard

---------Oscar----------------------------Hazard

-----------------------Mata

---------------------------Torres

 

and José's Chelsea:

 

------------------------Courtois

Ivanovic-------Cahill--------Terry-----Azpilicueta

-----------------Fabregas-----Matic

--------Willian---------Oscar--------Hazard

--------------------------Costa

 

José's is younger, better, hungrier, and more cohesive.

 

 

So, the style of play/strategy. Under Benitez the defence, midfield, and the two wide men (usually Hazard and Oscar) sat deep (so we won the ball deep), while Mata was given the freedom of the park and Torres waited for the counter Mata (or Luiz) would usually start. So the first difference is our strategy off-the-ball. Under Benitez we didn't really press the opposition until they entered our half (other than the front two of Mata and Torres); under José we press much further up, attempting to win the ball as high up and as quickly as possible in order to have as few players as possible in front of us when we attack.

 

Just because we attack quickly and directly into space doesn't necessarily mean we are constantly waiting to play on the counter-attack; we don't simply close players down, we block off their passing avenues, forcing the opposition into a particular area (usually wide) which often means we can predict what they're going to do and win the ball in as advantageous a position as possible. This is different from a counter attack as we're not simply sitting deep and waiting for them to commit as many people forward as possible before launching forward as soon as we win the ball; we're proactively seeking it, even if they're knocking it between their defensive midfielder and their full-backs in their own half.

 

This is why José would get so frustrated with players like Mata, who wasn't necessarily that bad at pressing (eventually), but wasn't particularly good at reading his opponent's passing options, nor did he have the stamina to keep chasing the ball for 90 minutes. If an opponent knows that there is a weakness in our press, they know there is a consistent route through it and thus they can bypass our attacking midfield band regularly. Therefore in this system, if there is a player who is weak off the ball, he simply can't consistently start in the side. You might get away with it against a bunch of chumps like Villa or Sunderland, but generally the standard of the Premier League is reasonably high.

 

The trouble with playing like this is that it requires massive amounts of stamina and incredible levels of fitness. When it became clear that our players were getting tired near the beginning of the spring last season (likely through lack of rotation), we had to adapt our style of play somewhat; we sat deeper, conserved our energy, and played less proactive, [arguably] less attractive football, leading to mumblings of discontent that we had compromised our standard of play in order to grind out victories and secure the title.

 

Remember how reactive we were in the second leg against PSG, despite the fact that we ultimately played a full 90 minutes at home against ten men? I don't think it's because José is philosophically lacking, but because we were in the middle of playing 4 games in 2 weeks and didn't want to burn out in the middle of a Premier League campaign we looked like we were going to win.

 

After our absolute travesty of a pre-season, when the players came back completely unfit, José seemingly chose not to compromise on his preferred style of pressing and style of play regardless of how physically taxing it might be, and play his favoured XI back into match fitness in the best way there is (i.e. playing matches). Obviously the players have taken far longer to reacclimatise than expected, and predictably have failed spectacularly at executing this gameplan, which means that we are completely all over the place off the ball, the opposition can infiltrate our half with ease, leaving our back four completely exposed to one-on-one situations (which only Azpilicueta is really exceptional at dealing with), and leaving everyone to wonder how the best back four in the country suddenly turned into a quartet of Titus Brambles.

 

It also means that we don't win the ball in as fortuitous positions, and thus are less capable of doing anything with it because we have more bodies in the way. With the players who provide our creative 'spark' (Fabregas and Hazard) completely out of form as well as out of fitness, and the lack of a competent target man they can simply thump the ball up to, this is more of a problem than it would have been even last season. No cohesion on the ball, no possibility of consistent cohesion off it. No wonder it looks like we don't have an identifiable or consistent style of play; ironically we've sacrificed it by attempting to re-implement it. Presumably what José is trying to do is get us playing the way we were in the first half of last season (i.e. the style I described at the beginning of this soliloquy); we were absolutely excellent before Christmas, and I don't seem to remember anyone complaining about the lack of an identifiable style of play then.

 

I'm not entirely sure whether the lax pre-season was an intentional decision on the part of the management in order to avoid the kind of burnout we witnessed during the run-in last season or whether it was some sort of logistical f**kup but from my point of view it is largely responsible for the on-field issues we have been having so far this season (unless Eva was the only thing keeping the majority of the squad from falling apart at the seams... somehow I doubt it). Of course the good news about this is that in theory we should only continue to improve as we play more matches and therefore our players regain their match fitness, and also we should remain fresh longer than everyone else, boding well for our European chances (assuming we make it out of the group stage), even if it has meant we've already botched our league title defence. I don't think we should mistake one particularly horrible series of performances (with a reason behind them) which have led us to be incapable of executing our style of play for a lack of one.

 

One more point: José very famously tends to alter his tactics for big games and become more cautious, which might translate as a willingness to sacrifice the style he is attempting to implement. I think there is [somewhat of] a misconception in that, we don't sit back for 90 minutes and purely attempt to soak up pressure very often at all any more, especially not since the beginning of last season - even against Arsenal we seek to dominate possession now! However, I don't think a manager having a few alterations up his sleeve (or a 'plan B' if you will) is necessarily a bad thing.

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I was interested by Zeta's point about crossing so I had a look at how often we cross the ball as well (although I would dispute that we ever used 'traditional' wingers under Carlo - typically we had Malouda and Anelka playing wide. The closest thing we had to a 'traditional' winger was Yuri Zhirkov, who more often than not played as a full-back, which I suppose is a pretty good illustration of Carlo's idea of what full-backs should be doing in general).

 

Anyway there does seem to be a fairly consistent drop in the amount that we cross since Carlo's double-winning season. One thought I had was that it might simply be because the players doing the crossing don't really have a great deal to aim at. With Drogba we obviously had a human battering ram who may well be the best header of a ball I have ever seen; Torres, his successor as lead striker, was decent at it but obviously nowhere near as good (plus his movement was also an issue), and I think aerial ability is one of the big weakness of Costa's game so often it's not particularly worth it, especially considering the three men behind him have an average height of about 5'10. So I stuck Drogba's appearances on there as well:

 

2009/10 - 29 crosses per game (Ancelotti) (Drogba - 31 apps)

2010/11 - 26 crosses per game (Ancelotti) (Drogba - 30 apps)

2011/12 - 26 crosses per game (AVB/RDM) (Drogba - 11 apps) (Main striker - Torres)

2012/13 - 23 crosses per game (RDM/FSW) (Drogba - 0 apps) (Main striker - Torres)

2013/14 - 21 crosses per game (Mourinho) (Drogba - 0 apps) (Main striker - Torres/Eto'o)

2014/15 - 18 crosses per game (Mourinho) (Drogba - 7[20] apps) (Main striker - Costa)

2015/16 - 19 crosses per game (Mourinho) (Drogba - 0 apps) (Main striker- Costa)

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As I'm unsure your perspective Zeta would you get rid of Jose? Honestly only just asking here aswell

 

I don't know. I'm blinded by the Jose of old. In 2005/2006 he was a different manager. He had no problems getting the best out of the players we had, and made some good additions. He was tactically very good, willing to make big changes when needed, he was cocky and arrogant but rarely in a nasty way. He's just not the same person any more. I've always been an advocate of stability, but I've always said it has to be the right person. 10 years at a club is no good if you build a bad team and don't win anything, look at Wenger.

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I don't know. I'm blinded by the Jose of old. In 2005/2006 he was a different manager. He had no problems getting the best out of the players we had, and made some good additions. He was tactically very good, willing to make big changes when needed, he was cocky and arrogant but rarely in a nasty way. He's just not the same person any more. I've always been an advocate of stability, but I've always said it has to be the right person. 10 years at a club is no good if you build a bad team and don't win anything, look at Wenger.

True, tbh I am falling somewhere in the middle whilst I still believe in Jose the things he has been saying lately and the issues etc have just made me go off him as a person. I want stability aswell.

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I'm not convinced a few of the things which have been said in here are entirely fair. This isn't addressed at anyone in particular, just a few thoughts about a couple of the comments (Translation: I can't remember who said what)

First of all, José has certainly built something. He may have moulded the side in his own image, but that is what managers ultimately do.

Regardless of how we started the season the first XI and strategy is completely different to the one he inherited (i.e. Benitez's Chelsea). Before I start banging on about the style of play it might be worth comparing Benitez's first XI and the one we are using now. Not only have we successfully moved on three seemingly nonreplaceable legends in Cech, Lampard, and Cole (and brought back from exile arguably the greatest one in JT), José has also managed to solve a couple of other long-standing issues the side had which we were never going to win a league title without fixing: 1) The lack of a proper striker (Costa); 2) The lack of creativity from midfield (Fabregas), and 3) David Luiz.

So Benitez's Chelsea: (n.b. sometimes we had Luiz in midfield and Cahill in the back four)

----------------------------Cech

Azpilicueta-----Ivanovic-----Luiz--------A. Cole

----------------Ramires------Lampard

---------Oscar----------------------------Hazard

-----------------------Mata

---------------------------Torres

and José's Chelsea:

------------------------Courtois

Ivanovic-------Cahill--------Terry-----Azpilicueta

-----------------Fabregas-----Matic

--------Willian---------Oscar--------Hazard

--------------------------Costa

José's is younger, better, hungrier, and more cohesive.

So, the style of play/strategy. Under Benitez the defence, midfield, and the two wide men (usually Hazard and Oscar) sat deep (so we won the ball deep), while Mata was given the freedom of the park and Torres waited for the counter Mata (or Luiz) would usually start. So the first difference is our strategy off-the-ball. Under Benitez we didn't really press the opposition until they entered our half (other than the front two of Mata and Torres); under José we press much further up, attempting to win the ball as high up and as quickly as possible in order to have as few players as possible in front of us when we attack.

Just because we attack quickly and directly into space doesn't necessarily mean we are constantly waiting to play on the counter-attack; we don't simply close players down, we block off their passing avenues, forcing the opposition into a particular area (usually wide) which often means we can predict what they're going to do and win the ball in as advantageous a position as possible. This is different from a counter attack as we're not simply sitting deep and waiting for them to commit as many people forward as possible before launching forward as soon as we win the ball; we're proactively seeking it, even if they're knocking it between their defensive midfielder and their full-backs in their own half.

This is why José would get so frustrated with players like Mata, who wasn't necessarily that bad at pressing (eventually), but wasn't particularly good at reading his opponent's passing options, nor did he have the stamina to keep chasing the ball for 90 minutes. If an opponent knows that there is a weakness in our press, they know there is a consistent route through it and thus they can bypass our attacking midfield band regularly. Therefore in this system, if there is a player who is weak off the ball, he simply can't consistently start in the side. You might get away with it against a bunch of chumps like Villa or Sunderland, but generally the standard of the Premier League is reasonably high.

The trouble with playing like this is that it requires massive amounts of stamina and incredible levels of fitness. When it became clear that our players were getting tired near the beginning of the spring last season (likely through lack of rotation), we had to adapt our style of play somewhat; we sat deeper, conserved our energy, and played less proactive, [arguably] less attractive football, leading to mumblings of discontent that we had compromised our standard of play in order to grind out victories and secure the title.

Remember how reactive we were in the second leg against PSG, despite the fact that we ultimately played a full 90 minutes at home against ten men? I don't think it's because José is philosophically lacking, but because we were in the middle of playing 4 games in 2 weeks and didn't want to burn out in the middle of a Premier League campaign we looked like we were going to win.

After our absolute travesty of a pre-season, when the players came back completely unfit, José seemingly chose not to compromise on his preferred style of pressing and style of play regardless of how physically taxing it might be, and play his favoured XI back into match fitness in the best way there is (i.e. playing matches). Obviously the players have taken far longer to reacclimatise than expected, and predictably have failed spectacularly at executing this gameplan, which means that we are completely all over the place off the ball, the opposition can infiltrate our half with ease, leaving our back four completely exposed to one-on-one situations (which only Azpilicueta is really exceptional at dealing with), and leaving everyone to wonder how the best back four in the country suddenly turned into a quartet of Titus Brambles.

It also means that we don't win the ball in as fortuitous positions, and thus are less capable of doing anything with it because we have more bodies in the way. With the players who provide our creative 'spark' (Fabregas and Hazard) completely out of form as well as out of fitness, and the lack of a competent target man they can simply thump the ball up to, this is more of a problem than it would have been even last season. No cohesion on the ball, no possibility of consistent cohesion off it. No wonder it looks like we don't have an identifiable or consistent style of play; ironically we've sacrificed it by attempting to re-implement it. Presumably what José is trying to do is get us playing the way we were in the first half of last season (i.e. the style I described at the beginning of this soliloquy); we were absolutely excellent before Christmas, and I don't seem to remember anyone complaining about the lack of an identifiable style of play then.

I'm not entirely sure whether the lax pre-season was an intentional decision on the part of the management in order to avoid the kind of burnout we witnessed during the run-in last season or whether it was some sort of logistical f**kup but from my point of view it is largely responsible for the on-field issues we have been having so far this season (unless Eva was the only thing keeping the majority of the squad from falling apart at the seams... somehow I doubt it). Of course the good news about this is that in theory we should only continue to improve as we play more matches and therefore our players regain their match fitness, and also we should remain fresh longer than everyone else, boding well for our European chances (assuming we make it out of the group stage), even if it has meant we've already botched our league title defence. I don't think we should mistake one particularly horrible series of performances (with a reason behind them) which have led us to be incapable of executing our style of play for a lack of one.

One more point: José very famously tends to alter his tactics for big games and become more cautious, which might translate as a willingness to sacrifice the style he is attempting to implement. I think there is [somewhat of] a misconception in that, we don't sit back for 90 minutes and purely attempt to soak up pressure very often at all any more, especially not since the beginning of last season - even against Arsenal we seek to dominate possession now! However, I don't think a manager having a few alterations up his sleeve (or a 'plan B' if you will) is necessarily a bad thing.

This is an excellent post. Well thought-out and written. Jose is an excellent tactician than given credit for ( myself inclusive). I think the stem of the problem this season goes down to the late resumption and little preseason we had. The players are easily jaded to play the high pressure game compared to our start last season and it seems Jose played it that way cos he made reference to it sometime back. Surely we'll get better as the season progresses.

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Thing is, we had the player who could make difficult passes in Mata but even as a Plan B he was deemed surplus.

We had a player who was confident of taking on chances from range in Schurrle, he was deemed surplus.

We had a player who was an emerging young talent in KDB who Jose could have moulded into the new Lampard or whatever, he was deemed surplus and now we have Troare and Kenedy instead.

We had a young powerful striker who was different to anything we already had in Lukaku, he was surplus and we've gone through five or six other options since.

I'm just starting to struggle to see what vision Jose has for the team, especially in attack where our recruitment has felt scatter-gunned.

This is exactly thinking, realistically out of the players that have came in, I think we only really needed matic, and possibly costa.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Take the lead, then try and sit back and defend for 85 minutes. Try the occasional counter attack, where Willian runs into a crowd of about 5 players and loses the ball.

 

What the f**k are they being taught on the training ground to play this badly?

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Take the lead, then try and sit back and defend for 85 minutes. Try the occasional counter attack, where Willian runs into a crowd of about 5 players and loses the ball.

 

What the f**k are they being taught on the training ground to play this badly?

 

It's incredibly frustrating. I'm so tired of watching our players get nowhere. I watch the other top teams move the ball around well, but we struggle to pass and move with any kind of fluidity. No wonder why we struggle so much in defense, we can't hold on to the ball for more than a few seconds before the opposition win it back and are attacking us. We put ourselves under so much pressure by given the ball away so much.

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