RB Leipzig earned their first ever point at the Allianz Arena on Sunday. Chelsea can learn a lot from them about how to continue the Blue tradition of stealing a win from Bayern Munich.
Jose Mourinho was at the Allianz Arena to watch Tottenham’s Champions League opponent, RB Leipzig, take on Bayern Munich. Frank Lampard was hopefully watching it for the first of many times as he prepares Chelsea to face Munich in the Round of 16 later this month.
1. Have a plan to deal with Alphonso Davies
Jose Mourinho once said that a team of 11 Cesar Azpilicueta’s would win the Champions League. Claudio Ranieri said that having N’Golo Kante in your team is like having an extra player on the pitch. Chelsea are going to need all their force multipliers on defence to give them a virtual numerical advantage over Alphonso Davies.
Davies is an explosive winger trapped inside a full back’s job description. His speed and acceleration surpass most players’, and his ability to cut inside near the goal line to set up a low angle shot or cut-back would make him a starting forward at most clubs. Whereas Trent Alexander-Arnold stays wide and does his damage from distance, Alphonso Davies brings the danger right into box where he forces the centrebacks to retreat and then, along with the goalkeeper, commit to one side of a no-win decision.
Chelsea will need Reece James to start at right back to counter Davies. James is the only full back with a fraction of the necessary physical capabilities. Cesar Azpilicueta could take all the right positions and battle Davies one-on-one, but that would require Azpilicueta to stay so deep he would not be able to contribute at all on offence, and Davies would still be able to get past him with one explosive step and cut inside.
The Blues will also need N’Golo Kante to play on the right side of midfield to support James. Kante’s speed and agility match Davies’, even if Kante may not be able to go step for step with him given his continuing injury and fitness levels.
Part of Davies’ threat is how well he shuttles back and forth in the middle third before driving forward into the final third. Reece James has struggled with those kinds of quick changes of direction, particularly cuts inside but also repeated forward-and-back runs. Kante is the master of those, so he will be Davies’ second shadow.
Finally, the right side centreback will need to be ready for Davies making those sharp cuts inside with a few yards of the goal line. He may need to come out from his central position to directly challenge Davies towards the edge of the box.
This will leave a gap in the centre that Robert Lewandowski would love to fill, on top of the cutback option. That means the centreback line will have to be ready to shift right, with Cesar Azpilicueta dropping back as the left centreback. It also means that Jorginho, Mateo Kovacic or maybe one of the attacking midfielders will have to specifically tasked with covering the cutback to the top of the box.
All this for a left back. But it’s necessary.