Chelsea manager Frank Lampard will need to fix the issues of the Brighton match if he is to see his side overcome Liverpool at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea started the season with a 3-1 win over Brighton, but despite the fairly comfortable finish to the game, there were a number of tactical issues which Frank Lampard must address if the blues hope to have any success against Liverpool.
Chelsea employed a 4-2-3-1 against Brighton with Mason Mount, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, and Kai Havertz on paper forming a narrow attacking three behind Timo Werner. Behind them, Jorginho and N’Golo Kante played in a double pivot in front of Chelsea’s back line.
This formation caused a myriad of issues at both ends of the pitch. Whilst Havertz was only being used out wide due to injury issues in the rest of squad, the move badly affected his game and cannot be repeated against Liverpool. As well as this, the Jorginho-Kante axis in the middle (again only used because of issues out of Lampard’s hands such as Mateo Kovacic’s suspension) must not be repeated.
Liverpool will almost certainly come to Stamford Bridge and play a 4-3-3 with the famous trio up front of Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino, and former blue Mohammad Salah. Whilst those three are tasked with scoring the goals, the real creativity in the side comes from their full backs Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold. The midfield three, which will most likely be Fabinho playing behind Jordan Henderson and Giorginio Wijnaldum, is tasked with putting in the hard yards in order to allow the front three to stay high up the pitch as well as covering for the marauding full backs.
The threat of Liverpool’s fullbacks means that Kai Havertz cannot play where he did against Brighton. In this match Chelsea’s most expensive outfield signing of all time had a deeper average position than N’Golo Kante. This was due to the fact that he was played out wide and was forced to track Brighton’s Solly March who was constantly driving down the left flank.
This was bad for two reasons. Frustratingly, it didn’t allow Havertz to display any of his attacking ability (he had zero touches in the opposition box) but also forcing him to defend isn’t wise because, simply put, he isn’t very good at it.
March frequently escaped his attention and found himself in too much space most of the night. If Havertz is asked to track Andy Robertson, Chelsea will be in trouble. There are two ways for Lampard to negate this issue.
Firstly, he could persist with the same formation but shift Havertz to the center of the three attacking midfielders in order to let him focus on attacking. This seems unlikely, though, as due to injuries Chelsea are without any true wide players apart from Callum Hudson-Odoi who is clearly yet to earn Lampard’s trust.
This would mean having to play one of Ruben Loftus-Cheek or even Ross Barkley out on the right (assuming Mason Mount maintains his position at the left of the trident) and this would be less than ideal as neither player could be described as comfortable in that role. So, a change of system seems likely.
What would be unsurprising is if Lampard switches to a 3-4-3. Mason Mount and Kai Havertz would play behind Timo Werner in the front three, with Reece James and Marcos Alonso providing the width from the wingback positions. This formation allows Mount and Havertz to stay high and narrow keeping them closer to areas in which they can hurt Liverpool, and hopefully linking with Timo Werner who will be looking to use his pace to get in behind Liverpool’s usual high defensive line just as Leeds did almost at will last Saturday.
Crucially, this means Havertz won’t be asked to do defensive work as the wing backs will be tasked with dealing with Liverpool’s main creators Alexander Arnold and Robertson.
Another important change from the Brighton match will be Kovacic in for Jorginho. The combination of the Italian and Kante was far too easy to play through against Brighton and Lampard will want the added mobility of the Croatian in the middle. In the corresponding fixture last season Lampard opted for all three in the middle of the park, but doing this would leave Havertz out wide once more so don’t expect this to happen.
The three center backs will have the unenviable task of trying to deal with Liverpool’s front three, but with Kante and Kovacic dropping in to hopefully smother Roberto Firmino it may just be doable.
Liverpool rarely spring any tactical surprises, but why fix something that isn’t broken. It is up to Lampard to be proactive, pick players in the right positions, and exploit Liverpool’s weaknesses. It’s going to be an interesting battle.