Chelsea’s season has gone off the rails a bit, but there is a transfer and a tactical tweak which could get the Blues back on track.
The January transfer window gives clubs the perfect time to review their squad and decide whether to bring in reinforcements or trim down the current crop. Chelsea football club is no different. However, it is expected that there will be more outgoings than incomings but one signing could change the outlook of the season.
Before speculating on the addition of a new signing, a tactical change at this point in the season could have the same galvanizing impact. In fairness to label it a “change” would be doing Frank Lampard a disservice; it would more accurately be a tweak as it is something he has utilized previously. Now coach and fans alike have a greater idea of the attributes and capabilities of this squad and a tactical tweak would be appropriate.
The tactical tweak which should be made is reverting back to the 4-2-3-1 formation. There are many factors which would justify such a move which would improve both attack and defense, overall making Chelsea a more solid unit. If there were any major positive takeaways from December it was that Christian Pulisic and Callum Hudson-Odoi are amongst Chelsea’s best attackers and the only orthodox wingers at the club. The 4-2-3-1 formation would allow the two young stars to show their best work and this would also free up roles for players in other positions.
A major benefactor from this formation tweak would be Timo Werner, with two natural wingers occupying the flanks the German can solely focus on the penalty area. This could potentially help in his decision making as he would only need to concern himself with putting the ball in the back of the net. In addition to the striker benefitting, which would also extend to Tammy Abraham and Olivier Giroud, the central attacking midfield role would be freed up.
One of the few players who could come out worse off due to this change would be Hakim Ziyech as his right-wing spot would be taken. But with that being said, the Moroccan playmaker could easily occupy the attacking midfield role and with two defensive midfielders this would give him total freedom in attack. This would also apply to Kai Havertz and it would be a straight up battle between the two for the role, such competition could bring the best out of both men.
Reverting to the 4-2-3-1 clearly has a positive impact on Chelsea’s attack but it also will benefit the defense immensely. The established back four and keeper of this season will not be changed and for the most part have done well. However, there have been many games this season where a loss could have been a draw and a draw could have been a win if it were not for defensive frailties in the build-up. This is not a criticism of the back line but rather what sits in front of it, the current formation allows for one defensive midfielder while that supposedly frees up attacks it leaves the team very vulnerable when caught out. The 4-2-3-1 would have two deep lying midfielders which would instantly make Chelsea a more solid outfit.
One man who would perfectly fit into one of these two roles is Billy Gilmour, Gilmour has already shown himself to be a capable defensive midfielder being able to tackle, intercept and pass. Gilmour in the starting 11 would not only improve the Blue’s frailties but would also lose nothing in attack because of his passing range.
But with that being said, the formation would require two players for the role and a major issue concerning Chelsea is the lack of physicality and aerial presence in midfield. All the recognized defensive midfielders at the club such as Gilmour, N’Golo Kante and Jorginho do not possess aerial strength nor robust physicality. This is where a transfer could be brought in and change the teams season.
If defensive midfield is the issue there is only one man for the job: Declan Rice. Rice and Chelsea seem to be an inevitable match waiting to happen with all his ties to the club. Romance aside, Rice would be an ideal tactical fit. Standing at roughly six foot one, Rice would immediately add a physical presence to the midfield. He also leads to the league in many of the tackling, interception and dual stats. Rice is not only defensively reliable but he also has the passing ability to start attacks. He would be an ideal pairing for Gilmour in the heart of midfielder and could also be paired with lifelong best friend Mason Mount if the team needed a different look.
The chances of Declan Rice signing this January are unlikely, as he is an integral part of the West Ham team and has been a major part of their success this season. However, in this season, crazier things have happened and if Rice makes the move to West London this month, the outlook on the season could change drastically.