After another poor performance against Leicester City where Chelsea lost 2-0, a lot of questions are being asked. The overall feeling is that the Blues were simply outclassed on Tuesday in middle of the park and here’s what has change going forward.
Chelsea operated as a 4-3-3 with Mason Mount, Kai Havertz and Mateo Kovacic in midfield at the King Power Stadium. From start to finish, Leicester—and more importantly, James Maddison, Wilfred Ndidi and Youri Tielemans—ran riot. The first half started with Ndidi hitting a sensational left-footed strike from outside the box in the sixth minute and ended with a thumping Maddison goal four minutes from halftime. Within the span of 45 minutes, the Foxes midfield had scored two goals, which is one less than the Blues’ entire midfield has all season in the Premier League. That alarming stat is just the beginning of the worries that Chelsea has to bare. On countless occasions this season, the top teams out-work, outscore and control the game better than the Blues’ midfield unit from start to finish.
What’s the problem though and how can Frank Lampard fix it? To start, the Blues are in need of a formation change to mask the fragilities that they currently have in the middle of the park. The 4-3-3 with a lack of defensive midfielder to support the defense showed today, where Kovacic was asked the cover the space that N’Golo Kante normally would, doesn’t work as he couldn’t do it effectively. Once Chelsea changed to 4-2-3-1 later in the first half, it was visibly more challenging for Leicester to break the Blues down. This led to the Foxes sending the ball into wider areas and over the top, as opposed to carving through the Chelsea unit like a knife through warm butter.
Mount, Kovacic and Havertz showed no desire to run at the Leicester defense either. Instead, they always looked wide, which has sadly been the case for the entire season. This tactic works at times, specifically against the lesser teams, but aimlessly sending the ball into the box will not result in goals 99 percent of the time in the English top flight. Whenever a team receives the ball at the top of the box, like Ndidi did for his goal, it never hurts to have a shot, but the Chelsea midfield is too timid. The Blues seem content on continuously sending it wide in hopes of receiving it again in the box.
Against Leicester—and even against Fulham—Mount was only one in midfield who is trying their absolute best to have a positive effect on the game. He ran endlessly, trying to intercept the ball and move forward. Mount registered eight tackles, something out of the ordinary for the attacking midfielder. His face at full time encapsulated the feeling of every Chelsea fan at that moment: gutted. Each and every player needs to have that attitude, move forward and find a way to score goals because that is something that is desperately needed right now. There midfield has to take ownership and get goals whenever the chance becomes available.
Going forward, a formation change is needed, the Blues need their midfield to contribute more towards the outcome of the game. An identity needs to be created sooner rather than later or Lampard’s days as Chelsea manager are numbered. In the long term, a revamp of this entire midfield needs to happen with new personnel coming in, but that’s a discussion for another day. For now, the manager has to get the message to the midfield as to what their responsibilities are and most importantly, how they can play to Havertz’s strengths. The Blues have to get him contributing with goals and assists, like his days at Leverkusen.
What do you think the Blues should do to fix things in the middle of the park? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter!