The striker problem: Chelsea need a tactical makeover

Why can’t Chelsea’s strikers score?
This is a question which every Stamford Bridge faithful asks day in and day out. It is a problem which has perplexed not only the fans but also the multiple managers of the club.
The lack of goals by strikers is a big problem. In fact, the only thing that is keeping Chelsea from becoming a title worthy team are goal-scoring strikers. So instead of launching vituperative attacks on the club’s strikers, the fans have to give a thought to the fact that can the problem be solved by tweaking some of our tactics?
The major blame in strikers’ dearth of goals also falls on the mid-fielders. Proven goal-scorers like  Ba, Torres and Eto don’t lose their form overnight. There is no guarantee that a new signing will click, if these players haven’t.
Chelsea has to manage till  end of the season with these players. Might as well try to maximize their use.
So how can we tweak our tactics?

1. Play to the striker’s strength

It is the easiest observation to make. All three strikers of the club have different strengths. Mourinho already knows this. He uses the players according to their strengths, so it is not important to elucidate this point.

2.Two strikers upfront

The problem is that playing as a lone striker isn’t working for any of our forwards. Most of the teams playing against Chelsea defend deep. The mid-field trio playing behind the strikers are being engaged by the midfield line of 4 opponents. If the Chelsea wing-backs go forward, the opposing team fullbacks get engaged. However, at every point there are two opposing defenders marking the Chelsea forward. In their current form, none of the forwards are capable enough of beating two defenders. So let us make it easy by putting two in the box. Stretch the opposing defense.
In every match where Chelsea have played two upfront, they have looked like a major goal-scoring threat. Against Manchester City last season, Southampton this season and against Basel, when Eto was got on towards the end.
The main idea is to stretch the opposing defense. Manchester City and Liverpool do this by playing two-upfront.

Sunderland dominated the game after Borini was bought on. Two strikers upfront stretched the Chelsea defense.

Sunderland dominated the game after Borini was bought on. Two strikers upfront stretched the Chelsea defense.

3. Midfielders making runs into the box, crowding the opponent’s box

Like playing two upfront, the main idea in this point is to crowd the box with your players and stretch the opponents. Liverpool in the match against Tottenham had Henderson galloping down the middle and causing major problems.  Ramsey does it for Arsenal. Silva does it for Manchester City. Frank Lampard has been doing it for years for Chelsea.
The late runs into the box by midfielders are very difficult to pick. It is a cause of headache for defenders. Unless there is efficient track-backing by the opposing midfielders, the defenders have to be alert to the mid-fielder’s presence. This eases the pressure on strikers.Unfortuately, Lampard no longer has the legs to do it. What Chelsea need is a guy behind the striker who constantly makes those well-timed runs inside the box and makes his presence felt. Staying outside the box, playing an intricate one-two game doesn’t always work. A direct dash into the box may get the goal.
See the last picture showing the Chelsea goal. If Lampard hadn’t made that run, there would have been at least 3 players on Eto.

Ki has run into the box making it 3 vs 3. It makes job easier for the stiker

Ki has run into the box making it 3 vs 3. It makes job easier for the striker.

Silva and Zabaleta have run into the box. If defenders move towards them. Dzeko's work becomes easier.

Silva and Zabaleta have run into the box. If defenders move towards them, Dzeko’s work becomes easier.

Lampard still making the right runs.

Lampard still making the right runs. Look how empty the box is without him. 3 players on Eto.

4. Be proactive not reactive

The most important part of the game is to be proactive. Every good striker has anticipation which gives him an edge. Against Arsenal, Aguero anticipated the ball to come to the back post. He lost his marker and was in the perfect position to score. Against Tottenham, for the first goal, Suarez didn’t stop running when Henderson was battling for the ball. Suarez came into the right position, Henderson layed off the ball perfectly, Suarez scored.
Chelsea strikers have to keep making runs, not stand with their back to the goal waiting to play one-two. There was a moment in Chelsea vs Sunderland when Willian passed the ball into a open gap and Ba reacted to it. Instead Ba should have seen the space, run towards it and trust Willian to do the rest.
The mid-fielders should look for this direct through balls  instead of passing among themselves. Fast and direct football has never failed any team.

See how Silva makes the run and Zabaleta releases the ball. Move led to a goal.

See how Silva makes the run and Zabaleta releases the ball. Move led to a goal.

Run. Through. Direct football.

Run. Through ball. Direct football.

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2 responses to “The striker problem: Chelsea need a tactical makeover

  1. We can only hope that the inevitable happens: José Mourinho actually reads this and changes his game. But we know this won’t happen.

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