How tactical revolutionary Conte is restoring Chelsea’s fear factor

Date published: Tuesday 8th November 2016 12:13

CFC celeb

Antonio Conte is transforming Chelsea by revolutionising their formation and sticking two fingers up to the Premier League’s preferred 4-2-3-1 formation. Matt Briggs analyses the changes he has made…

Chelsea would have swept away just about anyone put before them on Saturday night but Ronald Koeman’s decision to match-up Antonio Conte’s line-up was his worst yet as Everton boss.

Ahead of the game it was certainly a bold move against a Chelsea side who had won their previous four games, including a 4-0 demolition job on Manchester United, but in the aftermath of Everton’s 5-0 defeat it now looks naive.

A switch to 3-4-3 is paying dividends for Conte – a manager whose success in Serie A with Juventus was built on three at the back. Five straight wins, 16 goals scored and none conceded and a performance on Saturday evening which befitted the Bonfire Night date.

“This was the best 90 minute performance I have ever seen in the Premier League,” said legendary commentator John Motson.

“It was a great game, a good performance,” claimed a modest Conte in the immediate aftermath – however after some time to reflect the Blues boss rightly upgraded the display and after being asked to use an Italian word – ‘fantastica’ was his considered response.

Conte was right to crow too because Chelsea were simply breathtaking, but Koeman’s attempts to nullify the hosts with a like-for-like formation was suicidal. Not since the opening day of the season had Everton gone with a back three and although they managed a draw against Spurs on that day they were never going to get a repeat once Eden Hazard had put Chelsea ahead.

Playing a three-man defence and a rearguard with limited pace too against Hazard, Diego Costa and Pedro was always going to be risky and it proved more than that as Chelsea’s three frontrunners tore Koeman’s men apart.

Defensive advantages

David Luiz: Impressing for Chelsea

Playing against two strikers a back three can be very effective, because it gives you a man over in defence while you can then try and outnumber the opposition in midfield. Playing three vs three though, and away from home when you are likely to see little possession is and was a very different story.Everton had seen only Spurs concede fewer goals ahead of the Stamford Bridge clash but it soon became clear that switching from a back four to a back three was not as easy as it may seem.

Koeman afterwards claimed the formation was irrelevant because Chelsea’s pressing, hard running and quick passing would have prevailed whatever, but his 3-4-3 failed to give his men a footing in the game.

The Dutchman switched to a back four on 36 minutes with the arrival of Kevin Mirallas and he will point to the fact that his men fared no better to prove the point that the system was not a factor.

However, starting a back four would not have left his defenders three on three against a revitalised Chelsea.

Hazard on another level

Eden Hazard: In scintillating form to down Everton

Hazard looks like the player he was the year before last and much of that has to do with him being further forward and able to vacate any defensive duties. It’s no coincidence the Belgium star now has seven goals this term, eclipsing the six he grabbed last season after admitting he has got his football mojo back again.

“I am enjoying playing now, my position is a bit different from before, I go inside more and I try to shoot,” he said after scoring twice on Saturday.

Costa, who also netted leads the scoring charts, looked a yard sharper and is thriving on two quick players either side of him, while Pedro looked like the player he was at Barcelona for years – rampaging up and down the right flank.

Koeman will point to the absence of the suspended Idrissa Gueye. He leads the division on tackles won (44) and was a big miss at the Bridge but Chelsea would have found a way through with or without Gueye.

Luiz the Chelsea rock

David Luiz: Back at Chelsea

For Chelsea, David Luiz put in another rock-like display in the middle of the back three.His return to the Bridge was met with some scepticism and he was surely not Conte’s first choice as he returned somewhat out of the blue on transfer deadline day. Kalidou Koulibaly of Napoli was rumoured to be Conte’s preferred target, but the Brazil defender was the man drafted in and he has been moulded into a reliable kingpin.

His ability to bring the ball out of defence was always undeniable but the fans and pundits that once sniggered at his lackadaisical tendencies have been forced to take note of his improvement – a man coached the right way.

Flexible Conte

Antonio Conte: Manager impressed by display
Ahead of the season in his first Chelsea press conference Conte placed his emphasis on being flexible.

“When I was in Italy I liked to say that the coach is like a tailor,” he said. “You must build the best dress for a team, and respect their characteristics and talents. Then you decide. In the past I started seasons with one idea and then changed it because I saw this system wasn’t good. Three at the back? Four at the back? It’s not important.”

And he’s done exactly that with Chelsea – aborting a back four after the mauling by Arsenal to adopt a three-man defence which has suited his squad thus far.

The Italian tactician, who has long-term plans and is soon hoping to bring his family to the capital, employed an attacking 4-2-4 formation at Bari between 2007-09 and he won the Serie B title in the latter of those two seasons, before using the same line-up with two high-playing wingers at Siena en route to another Serie B promotion two years later.

The 46 year-old attempted to play a similar way at Juventus before the arrival of Arturo Vidal and then he went to a 3-5-2 system to suit the Chile star, which brought him three successive Serie A titles.

He’s modified that again at Chelsea. Employing a 3-4-3 line-up and his ability and willingness to be flexible will be a major advantage as Chelsea bid to get back to where they once were.

Matthew Briggs
A version of this article first appeared on GoPlay Sports Tours.

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Home Forums Is 4-2-3-1 dead? How Conte is restoring Chelsea to greatness

This topic contains 10 replies, has 10 voices, and was last updated by  Amz 3 weeks, 3 days ago.

Viewing 11 posts - 1 through 11 (of 11 total)
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  • #1308801
    James Marshment
    James Marshment
    Keymaster

    Antonio Conte is returning Chelsea to greatness with a 3-4-3 formation. Matt Briggs details the changes he has made and heralds his vision.

    [See the full post at: Is 4-2-3-1 dead? How Conte is restoring Chelsea to greatness]

    #1308825

    CFC1905
    Participant

    I think it is a bit heavy to say it is dead but obviously ManU are not firing on all cylinders so possibly it is questionable

    I would suggest if you had the correct players then any system will work. KTBFFH

    #1308876

    Trebor
    Participant

    depends on a lot of factors I suppose-also eventually you will need different formations for different opposition once they work out a succesfull counter

    #1308951
    liquidator
    liquidator
    Participant

    The more a system is used, the more the opposition know how to combat it. Right now 4-2-3-1 has been over used, and by playing other formations you are able to give the opposition a set of problems they are not used to, and therefore find it more difficult to deal with. I suspect more teams will now line up with three at the back, but eventually it will become stale, and some bright young coach will re-invent a previous system to surprise everyone all over again.

    #1309548
    Chelsea.man
    Chelsea.man
    Participant

    James, I will be too cautious to say 4-2-3-1 is dead. there may be instance where it may be useful playing. for example when facing high caliber opposition who has the ball all the time like Barca and Bayern. i think in this case its worth giving a shout. but in the PL? i’ m not so sure of it. since we switched to this 3-4-3 formation we have blown away teams that we historically used to struggle against like Everton. but outside the PL our strengths still lie 4-2-3-1.

    #1309881

    ayaj
    Participant

    The 3-4-3 formation seems to suit chelsea perfectly and has freed the likes of hazard and perdro to cause defenses more problems. I was initially skeptical about the formation but have now embraced it fully. We are playing some lovely free flowing football, creating lots of chances, scoring goals and keeping clean sheets. Happy days!

    #1309953

    Stuilse
    Participant

    No formation is ever dead. Whilst the 3-4-3 has proved to be a raging success so far there will be times when a manager will change things up dependent upon the opposition and the strategy they deploy. Formations may even be changed multiple times during games…when there’s a need to attack more, close up shop, create more space, dominate midfield, change a style or strategy or simply just change things up to surprise the opposition. We may start with 3-4-3 and then change back to a 4-2-3-1 later on in the game. Football and formations should be fluid and not set in stone. Adapting to the opposition and situation at hand is key and that’s what separates the good managers from the great!

    #1310145
    phwepsi
    phwepsi
    Participant

    Bit of a stupid statment really and quite a easy answer. You need certian type of players to fit the system and obvsiouly we didnt (or have got rid of) alot of the players that dont fit 4231
    We have been constantly getting caught out down the wings with this formation as our fullbacks have been constantly targeted (ivan) and witht the likes of hazard perdo and willian not been anle to defend it just wasnt working for us. However if your byern then you have th players to suit the system.
    I honestly didnt think 343 would work for us as we didnt have the right players but conte has pullwd it off

    #1310301

    Right now 4-2-3-1 has been over used, and by playing other formations you are able to give the opposition a set of problems they are not used to, and therefore find it more difficult to deal with. I suspect more teams will now line up with three at the back. The 3-4-3 formation seems to suit chelsea perfectly and has freed the likes of hazard and perdro to cause defenses more problems. I was initially skeptical about the formation but have now embraced it fully. We are playing some lovely free flowing football, creating lots of chances, scoring goals and keeping clean sheets. Happy days!

    #1310556

    CFC1905
    Participant

    If you recall, under Rodgers, Liverpool reverted to a back 3 for a while and it worked for them

    I think most fans would be looking to integrate Zouma at some stage but we really have no idea if that would upset the current balance that we have and Zouma may not be able to adapt to a back 3 either – but we will have to give it a go

    Always wrong to change a winning formula but at the same time you like to buy or promote from within simply so that a squad/team does not stagnate or get complacent of their position. A fine balancing act but one that I am sure that Conte is pleased to have. KTBFFH

    #1311060

    Amz
    Participant

    To say any formation is dead is a joke and that person doesn’t know anything about football. I might seem a bit harsh here but as mentioned in some posts surely people with some sort of logic will realise that any formation will work given the right players are in position?

    Everyone knows how Barca played under Pep yet not many teams beat them and they won all silverware put in front of them.

    Look at Man Utd under Fergie too, 4-4-2 for how many years?

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