Formation change – a blessing or a curse?

Matt Debono

Three-four-three. The numbers that every Chelsea fan has come to laud as the key element to our title-surge last season, famously introduced by Antonio Conte at the beginning of last years campaign after a shaky start and successive defeats to Liverpool and Arsenal, may now be coming to an end. The formation change came as a clinical shift in football tactics which were scarcely ever used at Chelsea or the Premier League. It often took opponents by surprise and by the time teams started figuring out how to defend against us we were already approaching the end of the season and it was too late. Unlike previous years, the 3-4-3 allowed us to deploy wingbacks which paced up and down the field, in the forms of Victor Moses and Marcos Alonso, which provided cover in defense but also proved deadly going forward. The new formation made our squad much quicker and became the most efficient counter-attack team in the league. However, all these benefits did come at a cost for some other players and fan favorites.

For most of the season, Fabregas was used as a backup for Matic or Kante even though he contributed heavily whenever he was given a chance and Conte was often put under pressure by fans to give him more game time. Even though Fabregas mesmerized fans with his passes and assists, it was hard to find any fault with the Kante and Matic link-up either. Another casualty of the 3-4-3 was Michy Batshuayi, a young striker with loads of potential but often playing second and sometimes third-fiddle to Diego Costa and Eden Hazard, usually getting only 5-6 minutes of game time every few games.

Fast-forward a few months and we are now deep into pre-season preparations and participating in the Asia tour. Beating Arsenal 3-0 for the weekend, with another impressive game by Fabregas and a dominant display by Batshuayi who netted 2 beautiful goals, has once again incited speculation about a formation change which would accommodate these players. The 3-5-2 formation is now being widely rumored as the most likely formation for the 2017/18 season, allowing 2 strikers up front, albeit it is most likely to be Hazard next to Morata and not Michy. More importantly, this formation would allow Fabregas to play a key role in the midfield in front of Kante and Bakayoko in a no.10 role, something even Conte has hinted at himself saying: "Cesc is a really good player who can play in his position in midfield but also he could play No.10. He is a great example."

Most noticeably however, this formation change would lead to giving up our right wingers Pedro/Willian and I personally think that’s a very big gamble. So as we wait the beginning of the season and see whether any of these changes come to fruition, all we can do is debate on the pros and cons of each formation.

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