Fulham vs Chelsea | 23-Aug-09 @ 16:00 UK
Chelsea are on a roll. This could be a funny claim as we’ve played only two matches so far. But the larger fact is, Chelsea are yet to be beaten under Carlo – in friendlies with top teams, in FA community shield and in the premier league.
Man Utd have made a typically bad start but only this time there is a belief that it’s a reflection of their squad strength and depth. Plus, Rio Ferdinand would be out for a month. Liverpool played as if they don’t want to give themselves a chance of making it ‘their season’. Complete lack of desire and indifference from their matchwinners very pleasanty surprised me. Arsenal got a big away win at Goodison park and that’s big enough reason to think they go back to their fourth place form. Everytime they get a good win, they compensate that with some poor football and put themselves where they belong.
Now Chelsea, has won two in two. Chelsea thoroughly deserved to win both matches. The new system seems to be working well. The system also seems to use our resources to the bext possible extent. The big players are on form and are delivering the goods. We’ve got a last minute winner and a couple of comeback wins. Perfect recipe for a season start as these type of results get you three points and also gets the team together and improves the team morale.
As I had said earlier, Chelsea have a fairly easy first couple of months this season. Some slip ups from our rivals and some no-nonsense performance from us would see us top the table by Christmas by 6 points. This is a wild guess but the point I’m trying to make is, for once the fixtures list seems to help us get a good lead and momentum.
Fulham was one of the ‘easy fixtures’ I was referring to. See, I’m not being arrogant here. Fulham is no match to Chelsea otherwise they would also be playing champions league. I know they had a fantastic last season finishing 7th and all. They also beat hapless Pompey in their first match. Still, I have a feeling that Chelsea will win, with our first cleansheet of the season.
Now Fulham have got Damien Duff. I must say I love this guy. I always liked Duff and I was sad to see him go. Even if Duff signs for Chelsea today, he can be a good squad player but that’s what he exactly did not want. He wanted to play in the first team which Chelsea could not promise. I’m sure we all have great memories of Damien Duff. I think I can talk for all of us, while recollecting the best Duff moment in Chelsea – that goal against Barcelona at Stamford Bridge. Man, it was a killer goal! I wonder where Duff will play for them. I don’t recollect Fulham playing with a formation that had a winger.
Chelsea will line up in a 4-4-2 narrow diamond formation. That’s a given. I kinda like this formation now. We have played narrow 4-4-2 diamond many times before. This was also known as the 4-1-2-1-2 formation. This was the formation that Jose Mourinho used when Shevchenko and Ballack came in to the side. There were also other occasions where we used 4-1-2-1-2. The big difference is, we have all committed and training intensely for 4-1-2-1-2. It is not being used as a stop gap formation or a makeshit formation. The fact that we have identified and recognised this formation as our flagship formation does make it more effective, due to the training efforts around it, familiarity on the pitch and especially Ancelotti’s expertise on this formation.
Last match, Chelsea also played the much dreaded (by the Milan fans) 4-3-2-1 christmas tree formation. It’s fair to say that it was pretty effective. Carlo has identified this as the formation for the away matches. In home matches, you need an extra man upfront to finish chances and in away matches, you need that extra man to create the chances through the packed defences. It makes theoretical sense and if the Sunderland match was any indication, it worked on the pitch too.
Ancelotti explains this from another angle:
When we play with two players behind one striker we can press the opponents better when we are without the ball because these two players, Deco and Kalou, can work on the central midfielders [of the opposition]. The diamond is a little bit different because our offensive midfielder has to play against the two central players and when we defend it is more difficult to close the space and to press. The first way I think is better away from home. When there is not space it is difficult to play, not only for Lampard but, for example, for Kaka at Milan last season it was very difficult to play there without space. It is a very important position in midfield but it is more difficult to play. It is easier to play in front of the defence because you have the space to play.
I’d start with the same team that started against Sunderland. That is, Cech, Terry, Ivanovic, Bosingwa, Ashley Cole, Essien, Ballack, Lampard, Deco, Kalou and Drogba. That’s because I think we’re going to play 4-3-2-1. If we are playing 4-1-2-1-2, I’d even pick Sturridge over Kalou to partner Drogba.
I’m hoping that Deco recovers his form this season. In a narrow diamond midfield, it makes perfect sense to have Deco in the attacking tip as this role plays right behind the strikers just like Gerrard would play behind Torres. It is a bit more forward than a regular attacking midfielder. Deco has the skills and creativity to be a good No.10 player while Lampard is more of a box to box midfielder. For this reason, I’d love to see Deco play behind the strikers while Ballack and Lampard play in the midfield.
League leaders Tottenham (every dog . . .) are playing at 1330. So, if results go our way, we could be leading the table by Sunday night. First ‘decent’ opposition for Ancelotti as he prepares to beat one of the best premier league managers of last season. Prediction: Fulham 0-2 Chelsea. Lampard (for sure) and Drogba/Malouda. And do follow our fantasy premier league journey. For all I care, this could very well be the gameweek where I leapfrog 137 places and become number 1 in the table (if each of my players scores a hattrick, that is). Cheers!