Strength in Versatility

Bayer Leverkusen’s exit from the Europa League was celebrated by Chelsea fans all over, as it meant Kai Havertz could make to switch to London as soon as possible, following the official conclusion of the German club’s season. The 21-year-old’s body language during the course of the game was that of a player whose mind was elsewhere, and one could see that he was not operating to his fullest- walking around off the ball, and lazy while tracking back. Despite this, he scored the only goal for Bayer; gliding past a sliding Inter defender and slotting it into the back of the net. The goalkeeper was unable to keep the ball from crossing the line despite getting a touch.

Following the confirmation of the Werner and Ziyech deals, one thing is for certain- our manager is keen on signing attacking players who are comfortable in a wide range of positions. Havertz is another fine addition, and the young German has featured as an attacking midfielder, centre forward and right winger. Our strength in attack going into next season is definitely in our versatility, and it could permit us to play the fluid football which fans have been craving at the Bridge since the days of Carlo Ancelotti. In this article, I will be analysing the various ways our attack could look like in the next season which starts in roughly one month. For this purpose, I will be including our confirmed signings as well as Havertz, along with a couple of players who formed a part of our current season and are unlikely to leave the club this window.

#1: 4-3-3 with Havertz/ Ziyech as a RW and Werner as the striker

The first formation is the renowned 4-3-3, which Lampard seems to prefer too. However, the formation is open to the interpretation of the manager and his brand of football. For example, Liverpool (under Klopp) play this formation with two box-to-box midfielders ahead of the lone DM, and offer the full-backs the freedom to make dynamic runs ahead to support the attack. (Henderson and Wijnaldum/ Keita ahead of Fabinho, which allowed TAA and Robertson to join the attack). Manchester City on the other hand (under Guardiola in the 2019/19 season), preferred to play with two attacking midfielders who occupied the ‘number 8 role’ ahead of the lone DM (de Bruyne and David Silva ahead of Fernandinho). Maurizio Sarri, who was the manager of Chelsea last season, also played with his version of the same formation, where Jorginho was the regista, Kante was the box-to-box midfielder and Loftus-Cheek or Barkley were tasked with providing attacking threat from midfield.

I will be covering the other systems as well, but the first one is similar to Sarri’s system, where we have one DM, one box-to-box midfielder and one midfielder that provides attacking threat, followed by the traditional front three. The front three includes Havertz on the right, Pulisic on the left and Werner up front. Havertz has played 12 games on the right side of a front three and contributed to six goals and five assists, most recently against Inter Milan last night. Alternatively, Ziyech can play this role if Havertz is unavailable.

Werner has played 38 of his 45 games this season as the striker, and has managed 30 goals and 13 assists from this position. However, it is interesting to note that he did mostly feature alongside another striker in most of these games. How he performs as the lone striker is yet to be seen- he did bag a brace against Augsburg in his last appearance for Leipzig though- where he played as the lone striker. Pulisic has been electrifying in the left-wing position post lockdown, which sees him feature alongside the two Germans. However, this formation would leave one of Ziyech or Havertz on the bench.

#2: 4-3-3 with Havertz as CF and Werner as an inside forward and Ziyech on the right

This is similar to how Liverpool utilise Salah, Mane and Firmino- a centre forward who is great at dribbling and space creation complemented by two wingers who become inside forwards and score a ridiculous number of goals to compensate for the absence of an out and out striker. Here, the main objective of the wingers is to get into the box and score, while full-backs provide the width. To balance the defensive aspect, generally the midfield trio are all players with incredible work rate to get up and down the pitch whenever required. For comparison, Liverpool have predominantly utilised Fabinho, Henderson and Wijnaldum, none of who are ‘number 10s’.

In this system, Havertz is used as the centre forward due to his close control and ability to glide past players, a position which he has featured in just eight times this season, but has an impressive tally of eight goals as well as an assist from this position. He’s also quite tall (189cm), which could provide aerial threat as well. Alongside him would be Ziyech on the right, as a right-sided inside forward is always left-footed. On the left hand side would be Werner, who could cut in and cause havoc. As he has played with another striker upfront throughout the course of the season, this could bring the best out of him. However, this would see Pulisic miss out.

#3: 4-3-3 with Havertz as an attacking no8, Ziyech as the RW and Werner upfront

The third and final 4-3-3 formation is similar to the one Manchester City used last season, where the wingers drift wide and the two attacking midfielders cut inside. Should Chelsea get the Havertz deal over the line, Lampard would have all the tools to pull this off. Ahead of a reliable, sturdy DM (someone like Rice or Zakaria) would be Mount and Havertz. The front three would most likely consist of Ziyech on the right, Pulisic on the left and Werner through the middle. This formation may look unbalanced on paper, but with the right coaching this team could do wonders and break any opposition down. While it isn’t advisable to go with this line-ups in the big games, this attack would certainly come in handy against the sides which deploy a low block (for example, Villa and Burnley). It also includes all our remarkable attacking options, which isn’t possible in the previous two line-ups.

#4: 4-2-3-1 with Havertz as the no10, Ziyech as the RW and Werner upfront

One last formation before we conclude, the 4-2-3-1 which Lampard seemed to favour earlier in the season. The double pivot would consist of a sturdy midfielder coupled with someone who can run up and down the pitch, while the front four could do the damage in the attacking half. Havertz would be deployed as the attacking midfielder- a role in which he’s excelled this season with 25 appearances. On either side of him would be Ziyech and Pulisic, followed by Werner up top as the striker. Alternatively, in the absence of Havertz, Ziyech could take up this role, and so could Mount. My personal opinion would be to stick with the 4-3-3 system as it is used by the best teams in the world, but a 4-2-3-1 with the right system could do wonders.

That brings us to the end of the various formations in which we can line up next season. However, the extracts of the formations which I have used are contingent on us getting certain players to balance the side, hence it will be up to Lampard to pick the best eleven with the personnel at his disposal. The likes of Hudson-Odoi, Giroud and Tammy will also feature throughout the long season, but I have not included them in this article. Our reported interest in Benrahma could also spice things up, but as of now, these are our options. Whatever the case may be, I’m delighted that I am not in Lampard’s seat, because he has a few tough decisions to make!

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