Yesterday’s game certainly is going to back up a lot of what I’m about to say.
Last night’s challenge against Rennes clearly highlighted the problems we have in midfield. To an average Chelsea fan, or a supporter of another club, many would see the abudance in midfield and question me heavily as to why I’m complaining. After all, we did spend £100 million on Jorginho and Kovacic, the best part of another hundred on Kai Havertz and sent Loftus-Cheek and Barkley out on loan. However, the problem is that with the new way we’re playing, Jorginho and Kovacic are going to struggle.
A topic which has been widely discussed so far this season is the different formations we’ve used – mainly 4-3-3 and 4-2-3-1. With the 4-3-3, we currently only have two ‘proper’ number 8s in Mason Mount and Kai Havertz, and with the 4-2-3-1 we are lacking a player who can play next to Kante, as none of the midfield partnerships in a midfield pivot are working at the moment.
Mateo Kovacic has played as a number 8 in the last few games, and has impressed, but he still is learning a lot about the position and it isn’t his natural place to be on the pitch. For Jorginho, as much as I love the man, I think it’s very clear that he doesn’t fit in this system and when he plays we are extremely weak defensively. I mean, just have a look at this…
This, is where I feel Billy Gilmour will help the team so much, and potentially Tino Anjorin too. However, this article may surprise a few people who haven’t watched Gilmour as much, especially when talking about the 4-3-3. Let’s get into it!
Gilmour in the 4-2-3-1
I think the first thing to mention with the Scottish midfielder is that he is just returning from a bad injury, and that it will take him time to get back to his best. He has played for the development squad in the last two weeks, where he looks close to full match fitness and also scored a screamer from the edge of the box against Manchester City. It hopefully shouldn’t take him too long to get to full sharpness, but it’s just something to keep in mind.
A lot of last season, and even this season, we have tried to find our best midfield pivot in a 4-2-3-1. And the matter of the fact is that we still haven’t, because they’re all pretty bad. A Kante-Jorginho midfield is very slow, a Kante-Kovacic midfield is not offensive enough and a Jorginho-Kovacic may look aesthetically pleasing, but as I showed above, that type of defending happens many times a game which often goes missed.
Could Gilmour be the perfect person to play next to Kante with Havertz in front? I certainly think so. Billy offers so much on and off the ball, as he holds an exquisite passing range and is very sound defensively. Everyone knows about his passing abilities, both short and long, and some of his best defensive work came against Liverpool in the FA Cup last season where he got stuck in and was able to keep up with forwards such as Mane who were running in behind – something which Jorginho would see but not be able to catch up, and which Kovacic would be quick enough to run but would simply stare at oppositions midfielders running past him. One of Billy’s underrated qualities is definitely his dribbling, something which I will talk about next when discussing his role in the 4-3-3.
Sounds great then. Havertz as the 10 would be able to drop deep and link the play between the midfield and attack; Gilmour could play slightly just ahead of Kante who can sit deep and still have the reassurance that if he wanted to go forward, there would be someone who would be able to temporarily defend.
Gilmour in the 4-3-3
Having said all that, it’s been pretty clear so far this season that Frank is pushing towards the 4-3-3 when all our players are fit. As I said before, this is where most people who haven’t watched Gilmour as much will be surprised.
Last season when Gilmour featured towards the end of the season, he was playing instead of Kante, in the deeper number 6 role. Don’t get me wrong, he can do a very good job there as we saw, and he would be the backup option for Kante until we get Declan Rice either in January or the Summer. But I actually think the best place for him in this system would be playing as number 8, slightly ahead of a sitting midfielder.
When he played in the academy, he was almost always playing as an 8. Most of the time it was George Mceachran who was sitting the deepest, a player quite similar to Jorginho in terms of their style, and Billy in front, with someone like Tino Anjorin or Conor Gallagher to the other side. As an 8 I think he’s got it all – passing, running, dribbling, an eye for goal around the box and most importantly he’s an aggressive player off the ball despite his physique.
Like I said before, at the moment we really only have two natural number 8’s, them being Kai Havertz and Mason Mount. Chelsea have an extremely tight schedule coming up and both players will be needing rest, so Gilmour would be the best player to come in for them.
The last thing to say about the 19 year old is that we have brought in world class players, and they are only going to make him better. He’s going to have one of the world’s best centre-backs in the last two decades behind him telling him where to be and what to do, a generational young talent right next to him, some utterly disgusting pace in front of him as well as a magician. We genuinely could see some huge developments in this game this season making him one of the best young players in the world, I’m sure of it.
I wouldn’t expect Anjorin to feature heavily soon for the first team, but he’s certainly one who we could see on the bench for a couple games, especially having already qualified for the Champions League knockout stages. Tino has been playing for the development squad this season after returning from an injury, and he’s almost back to his very best. I said at the beginning of the year that he was going to be too good for the U23’s, and he hasn’t proven me wrong. Even against men, he looked the most comfortable on the pitch, scoring a brace against League One team Bristol Rovers in the EFL Trophy (or the Papa John’s trophy – whatever you prefer). He definitely needs a challenge, whether that is with the first team or out on loan, because it’s too easy for him at the moment.
For me, his chance is just lurking around the corner. I’m not sure what is happening with the COVID bubbles and whether he’s actually allowed to play with the first team, but if he is, I can see him getting a shot very soon. He trained a lot with the big boys towards the end of last season and if it wasn’t for his injury during Project Restart he almost definitely would have featured. He also received many loan offers in the Summer, but wanted to stay and make himself available to Lampard, and I would assume one main reason behind that was seeing the departures of Loftus-Cheek and Barkley.
In the whole of the club, he is definitely the next most natural 8 after Kai and Mason. Not only that, he can easily play at the 10, fitting the gaffer’s formations perfectly and potentially making him a great asset in the future. We don’t really have someone like him in the main squad, although it could be argued that he has a few similarities to Havertz – they both play in similar positions, have a great eye for goal and are extremely clinical. The main difference between the two is quite obviously their physical status, with Anjorin being one of the strongest guys around, yet still being quick (don’t get me wrong, Kai is still extremely fast.)
Anjorin is more of a bogey player and one to keep an eye out for, as I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets promoted to the first team camp allowing him to feature for the first team, or if a loan deal gets agreed to a Championship or European team.
Do you agree with the idea of Gilmour playing as an 8 and Anjorin possibly featuring for the first team? Make sure to let us know on our social media platforms and my own personal account!
Written by Paree