CHELSEA'S most successful eras have always involved a solid and consistent core of players down the spine of the team.
During current boss Frank Lampard’s playing days, you had Petr Cech, John Terry, Ashley Cole, Claude Makelele, Lampard himself, and Didier Drogba up top as the mainstay, with the same tried and tested formation and system.
And whilst it is always wise to rotate players when fixtures come thick and fast, it is equally important to gain a regular set of trusted players you know will be on that team sheet week in, week out.
This is the crux of the problem of Lampard’s reign as Chelsea manager.
The Blues legend has used 56 different starting Xls across his 60 games in charge so far.
It really is quite staggering that he has only used the same starting eleven four times during his season-and-a-bit as manager.
Lampard has also changed his line-up 177 times since he took over – that’s also a fairly high figure.
Yes, he has struggled with injuries of course and now there are new signings, which must be taken into account.
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But I genuinely believe Lampard has yet to decide his strongest line-up and that is a real issue.
Take the centre back selections, for example.
Lampard is still fluttering between all four of his current options and is often leaving one of them out of the squad altogether.
It was Andreas Christensen’s turn in the Carabao Cup exit against Spurs on Tuesday night, but it was Kurt Zouma the game before that.
Whilst this is not hugely rare in today’s game, I believe a regular centre-back pairing as the backbone of the team is one of the most important factors for consistency.
Each player has to know exactly how the other plays the game and be able to read when to cover, when they can pass to each other comfortably, and most importantly how to organise and work as a unit.
Use a defensive midfielder (ideally Declan Rice if they can pull that deal off) and two attacking no8s in front of him, such as Mason Mount and Kai Havertz.
It’s also a case of building strong mentalities. A player must feel like they are always important to the team and really live and breathe the club – they won’t get that by sitting in the stands every few weeks watching on.
I don’t have a real problem with switching formations, especially in-game. This is a great way to get a result when the tide of the game turns, or get a goal back when chasing a negative score line – this is very normal and is actually a good sign of in-game management.
But I believe that it will be more than beneficial to work with one main formation and build a system based on that.
At the moment, these Chelsea line ups have no identity and although they dominate the ball a lot, the attacking style that Lampard has been known for is not really shining through.
Lampard needs to create a 4-3-3 attacking line up and use this predominantly.
Naturally, you can change this depending on the opponent, but with all the attacking talent that has arrived at Stamford Bridge this summer, now is the ideal time to build a solid core and an attacking system, and here is how…
Use a natural defensive midfielder (ideally Declan Rice if they can pull that deal off), then have two attacking no8s in front of him – such as Mason Mount and Kai Havertz.
This would be an attacking system that would work against the majority of teams who set up defensively against Chelsea, knowing they will keep the ball but not often penetrate.
This allows for the full backs to also be attacking, because the defensive midfielder stays disciplined at the back and fills in the gaps.
I’m not a fan of the double pivot; it’s too safe and does not allow for enough attacking creativity. I’d also argue that whilst it is safe for keeping possession deep, it actually leaves us more exposed at the back.
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Teams hope for luck of Chelsea making errors and counter attacks to get the result, and it has worked a lot.
But Chelsea must use a regular core of players starting every game to a feasible level, let them grow in confidence and learn each other’s games off by heart, then set up using an attack minded high pressing and direct system, then learn and perfect it.
I feel the time has come to stop the experimenting and put the trust in the players and combinations that he has a gut feeling about and stick with it.
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