Chelsea FC: Why a back three is risky in the Champions League

Chelsea FC will soon lift their first silverware of the season.

The boss, Antonio Conte, has very smartly and tactically dealt with every shortcoming the squad had been facing as a whole as well as individually.

However, the Italian also knows that the strategy which went so glowingly this season may not be as effective next season when they will be facing competition from Europe’s elite sides.

There are some considerable flaws demonstrated by their squad which also have, though very infrequently, been exploited by the opponents at the domestic level this season. There is no doubt these gaps can be easily capitalized by foreign opposition in their upcoming Champions League fixtures.

The most important of these issues is the wide areas exposed at the defense in Conte’s back 3 formation. While this formation contributed to winning most of the club’s matches, it may not do so in the more intense Champions League matches.


Problem with its purpose

There is no such problem with the formation per se, but it is in the main purpose behind it. The formation should be used offensively rather defensively.

When adopted to strengthen the defensive solidity, however, the backline has to rely on the defending talent of the wing-backs or else it might end up pulling apart.

The lack of marking by wing-backs, or the center backs on the left and right, could allow the opposition to penetrate to the box and deliver crosses to the back-post from the wide areas. Any demonstration of positional indiscipline from the wing-backs can also result in rewarding the opposition an onside play.

The players capable of scoring back-post headers – the number is high across the European teams – can brutally destroy the backline.

Even Juventus under Conte had struggled desperately with their defense in the Champions League with their solid 3-man backline. One of these cruel reminders was against Bayern Munich, who knocked out the Italians in the quarterfinals of 2012-13 Champions League as the latter appeared too predictable in defense.


Exposed at times

Coming to the issue with respect to the current season, Chelsea have been exposed in the wide areas at the domestic front too.

Spurs and some other teams were able to find their way to the box from the right side of the backline and midfield – that is where Moses and Azpilicueta, or Alonso, occupy.

Moses and Alonso have evolved a lot in their positional discipline to establish a firm backline, but they still lack significant marking capabilities needed to keep control of more frantic attacks.

With an already well-built backline which can’t be easily pulled apart and the presence of one of the best sweepers at the center in the form of David Luiz, the only area to focus at the back is to enhance the richness and productivity of the wide defensive areas.

No doubt, Conte has worked on this by working on the wing-backs and the central defenders on each side to get them back to their marking duties.

Yet, this still requires much harder training to improve their positional discipline and agility in order to perform this duty at an even more vigorous level of competition.  


Must add more depth in the summer

Not only Conte needs to strengthen his current wing-backs, he also needs to sign another top level wing-back, among others, to enrich the side’s defensive talent.

Since the team will be competing on two major fronts, there will be an added risk of injury and exhaustion and so there should be more depth in the Blues’ defensive options.


Written by Farkhanda Jabeen

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