Charles’ latest “The Mind of Conte” column.
Amid all the speculation around Diego Costa and his future at the club, Chelsea produced a convincing performance away to Leicester last Saturday, which was exactly what the doctor ordered.
3-5-2 vs 3-4-3
In the second clash of the season between both Italian managers, Ranieri decided to match his counterpart’s formation at the back, and lined up with three central defenders.
While Conte fielded his usual 3-4-3 formation, the Leicester city manager went for a 3-5-2 formation with Musa and Vardy leading the attack.
With Diego Costa out of the squad, Chelsea played with a fluid trio composed of Pedro, Hazard and Willian.
With two strikers pushing high, Ranieri tried having Musa and Vardy occupy Azpilicueta and Luiz respectively.
Cahill was afforded more time on the ball as he is the least comfortable of the three with the ball at his feet.
Early on, Leicester’s pressing disrupted Chelsea’s passing game from the back, and Costa’s absence was noticeable in the sense that none of the three attackers was able to control and hold on to high balls under pressure.
Chelsea’s fluid front three
Throughout the game, Hazard, Willian and Pedro exchanged positions, thereby cutting off any point of reference for Leicester City’s back three.
On most occasions, Hazard was the most central of the three, dropping deeper into midfield to collect the ball and looking to link up with the other two forwards, or finding one of the wing-backs in advanced positions.
With Hazard starting more centrally and drifting more to the right than usual, Alonso found himself in and around the box more often than usual, as he would take on positions that may normally be occupied by the Blues’ number 10.
This explains Alonso’s central positioning on both of his goals.
Victor Moses on the opposite flank had to remain out wide in order to compensate for Alonso’s positioning and further stretch the field.
Pedro’s continued resurgence
It’s no coincidence that Pedro has been playing his best football in a Chelsea shirt, following the switch to 343.
However, in this game, he was even better than he has been in recent games.
Chelsea essentially played with one of three forwards in the false nine position, pulling defenders out, and opening space for the other two forwards to run into.
This is a role Pedro is very much familiar with, both with Barcelona and Spain.
He now feels confident with familiar tactics and better understanding of his teammates; on current form, he edges ahead of Willian for a spot in the starting eleven.
Following the Costa controversy and defeat to Spurs, it was crucial for Chelsea to respond with a convincing win away to last year’s champions.
They did just that by confusing Leicester City’s defense with a fluid front three, giving away no reference points, and utilized Marcos Alonso coming inside to give them a numerical advantage vs Leicester’s back three defense.
Pedro also continued his fine form in a setup that is particularly familiar to him.
Written by Charles Codo
Follow Charles on Twitter @soccerCrave
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