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Chelsea's Striker Conundrum

Our next games will no doubt put us into full-blown crisis mode. But we’re actually a good team, our defence is getting better every we...



Our next games will no doubt put us into full-blown crisis mode. But we’re actually a good team, our defence is getting better every week, Kante showed his quality against Leicester in a deeper role and our attack continues to create chances without reliance on circuits.

This article will delve into potential solutions using our attacking options, exploring different strikers, formations and the potential of a false 9. Yes, we have been here before with Sarri last season and Conte the year before. Both resorted to Hazard playing upfront; against Manchester City in the Carabao cup final and at home against Barcelona.  This comes about following our recent poor form in front of goal. You can read my thoughts on how we can improve at breaking down a low block here https://www.thebluestands.com/2020/01/why-chelsea-struggle-against-low-blocks.html

Tammy Abraham


Ultimately, lots of the blame can sit at the feet of Tammy Abraham. He was far more clinical earlier in the season and if he kept up that scoring rate he would be producing numbers parallel to Lewandowski. If we keep playing the same way and Tammy starts putting the chances away again we would be fine. But as the games, weeks and months go by, Abraham is starting to resemble Morata. Missing big chance after big chance, failing to combine with teammates and his hold up play is getting worse as defenders are becoming more physical and getting tighter. Abraham has 15 goals in all competitions and has an xG of 15.6 but 20 big chances missed is a big worry (Yes that does prove stats can be pathetically conflicting). He would benefit from a small rest to recover his fitness and try to come back and rebuild his confidence. Fortunately, we have a world cup winner in the reserve, unfortunately, Lampard doesn’t play him. 

Olivier Giroud

Frank has to play Giroud, he simply has to. Giroud needs to play so he can get a spot at the Euros, and Chelsea needs him to play because we are struggling. Giroud should undoubtedly be the second choice striker ahead of Batshauyi and should have been in that role all season. Lampard’s management of him has been poor, to say the least, now things have to change. With huge games on the horizon and Abraham already carrying an injury, it does no-one any good to keep playing him.

Giroud has excellent movement in the box with the capability of finishing with both feet and his head. He also managed to star in our super cup performance where we used a counter-attack to great effect exploiting space in behind Liverpool’s defence. He also possesses the ability to link up with attackers close to him, even when backing into a defender.

Giroud will definitely be rusty at first so might be worth giving him 60 minutes against United to regain some sharpness and gradually integrate him.

He proved last season he can play in a 4-3-3 built for Jorginho in a system looking like this.





But he has shown his versatility over the years and I think would be best suited to a 4-2-3-1 looking like this.

 

Batshuayi

If he starts any of the upcoming games we may as well wave our white flags. Batshuayi needs chances created for him and presented on a plate and even then it isn’t guaranteed he’d score. He’s had some great moments for Chelsea scoring big goals but they can be named on one hand which isn’t sufficient enough to warrant a place in a squad that should be aspiring to challenge for titles. 



False 9

This is an option I know will be floated around but it is certainly one we need to stay clear of. The concept of a false 9 became fashionable again with Barcelona using Messi to exploit spaces in between the lines. So why can’t we do it? We don’t have Messi… or Xavi or Iniesta or Villa or Ped- okay so we have Pedro. If Pedro was 5 years younger then maybe he could be considered as a false 9 because he was a tremendous finisher with great speed and off the ball movement. Not now though. We lack goalscoring midfielders and wingers so why anyone thinks playing more of them would lead to us scoring more goals is beyond me. We already resemble Arsenal in Wenger's last few seasons with some technically good players who play lots of passes but lack the instinct to kill teams off and lack the defensive capability to see out big moments.

I presume this is what a false 9 set up would look like for us, but it could be worse with a Sarri style 4-3-3. If you’re wondering why that would be worse, read my article of breaking down low blocks.

A false 9 isn’t very common in our contemporary football climate, largely due to teams not having Messi. The closest and most successful resemblance is Firminio, who isn’t a false 9 in the same way Messi was. I would say Firmino is more of a 9.5 not quite a 9 but not quite a 10. Almost playing at the tip of a midfield diamond sometimes then moving into more conventional striker positions linking up around the penalty box.  Plus, he has Mane and Salah and a host of programmed movements in his favour. Messi would have more freedom to drop into spaces creating overloads either in midfield or out wide then Villa and Pedro could exploit the space left by Messi.



4-2-4-0


An alternative to a false 9 could be a 4-2-4-0. A box midfield with 2 fluid attackers in front of Kante and Kovacic with 2 wingers who hold with and look to make bursting runs inside should space appear in behind defences. This is a formation Manchester City used in the first leg against United in the Carabao cup to great effect. But the main difference being Manchester City have an array of goalscoring midfielders and wingers to chose from. This could cause United problems but wouldn’t lead to us scoring necessarily.

Back to a back 3


Another option could be a back 3 with Alonso and James as wing-backs could help on occasions as we could create a 5 in attack with the wing-backs and Alonso would provide a goal threat. He could be devastating arriving at the back post for some of James’ crosses. The risk for this system is none of our centre backs possess great ability in possession and only Kovacic and Kante can be paired in the midfield 2. But both Giroud and Abraham have played in this system before and done well.


Concluding thoughts

We have a good team, we create chances to score regularly and don’t give the opposition lots of chances to score against us. Our issues are that our only striker who Lampard plays has stopped converting the chances, the midfielders and wide players don’t contribute to goals and we don’t have a goalkeeper capable of regularly making saves. Regardless of formation, once our striker starts scoring we’ll be fine. The concern is Lampard won’t use Giroud for this upcoming crucial period and this can have a detrimental impact on results if he chooses an injured Abraham or a sub-standard Batshuayi.

Written by @benbell98
Edit by @KristenPulisic

 

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