Chelsea kicked off the 2021/22 season with a 6-1 win over Peterborough behind closed doors at Cobham Training Ground which saw Thomas Tuchel trial a new formation that proved so successful at Paris Saint Germain.
The Blues manager trialled a 4-2-4 formation, which can also be recognised as a 4-2-2-2, in the second half of the pre-season friendly hinting that Tuchel may have plans to implement a new brand of football.
Despite having operated such a successful three at the back since arriving in the fixture-congested January period, the former PSG manager now has the time to install a new system which could pave the way for new faces to feature in the starting eleven.
With an abundance of talent passing through the Surrey-based training complex, Tuchel has been able to assess and monitor which players he would like to hold onto before they’re sent out on loan or moved on elsewhere.
Of these players are the likes of Conor Gallagher, Armando Broja and Malang Sarr who all featured in some capacity against Peterborough and could etch themselves into the first-team squad this season.
With many players under contract at Chelsea, they will undoubtedly be looking to impress as they reflect on the reinvigoration of Victor Moses’ Chelsea career when Conte implemented a new system.
However, having enjoyed a similar tactical-success to the Italian boss in West London thus far, Tuchel will also be looking to ensure that lightning does not strike twice in light of the Conte’s eventual sour ending.
Although, despite Tuchel discovering the tactical blueprints that ultimately proved instrumental to Chelsea Champions League success in Porto this year, the former PSG manager will be looking to reinforce and bolster his arsenal of options in a bid to perpetuate the recent triumphs.
Where Tuchel has used the 4-2-4 before?
Tuchel replaced former Unai Emery as PSG boss in 2018 and was soon prized with the signing of Kylian Mbappe who joined forces with Neymar, Julian Draxler, Angel Di Maria and Edinson Cavani before Mauro Icardi and Pablo Sarabia’s arrival the following season.
The then PSG manager was inundated with attacking options, similar to his situation at Chelsea albeit not to the same degree, and began to use the 4-2-4.
In possession, the French outfit were lavish and numerous forward runners but out of possession Tuchel’s side slipped back into a 4-4-2 – a formation that is so popular throughout the various steps in the English football pyramid.
The most famous use of this formation by the Blues manager was for PSG against his former club Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League Round of 16 second leg, which saw Tuchel book a ticket into the quarter-finals.
How does it work?
Full-backs instead of wing-backs
With this formation the likes of Reece James and Ben Chilwell, who once roamed the wide channels as wing-backs, will now operate as full-backs. This means that they will still be encouraged to gallop forwards through the thirds, but, now they will have to be much more aware of tracking runners and communicate more with the midfielders when to press in-field.
Two banks of two is harder to defend against than one bank of four
The 4-2-4, which can be seen as as a 4-2-2-2, is hard to defend against due to the wide full-backs and the two banks of two oppose to one bank of four.
This can, as a result, create more space for Chelsea’s full-backs in the channels as the wingers in the front four will occupy the opposition’s full-backs creating space in behind.
Should the opposition fail to step up and mark the Blues’ wide forwards, they will then have the space between the lines to turn, much like Neymar and Di Maria enjoyed so much under Tuchel.
Two strikers opposed to one
In one respect, the newly-trialled formation versus Peterborough could offer an insight into the ongoing Erling Haaland transfer saga but it could also delve into Tuchel’s thought process behind the potential retention of Tammy Abraham and youngster Armando Broja.
Broja, who is just 19-years-old, impressed in his first season of senior football as he enjoyed a successful loan spell at Vitesse Arnhem scoring ten goals in 30 Eredivisie appearances, and, with the recent departure of Olivier Giroud could be impressing the Chelsea boss.
Meanwhile, Abraham’s future is uncertain following the Mirror’s report claiming that Aston Villa are ready to place a £40million bid for the striker’s services.
As a result, whether the Blues sign a striker this summer or not, Tuchel may have a system in place whereby Kai Havertz, Haaland, Timo Werner and Christian Pulisic all feature in a front four.
The role of the two strikers would be to entertain the opposition’s two centre-backs, in addition to the roles executed by the wide attackers and full-backs, creating a potential four versus six overload when attacking.
And, with Chelsea fixated on a move for Haaland adding to the towering builds of Abraham and Broja, the 4-2-4 looks set to become ever more prevalent this season.
Which unlikely players could make a claim for themselves in this formation?
The Albanian international, who recently accepted a five-year contract at Chelsea, could put forward a serious case for a place in Tuchel’s first-team squad this season. With potentially two strikers leading the line, Broja will eye this as an opportunity to elevate his game to the next level.
Although it may be hard to determine what stage Charly Musonda is at following an extensive succession of injuries, his electrifying pace and lavish technique could prove to be a great option off the bench for the Blues or even a part of the front four.
However, despite not featuring for the Blues versus Peterborough he may still stake a claim for himself.
Despite a turbulent start to life in west London with Chelsea, Hakim Ziyech has appeared to finally enter his groove having scored a second-half hat-trick in the Blues’ 6-1 win over Peterborough.
The Moroccan international could flourish and revive his pastures his once enjoyed for Ajax operating as one of the wide players in the front four. By no means a comparison but by merely fitting the mould, much like Di Maria and Neymar under Tuchel Ziyech could be implemented into a similar role to the South American’s and thrive like Blues fans have not seen before.
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Source by Football London