Danny Higginbotham says the Gunners need far more discipline than when they lost 4-0 at Liverpool
CHELSEA host Arsenal tomorrow, pitting the wits of two very different managers against each other.
Chelsea’s Antonio Conte is a stickler for a plan, for organisation, for rigid structure. Everyone knows their role.
They are drilled, drilled and drilled again. I bet it can almost become boring during training — but it works.
Arsene Wenger, on the other hand, gives Arsenal’s players freedom to express themselves. The team is more fluid, less governed, more impulsive.
You could argue Conte is more successful with Juventus and Chelsea.
But Wenger has the edge in their last few meetings, particularly winning the FA Cup final last season.
For my money though, Conte is the man with the plan.
Look at Chelsea’s average player position map for last weekend’s 2-1 win at Leicester. It is incredible.
Football is a fluid game, players get dragged about chasing the ball, retrieving passes and tracking an opponent.
But even given those unpredictables, Chelsea’s formation is a perfect 3-4-2-1, even down to Alvaro Morata (No 9) being slightly in advance of Cesc Fabregas (No 4) and Pedro (No 11), who tuck in to allow wing-backs Victor Moses (No 15) and Marcus Alonso (No 3) to keep the width.
Also look at how N’Golo Kante (No 7) and Tiemoue Bakayoko (No 14) maintain their holding midfield positions.
This protection in front of the back three central defenders is vital in making sure they cannot be countered.
It is more important than ever to have two defensive-minded midfielders, or only one full-back forward if you are the bigger club.
This is because they are making the play and higher up the park, therefore more open to a counter-attack.
Chelsea do this brilliantly. It means they defend with five players and also attack with five players, the wing-backs plus the front three.
This rigid formation isn’t an accident — it’s all down to hard work.
Arsenal adopted 3-4-2-1 towards the end of last season as well. But starting formations are almost irrelevant if the players don’t have discipline.
Look at the graphics from their 4-0 loss at Liverpool earlier in the season.
They are 1-0 down five minutes before the break and both holding midfielders, Granit Xhaka and Aaron Ramsey, are on the edge of the Liverpool box!
Liverpool won the ball back and broke, leaving them stranded
They are not even the first two midfielders to get back and try to snuff out the danger — these were Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Alexis Sanchez. Sadio Mane scores to make it 2-0 to Liverpool. Game over.
Formations come and go. The 3-4-2-1 is certainly the favourite at the moment, but no one nails it like Chelsea.
If Arsenal don’t adopt the same discipline that Conte’s team do tomorrow, it may be like Anfield again.
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