Sometimes, a subtle shift in formation can make the difference for a team struggling for form.
Occasionally, a bigger change is needed.
For Antonio Conte’s Chelsea side, a switch to a 3-4-3 lineup has resulted in six-straight league wins. That surge has vaulted the Blues to the top of the table.
A humbling 3-0 loss to Arsenal on Sept. 24 left the Italian looking for new ideas.
“When you you see that every game you concede goals and many chances to score other goals, it means you have to change something,” he told the Independent. “For this reason I changed it. I try to give more balance offensively and defensively. This happened. Also because I see that the players enjoy this type of football, this system. Every single player has his quality in this system.”
In Saturday’s 1-0 win away against Middlesbrough, Chelsea lined up like this:
Chelsea scored only once in the match, but Pedro hit the bar while Victor Moses and Eden Hazard took turns terrorizing the Boro back four.
The Blues were solid at the back, too, allowing only one shot on target.
The switch to the 3-4-3 has been particularly good for Hazard, who won the EPL Player of the Month Award for October.
“This season I’m seeing a lot of positive things for Eden, with the ball and without the ball,” Conte said. “It’s important, because to be a complete player you must do both phases, with the ball and without the ball. Eden is doing this and it’s fantastic.”
With no disrespect for Middlesbrough, Everton, Southampton, Manchester United, Leicester and Hull City, the road is about to get tougher for Conte’s men.
A home date with Tottenham this weekend will be followed by a journey to Manchester City on Dec. 3.
Spurs bring the league’s best defense (eight goals allowed) while City provides one of the EPL’s better offenses.
The next two weeks will tell us whether Chelsea has found a long term solution with the 3-4-3 or let us know that the Blues were simply beating up on inferior opposition.