New Chelsea manager Frank Lampard might be one of the greatest midfielders of all time, but figuring out how how his midfield will work is going to be his biggest challenge this season.
Last season, Maurizio Sarri’s possession based style had Jorginho at the base of the midfield, dictating play, with Kante moved higher up the pitch, tasked with winning possession higher up the field.
Alongside side them was mainly Matteo Kovacic, who while he was good at linking up with Jorginho and helping moving the ball through the midfield, he didn’t add any goals from midfield, which meant, with Chelsea’s problems upfront, his impact on the pitch was overlooked.
Towards the end of the season, Ruben Loftus-Cheek broke into the team, using his physique to make breaking runs from midfield, linking up well with Eden Hazard and scoring goals.
What Lampard needs to decide, is what formation best suits 1) his style and 2) his players
Picking up where Sarri left off?
One option for Lampard is to go with the same midfield that finished the season strongly, with Jorginho anchoring the midfield with Loftus-Cheek and Kante in front of him. This brings out the best in all three players, with Jorginho allowed to dictate the play and maintain Chelsea’s possession style, Loftus-Cheek is able to play the box to box role which he prefers and brings out the best in his game.
While Kante is able to use his energy and dynamism to win possession high up the pitch, creating counter attacking opportunities by winning the ball in the final third.
The downfall to this, is the fact that it leaves us vulnerable defensively, as highlighted in pretty much all our games against the teams in the top half of the table.
To negate this, Lampard could opt for 4-2-3-1, with Kante dropping deeper alongside Jorginho to other that protection defensively, however using Loftus-Cheek as a number 10 wastes him and that role would be better suited to either Ross Barkley or Mason Mount.
Back to what we know?
There could be of course, the option of using 4-3-3 without Jorginho, using Kante as a holding midfielder, with any combination in front of him.
Using Jorginho in front of Kante in this situation wouldn’t work, as he wouldn’t have the space or time to move the ball in his style.
However this is a £57m player no longer used, and you’d probably have to go with Kovacic in that midfield to have somebody with the ability to retain possession.
Diamonds are forever?
Then of course, there’s the question of what Lampard does with the fringe players. Last season Sarri froze out Drinkwater, Ampadu was unable to make any impact in the first team and Barkley had to make do with sharing a position with Kovacic.
Add to that the returning Mount from loan and Lampard’s got 9 midfielders to fit into a maximum of 3 positions. Unless he uses a formation used by Carlo Ancelotti, using a diamond midfield, having Jorginho at the base, Kante, Loftus-Cheek and Kovacic competing for the two middle roles, with Mount and Barkley taking the number 10 role.
The major problem with this formation, is not having two certified top level strikers to play upfront and the likes of Willian, Pedro and new signing Pusilic would be wasted.
Either way, Lampard has some big calls to make, does Drinkwater deserve a second chance? Will Barkley stop Mounts progression or does the youngster need another loan spell away from Stamford Bridge?
Does Kante need to move back into the holding role or did Jorginho prove towards the end of the season that he adapted sufficiently be able to play the role?
Where’s Reece James’ best position? He may be able to play at right back or midfield, but you want to get the best out of every player on the pitch. On loan at Wigan, and in this interview, James would be best suited to our midfield
And that’s without mentioning the next crop of talent coming through, including those currently on the pre-season tour in Dublin.
For an inexperienced manager these are big questions that need answering and he’s going to have to learn fast. What’s good for Lampard and for Chelsea is the fact that Jody Morris and Joe Edwards, two coaches with extensive knowledge of the academy players, will be alongside him.
It’s certainly going to be interesting to see who lines up at Old Trafford on the opening day of the season.