The tactical roles of Chelsea's new signings - The Chelsea Chronicle

The tactical roles of Chelsea's new signings

In a summer that saw key men such as John Terry & Nemanja Matic depart, it was integral that Antonio Conte added the necessary squad depth to challenge on all fronts.

         Players Out:                      Players In:

  • Asmir Begovic                      Willy Caballero
  • John Terry                            Antonio Rudiger
  • Nathaniel Ake                      Davide Zappacosta
  • Nemanja Matic                    Danny Drinkwater
  • Nathaniel Chalobah            Tiemoue Bakayoko
  •                                                  Alvaro Morata

When you compare the outgoings of Chelsea’s first team players from last season to the incomings of this season, it is hard to see where Conte has actually added depth instead of just replacing. However, the loan returnees Charly Musonda & Andreas Christensen give the Blues more room for rotation. For Conte, it is important that all players understand their individual responsibilities. Taking into consideration Chelsea’s strengths & weaknesses, I will explain how their new signings will fit in.

Willy Caballero

First & foremost, Caballero will have to be comfortable on the ball. The notion that ‘all 11 players must play football’ stems from the Italian’s ideology. Being a trustworthy outlet for the defenders is a must in Chelsea’s build up play as a backwards pass to Courtois invites pressure but as a consequence, it also gives further incentive for Chelsea’s forwards to spring a counter attack. In the image above, Thibaut Courtois receives the ball & distributes it to Gary Cahill thus forcing Manchester United to adjust their shape, causing gaps in midfield.

In a more ‘goalkeeper’ analysis point, for Caballero to collect crosses & distribute it effectively is also something Conte usually enjoys.  One of Courtois’ signature moves is the classic ‘corner catch & hurl out’ in which he comes (occasionally some way out) & catches a corner before producing a monumentally large throw to one of Chelsea’s attackers on the break. Caballero may have to adopt such tendencies if he’s to be favoured by his new coach.

Antonio Rudiger

As one of the exterior centre backs, most of Rudiger’s job will include forming a back four with the remaining defenders whilst David Luiz ventures forward whilst also roaming into the half-spaced to draw markers (similar to  Azpilicueta, as pictured above). It is important to know note that Rudiger will run in half-spaces more than the central spaces in order to keep enough spacing between fellow teammates thus allowing an easier counter-press should the ball be lost. A hallmark of this current Chelsea side is their rugged yet disciplined ability to defend in the air. Despite being rather small for the traditional centre back, this has been little cause for concern when it comes to his ability to defend in the air. Cesar Azpilicueta won 1.89 aerial duels per game compared to Chelsea’s centre backs from last season John Terry (1.56), Gary Cahill (2.35)  & David Luiz (1.45), meaning the Spaniard was Chelsea’s second best aerial defender despite being considerably smaller which leaves Antonio Rudiger little excuse for error.

Davide Zappacosta

With Pedro usually moving centrally to provide overloads, Victor Moses can make the right-hand side his own. The Nigerian international would regularly bomb forward to peg his opposing fullback back or cut inside, confusing the opposition as seen by his (suspicious) penalty win against Spurs in the FA cup semi-final. Furthermore, his 3 goals & 2 assists speak volumes as to how much Conte wants his wingbacks to get involved in their attacking play. This should be no problem for the Italian as his chance creation (1.41) & assists (0.17) per game beat Moses’ (0.76 & 0.06 respectively).

Tiemoue Bakayoko

Bakayoko’s premier instruction will be to be the vital protector of his own penalty box. Adding in sensible ball carrying (as demonstrated by Matic above), Bakayoko will in a sense be the ‘6th defender’ as it will mainly be his responsibility to turn defence into attack. Under Jardim at Monaco he was able to use his physical attributes to his advantage as he improved his dribbling & passing skills that helped him become a more complete player. Now under Conte at Chelsea Bakayoko will have a more defensive minded coach who will set his eyes forward, encouraging him to go forward as much as he instructs him to come back. In what seems minimal, Bakayoko keeping a suitable distance with his midfield partner will be integral; stray too far & the centre of the pitch can be exploited, stay too close & the wide areas can easily be overloaded. Matic was a master of knowing where to position himself in relation to Kante’s movements as the pair played a key role in Chelsea title winning team.

Danny Drinkwater

Danny Drinkwater has been brought in to be Chelsea’s Swiss army knife, capable of handling any situation. He will be expected to do most of Fabregas’ defending, Kante’s attacking & Bakayoko’s passing. It is not to say that the three players mentioned are bad at theses things but Drinkwater is simply less error prone in these departments. In a press conference towards the end of the transfer window, Antonio Conte said, “I want Fabregas to be a bit more like Kante & Kante to be a bit more like Fabregas,” suggesting he was after a more complete midfielder. He may not be a regular starter but his ability to keep calm under pressure (like Chalobah above) should see Conte rely on the Englishman to perform when called upon.

Alvaro Morata

A nice contrast to Conte’s rigid defensive structure is that he encourages free movement in the final third. With Diego Costa (pictured) coming in from the right wing & scoring, surprising movements like these are effective as they catch out the opposition more often than not. In addition, Morata will have to always make himself available even in the toughest of situations & Costa’s goal against Liverpool epitomises this, peeling off into the right spaces to ensure a teammate can find you. However, it is not all chaotic wandering under the Italian because an automatism of Diego Costa was to hold up the ball in & around the penalty area in order to bring more of his teammates into the phase of play. With both Spain internationals (possibly) fighting for a starting role, it is imperative Morata steals moves from Costa whilst developing his own in order to become Chelsea’s number one striker.