Frank Lampard’s decision to switch to a 4-2-3-1 formation has benefitted his attackers but might not suit several midfielders.
Based on the three games Chelsea have played this season, it seems that Lampard will opt for a 4-2-3-1 against the easier opponents and go with the more familiar 4-3-3 against top sides.
Having brought in attackers such as Hakim Ziyech, Timo Werner, and particularly Kai Havertz, it makes sense that Lampard would want to add more bodies up closer to the opponents’ goal.
The 4-2-3-1 allows Lampard to field a No.10 (Ruben Loftus-Cheek v Brighton and Havertz v Barnsley) who will be given more freedom to attack with less defensive responsibilities.
Havertz’s hat-trick in Wednesday’s 6-0 win against Barnsley suggests that it could work really well.
The double-pivot behind the No.10, however, could be problematic.
Mateo Kovacic and Ross Barkley played in a two-man midfield in that game, and it was certainly not a walk in the park for the pair despite the clean-sheet.
Especially in the first half, the Championship side cut through Chelsea’s midfield rather easily, as illustrated by the nine shots on target Willy Caballero had to face.
To put it into perspective, Chelsea had 11 shots on target, just two more. With the high profile attackers in their line-up, it is not a surprise the Blues were far more clinical.
N’Golo Kante would flourish in double-pivot but he needs the right partner
N’Golo Kante and perhaps Billy Gilmour would arguably be the ones who would benefit from the 4-2-3-1 system.
It was in a double pivot, alongside Danny Drinkwater at Leicester City, Nemanja Matic at Chelsea and Paul Pogba for the France national team, that Kante reached an elite level.
But to really release Kante’s potential, Lampard needs a holding midfielder who would sit in front of the defence and let Kante do what he excels at.
Kovacic played that sitting role against Barnsley and, although he made three tackles, he was also dribbled past two times, and that is against a Championship team.
Jorginho played alongside Kante in a pivot against Brighton and was also dribbled past twice (although he also made two tackles and two interceptions).
Reece James could be an option, but Lampard likely sees him as a right-back in the long-term.
And the big question is whether having an extra attacker outweighs these potential defensive problems?