Despite the uncertainty set to befall the transfer market due to the coronavirus pandemic, Chelsea aren’t sitting idly by. The last 48 hours have seen reports of the Blues closing a deal for Timo Werner and making significant progress in their approach for Ben Chilwell. Throw in the already announced transfer of Hakim Ziyech, and Frank Lampard is going to have some exciting new pieces to work with next season. How will he line them up? Here are some options.
4-3-3: Balanced approach
The base system for much of the current season – before it was put on hold – was a tried-and-tested 4-3-3. The biggest question surrounding that formation with the expected arrival of Werner is whether the German hotshot will supplant or accompany incumbent striker Tammy Abraham.
Werner has often been deployed in a wide forward role for both RB Leipzig and the German national team; that versatility is part of the reason Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp was so keen to bring him to Anfield in recent months. So if Lampard wanted to play the blistering 24-year-old without losing the penalty-box presence of Abraham, Werner wouldn’t need to venture too far beyond his comfort zone to make things work.
Together with American winger Christian Pulisic and Moroccan playmaker Ziyech – not to mention Callum Hudson-Odoi – Lampard suddenly has a bevy of young, dynamic options at his disposal heading into 2020-21.
It’s going to be virtually impossible to satisfy all of their playing time needs throughout the season, it seems, so expect to see plenty of variations on the 4-3-3 formation, including one that would feature Werner as the focal point.
Having too many fun attacking players to fit all of them in at once: that’s surely a nice headache for a manager.
4-2-3-1: On the front foot
If Lampard wanted to sacrifice one of his three midfielders for a more forward-thinking option, the 4-2-3-1 system could be on the table. Retaining the indefatigable N’Golo Kante would be a no-brainer here, considering the lighter numbers in midfield create more space to be covered. That means one of Jorginho or Mateo Kovacic would have to make way, possibly for Mason Mount to play in the hole behind the lone striker.
Similar to the situation with the 4-3-3, Werner and Abraham are interchangeable, depending on form, injuries, and the opposition.
Pulisic seems the most likely to be directly impacted by Werner’s arrival in the short term. Considering the fees paid to procure the German and Ziyech from Ajax – reportedly around €100 million combined, excluding potential bonuses – it’s fair to suggest they’ll immediately be given every opportunity to succeed.
3-4-3: Conte’s roots
There are remnants of Antonio Conte’s tenure at Stamford Bridge, and, on occasion, Lampard has opted for the three-man backline the Italian used to such great effect in west London.
Of the formations mentioned so far, this seems to be the most unlikely – and ill-advised – option; you’d simply be leaving too much talent on the bench by inserting another central defender into the mix. That said, here’s what it could possibly look like:
Defense wins championships, or something like that.
4-3-1-2: Up the middle
Playing Werner and Abraham up top as a more traditional duo would force Chelsea to make concessions out wide, as the wingers would either drop out of the side entirely or be instructed to play centrally in a No. 10 role.
It could work with Chilwell providing the impetus from left-back, while youngster Reece James would probably be the preferred option to veteran Cesar Azpilicueta on the other side.
4-2-4: All-out attack
This is more of a fairy-tale than anything, but let’s have some fun. The 4-2-4 isn’t completely foreign nowadays – Conte has used some iteration of it throughout his career – but it creates some obvious issues. The strain it puts on the wingers and central midfielders is massive. Jorginho, for example, simply isn’t mobile enough to cope with something like this:
Realistically, this is a formation you would only see in desperate, last-ditch situations – chasing a goal in the waning minutes, for example. But it would be damn fun to watch for neutral supporters.