Reflecting on the goalless draw at Stamford Bridge on Sunday afternoon allowed me to conclude one issue that to me sticks out, our defence were inaffective once pressed and could not play out from the back.
This is a tactic that Manager Antonio Conte likes to use, and so often yesterday we saw the ball go back to Thibaut Courtois, who in turn usually ended up passing it out to Gary Cahill, who we and Arsenal both know is not the most comfortable on the ball, who then ended up playing it inside to a tight area in somewhat a hospital type pass.
David Luiz’s long passing was entirely off the pace yesterday. I believe as well as a number of other reasons, the inability to not play out of the back and lose the ball when pressed, was a major factor of not being able to break Arsenal down yesterday. Of course there were issues up top and in midfield as well, with the Managers selection being questioned and rightly so, but I’m not talking about that right now.
We need to see Andreas Christensen in that back 3. Despite popular belief, it is a myth that he can only play in the middle of that back 3 due to him being a ball playing defender, I wholeheartedly disagree with that statement. He would be excellent playing one side of the 3, as that is usually where Courtois tends to distribute his short passes.
I’d much rather have the ball playing calm presence of Christensen recieving the ball there than Cahill. I’m not here to scapegoat our captain and I am one of the few who actually rate him highly as a defender as part of a back 4, but he is just not good enough on the ball. So for me, I’d much rather have Christensen out there.
I rate Christensen very highly and I’ve watched him closely during his career, he has it all about his game. His ability to read the situation and make progressive decisions, reminds me of John Terry. He isn’t the fastest defender, but he can be surprisingly quick for his height, as well as being excellent at intercepting possession. He might not be as robust as our former captain just yet, but the defensive side of his game is excellent.
But what he offers on the ball is going to be our hugest asset in the style of play that Conte wants to use, to have two ball playing defenders back there who can also defend very well, for me is a no brainer. We would have been able to play out the back more effectively yesterday, and Marcos Alonso would have also become more effective with Christensen behind him.
Not only would he hold onto possession, he would look to bring it forward and make advanced passes to put us into an attacking position, he has great vision for a long range pass, which could be another real weapon for Chelsea.
Many say Antonio Rudiger should be there and I’d also agree with that in a sense. I rate Rudiger highly and he is certainly faster and stronger than our other defenders, he’s a real asset and I’d be equally as happy for him to start as well, maybe switching the two depending on who they’re up against. But for me, our best 3 defenders are Cesar Azpilicueta, David Luiz and Andreas Christensen, so they are who I’d personally start in our best eleven. That’s my opinion.
I believe Christensen is strong enough and good enough defensively to play in that left centre back role, but also bring more to the attacking side of our game. Conte has the man management skills to make him even better in that position as well.
He will replace Luiz in our next 3 matches at the heart of the defence, that’s pretty much inevitable. But for me, I’d continue to start him in the back 3 even when the suspended Luiz returns.
Simon Phillips @SiPhillips