Why Chelsea's defensive issues are here to stay
Maurizio Sarri has got off to a dream start in England with two wins in his first two games as Chelsea manager. While the 3-0 victory against Huddersfield was relatively comfortable, the win over Arsenal threw a massive scare.
Against the Gunners at Stamford Bridge, Sarri's men flew off the blocks and took a quickfire 2-0 lead. However, in the last quarter of the first, Arsenal managed to equalize. In those 15 odd minutes, the North Londoner's missed a series of sitters or else they could have easily scored five goals.
While Chelsea's attacking play has looked fluid and already started to reminisce about the Italian's famous Napoli team. However, defensive issues are visible to one and all. Chelsea's problems at the back might not have an overnight solution, here is why:
#4 Change in formation
From Antonio Conte to Maurizio Sarri, Chelsea have overseen a massive tactical change. While both the coaches are from the same country, their style of football is on extreme ends of each other. While the new boss favors a traditional four at the back system, this Chelsea side is used to playing with three central defenders for the past two years. For defenders more than anyone, this change is the biggest one. For obvious reasons, the art of defending in both systems is completely different and it will only be natural for the backline to take time getting used to it.
#3 New roles for defenders
The defenders have just not seen a change information but also in the roles, they have in the squad. On the right-hand side, after playing at left back for three years and center back for two years, Cesar Azpilicueta has gone back to playing as a right fullback. While this is his natural position, the fact that the Spaniard has not played there for five years cannot be ignored. Getting used to the needs and demands of playing at yet another new position is certainly not going to be easy for one of Chelsea's most consistent performers from the past few years.
On the left flank, the story with Marcus Alonso is not too dissimilar. The 27-year-old is barely used to playing in a back four. Ever since his arrival in West London, Chelsea has used him as a 'wingback'. Prior to his move, Alonso played in the same position at Fiorentina. The former Bolton defender is almost an alien to the 'fullback role'. His defending was a cause for concern even with the protection of an extra centre back. In his new role, Alonso will have to defend a lot more, something that is bound to cause trouble. How much longer can his goals make up for it remains to be seen.
For Central defender's, more times than not the partnership is more than individual abilities. So far, Sarri has opted for a defensive pairing for David Luiz and Antonio Rudiger. Due to Luiz's exile from the side last season, both have barely played with each other. The academy's golden boy Andrea Christensen is the one waiting in the wings and even he has barely played together with either of Luiz or Rudiger. In any case, the centre back pairing needs to get used to playing with each other and form a chemistry.