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Tactical Analysis: Antonio Conte's 3-4-3 at Chelsea

Tuesday 24th January 2017
It seems that Chelsea are romping towards the Premier League title. Antonio Conte has made his mark on Chelsea by leading from the front and getting every single ounce from his players. But what is it about his 3-4-3 system that makes it so hard for opposing teams to cope with? This might explain why.
After a thumping defeat at the hands of Arsenal at the Emirates earlier in the season, some Chelsea supporters were calling for Antonio Conte to be sacked, admittedly it was a small number of fans and thanks to a change of tactics Conte has provided the tactical nous for Chelsea's title charge. Chelsea faced off against Arsenal playing a 4-2-3-1 formation, seemingly the choice of every Premier League club, but Arsenal ran out 3-0 winners and Conte reverted to the formation that helped him win titles at Juventus.

The formation itself is actually more of a 3-4-2-1 formation. Starting at the back, the three defenders are Cesar Azpillecueta, Gary Cahill and David Luiz along with the mobile and energetic N'Golo Kante alongside the slower but more creative Nemanja Matic. Width is provided by the wing-back Marcos Alonso and the natural winger Victor Moses, who is arguably the most improved Premier League player this season. Ahead lie the mobile unit of Eden Hazard, Pedro and Diego Costa. Hazard and Pedro are natural inside forwards and Costa can drop into space or offer himself as a target man.
The movement from the forwards is enabled by David Luiz who essentially plays as a sweeper in front of the other two centre-backs. He can start attacks by bringing the ball into midfield, or he can drop back into defence to intercept passes. Against 'weaker sides' Moses and Alonso will push forward to deny the opposition full-backs space and will seek to create an overload. By creating this numerical advantage in the opponents half, Hazard and Pedro can attack the channels between full-back and centre-back.

Alternatively, the wing-backs can cut inside and swap positions with the inside-forwards. Costa is the focal point and he will occupy at least one of the opposing centre-backs which means that Chelsea will always have a man spare in attack with this method, and even if an opposing midfielder drops, Kante and Matic can push up to sustain the overload. Because Chelsea have so much attacking threat they will always find space. Matic has seven assists and Pedro and Costa have over 10 between them.

Similarly to their attack, defensively Chelsea will always have a spare man due to the energy of the both full-backs, Alonso and Moses. They can: press up to the opposing full-backs, or track the inside forwards. Then the centre-backs can sweep or push up to the opposition's creative centre-attacking midfielders. And then there is N'Golo Kante, who has the energy and positional awareness of two players. He has made 20% of Chelsea's entire interceptions this season. Along with this, Chelsea have given up the fewest shots on their goal, the lowest in the league.

Whilst many other clubs are trying out a three at the back system, Conte's Chelsea have been the most effective proponents of the system. The signings of David Luiz and Marcos Alonso were crucial. As was the signing of Kante. However, the most crucial ingredient is Conte. He has the knack of getting the best out of his players despite playing them in unfamiliar positions. Azpillecueta and Moses are prime examples of this. And it shows that Conte is both a good tactical and man manager. If Chelsea win the league, and it looks almost certain that they will, the use of the 3-4-3 after defeat at Arsenal was the moment their title charge began.
Tom Staniszewski
I'm Tom and I'm currently a third year journalism student based in Southampton. I'm a Crystal Palace fan and get to as many games as I can. I enjoy watching football from various leagues across Europe and I plan to host a football related radio show in the near future.

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