Friday, November 23, 2012

Oh, Fernando!

photo by fhisavia PhotoRee
Ed's had it up to HERE with 'nando:
On Tuesday's Champion's League came against Juventus, Chelsea decided to leave Fernando on the bench even after they went down by two at the 65th minute. I can't say I"m surprised.

I remember when Fernando Torres was a dominant player -- someone that I made sure I watched. The Gerrard to Torres connection was lethal for Liverpool and put them near the top of the League. It's frankly shocking how mediocre he's become.

And mediocre is the right word. He went from the top in the League to someone who would have a hard time starting for anyone on the top of the table. Seriously, Michu or Fernando? How about Fletcher or Fernando?

Watching Fernando is a bit painful right now. Upon getting the ball, he usually clumsily tries to beat someone with the ball, only to find himself on his back and without the ball, complaining to the ref about some fictional foul. He's also good at the aimless pass, or the Gareth Barry Square Pass. Finally, he can't seem to race past anyone any more, with or without the ball. In short, Fernando would be on the bench if he had been purchased for only £10MM instead of the outrageous £50MM that was paid.

What's particularly shocking is that Chelsea began the season with Fernando as their only option up top other than, I suppose, Daniel Sturridge. To be honest, Sturridge is a better player right now, and I'm not sure why he doesn't find more time up top. That said, Didier Drogba literally carried this team to the finals of the Champions League last year -- he was their best player. Yet they decided inexplicably to drop him. Now he's in oblivion, at least in terms of soccer publicity, and Chelsea is still without a striker.

It was interesting seeing Chelsea use the 4-2-3-1 against Juventus, insofar as it looked frighteningly similar to Spurs 4-2-3-1 of late. The problem with the formation is that the midfield tends to play higher and more narrowly, making outlet passes more difficult and leaving the flanks vulnerable on defense. The other problem is personnel. If you have two uncreative holders in the middle the team will generally struggle with possession. Yet if you don't, the team will struggle on defense.

Against Juventus, Chelsea struggled with both of these. Ramires and Michel were outnumbered in defense, the flanks were always open, and Chelsea had little possession. Juve made Chelsea look like a poor team, and Hazard, Oscar and Mata were rarely, it seemed, involved in the game.

In some ways I admire the 4-2-3-1 insofar as it leads to wide open attacking games. But it's also somewhat counter-intuitive. The best team in the world over the last decade, Barcelona, plays more of a 4-5-1 or a 4-6, a formation that is tough defensively and allows a domination of possession. As I've written before, Swansea were able to use the Barca system well last year, and have continued to do so this year with some modification.

So ought teams abandon the system and return to the 4-4-2? Well, I'm not ready to say that yet, but surely it's not a system that works against all competition.

This is farlieonfootie for November 23.

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