Chelsea are on an impressive winning streak of 7 EPL matches. During this run which has taken them from 5th on the log to the EPL summit, they have scored 20 goals and conceded a solitary goal. It is indeed an impressive feat in all sense.
Before this run began however, Chelsea didn’t have a win in 3 league matches. A draw against relegation-threatened Swansea was followed by damaging defeats to title rivals; Liverpool and Arsenal. In a post-match following the loss to Arsenal, Chelsea’s manager, Antonio Conte promised to find an answer to their poor sequence of results. The answer came in form of a switch in formation from 4-2-3-1 to 3-4-3. Since this switch, Chelsea have remained unbeaten and nearly impregnable.
This winning run has attracted the attention of pundits and analysts. And with each match, the question as to how long it will last grow louder. An analysis of Chelsea’s last 3 matches is revealing. Everton tried to counter Chelsea by playing 3 at the back. Middlesbrough defended deep and tried to bypass Chelsea’s congested midfield by playing long balls to the channels. Spurs, on their part, played an expansive game. Despite each of these opponents posing different questions, Chelsea found answers and won the points.
Matchday 14 this weekend sees Chelsea face another title rival in the shape of Pep Guardiaola’ Manchester City. The match will be the first competitive meeting between Conte and Guardiola. And more importantly, it poses a different challenge from what Conte’s men have faced in their last 7 matches. City’s game is possession-based with the ball being played out from the back while the attacking players often stretch the pitch by playing the ball out to the wings. Chelsea’s system is based on congesting the opposition’s half of the pitch by having their front three of Costa, Hazard and Pedro dropping into the midfield. Of course, a loss of possession by the opposition is often punished by a quick forward transition between the midfield and attack. Moses and Alonso often join the attack in such instances thereby giving Chelsea players more options in attack.
Based on how the two sides setup and play, this is a match Chelsea should win. However, Guardiola is a manager who has proven his tactical genius over and over again. And come this weekend. he may just come up with winning answers to Chelsea’s 3-4-3 question.