What should the team focus on to get back to their best?
Every player should be focused on improving their strengths and weaknesses while also trying to add diversity to their game. This is not an attack on the players based on their performances, these are my humble observations of potential areas of improvement in each player’s game. These observations are over years of watching them and form to start the season. Feel free to let me know your opinion of my observation.
· Thibuat Courtois – Passing into midfield. A ball playing goal keeper is important if a team wants to build out of the back. Passing into midfield a few times a match would prevent teams pressing our back 3 as much which will allow us to reduce the number of low percentage long balls.
· Cesar Azpilicueta – One on one defending, primarily this positioning to force his man one direction and closing him down quicker. Closing a player down late is a dribbler’s dream it gives them the space to get the defender off balance and beat him. Being tight as the ball arrives prevents the attacker from running at you.
· Antonio Rudiger – Positioning. His positioning has been poor. His athleticism helps make it less noticeable but he will eventually get caught out and his pace won’t be enough to make up for it. (score that damn header against Roma too!)
· David Luiz(CB) – Positional discipline while defending. It is import to move into attacking positions while we have the ball but he should return to his defensive position quickly when he isn’t available to receive or there is any danger of losing possession.
· Andreas Christensen – Moving into the attacking positions to help support the 2 or 3 CMs. As mentioned earlier this helps keep possession but just passing back to the center of 3 CBs does not create passing lanes. He needs to step into a deep CM possession while the CMs are being marked and should have passing lanes into the front 3.
· Gary Cahill – Stepping into midfield to press attackers and with the ball. When the 3 play against 1 CF we have to press the attacking midfielders from one of the RCB and LCB position almost all of the time. This will help us not cede as much territory and win the ball back quicker. With the ball… we won’t discuss the Burnley red card, but it seems that has halted is ambition to attack.
· Victor Moses – Finishing, particularly the shot from about 20 yards on his left foot. He doesn’t have to score this shot but he needs to force the keep to at least parry his shot. If he starts hitting the target this will force CBs to close him down quicker when he cuts inside the full back creating space for the CF to run behind for a short slotted ball or reverse pass.
· Davide Zappacosta – Playing further up the field. Against weaker opponents he is running behind on a regular basis. We need that against quality opponents. The wing backs driving back the opposing fullbacks create space for our attacking midfielders/inside forwards to drop in and receive the ball. When the wing backs play too deep the opposing fullbacks can track our attackers into midfield.
· Marcos Alonso – Is it too late to get quicker? Crossing. This one is tough for me because I thought he was our best crosser of the ball last season but I cannot remember him finding Morata with a good whipped in cross all season. In a 3-5-2 he could possibly find Zappacosta on the back post if he runs behind as previously mentioned.
· Kenedy – Create a link with one or two reserve attackers. I have said this before but young players trying to get a game should be working in unison to all get into the first team picture. If they create their own relationships and patterns of play they can look very good together possibly getting more than one of them a game. When we play 3 CMs Kenedy is a better fit than Alonso as he can get up and back better and we need the wingbacks high with only two attackers. He should be doing additional training with Batshuayi, Musonda, Willian and Pedro so when they play together they are on the same wave length.
· N’Golo Kante – Playing give and goes. He is a complete player and already working on his shooting and composure on the ball. Those two are more important but with him being a complete player I thought diversity is what he needs in his game. When he picks the ball up and runs with it then makes a pass he should be looking for a return if he has sucked in a defender. Last season he’d play a pass and find his defensive position (which I love), but he should be looking to effect the game more going forward. To see the effectiveness of good 1-2s, see City against us in the 2nd half.
· Tiemoue Bakayoko – Concentration. We know this would be an area to improve and I think in the defensive and attacking 3rds of the field he is more alert than in the central 3rd of the pitch. With less immediate danger he drifts defensively at times and allows him man to receive the ball or get away from him. Against weak teams it can cause problems, against quality sides in can mean we won’t touch the ball for longer periods of time.
· Cesc Fabregas – Tempo. What the hell happened to the player that was cool calm and collected and would get on the ball 20-30 times more than everyone on the pitch and never lose it? He used to be Ludacris on the ball. Yes L-U-D-A-C-R-I-S…
o When I move you move (just like that)
When I move you move, (just like that)
When I move you move, (just like that)
Hell yeah hey Cescy pass that back
To Ludacris – Stand Up
He gets on the ball less often and keeps it less often than last season. He needs to get his game back to that level for us to be successful.
· Danny Drinkwater – Don’t collect a check until he plays a match. Next.
· David Luiz(CM) – Organize. He can put the 2 more advanced CMs and the 2 strikers in the correct positions to keep the opponent from penetrating or switching play be communicating well. *Side bar - Keep kicking people in midfield, it makes a huge difference
· Willian – Pass and move. At the seams like any pass over 15 yards is a 50/50 proposition for him. I haven’t tried to diagnose the issue but I am sure it is getting back to the basics of pointing your toe, facing up shoulders, following through, and leaning over the ball, etc…
· Pedro – Running in behind. This is an important aspect in creating space for the midfield and other attackers. This is actually one of his strengths but I do not think he has had enough match time to effectively off balance the opposing back line. Even without him getting the ball he can create a goal scoring opportunity. For example… Morata is standing 1 yard off side and Pedro is 5 yards onside. Pedro starts sprinting behind. Knowing he cannot hold and run once the ball is played the fullback has to run back 2 – 3 yards as a buffer until Pedro is approaching being even with the other defender’s line. At this point the fullback can step back up into line with his other defenders. The CB’s are not watching the full back, they are watching their man and the ball. As Pedro starts his run Morata should be ready to go a second or 2 later. When Morata is played the ball he is already moving forward, a yard behind the CBs, most likely the CBs will hesitate thinking he is offsides, but the fullback held him on while trying to create a buffer for Pedro’s run behind. (This got more attention because running behind has always been an under appreciated part of the game in my opinion. Ask the legend Bryan Jones, I been harping on this for years and it is the main reason I really like Andre Schurrle).
· Eden Hazard – Leadership. Even without the title of Captain we are struggling for a leader in the front line. He is in good form but he needs more support form midfield and out wide. He needs to be yelling and driving the team forward so we can play on the front foot.
· Charly Musonda – Finding space in dangerous areas. This is a tough skill because you have to think 2 or 3 passes ahead and drift in and out of space avoiding marks. Too often it seems he gets open but at the wrong time or not in a dangerous position. Possession is important but he needs to be receiving the ball in positions that cuts out groups of defenders, while receiving the ball half turned to be able to quickly run at a defender. That will make him a valuable asset while he develops his game.
· Alvaro Morata – Technique striking the ball. Ok I know everything he does looks graceful but I can’t think of one time he’s put his laces thru it and ball rocketed off his foot. He has a lethal repertoire of finishes like Mortal Kombat 3, and when he is in front of goal the keeper is usually wobbling while he takes a touch and hits A-B-A-B-up-down-back-back-forward-A-B and flawless finish. But I would like to see him hit one every once in a while that the keeper only sees a blur as it rips the net.
· Michy Batshuayi – A Positive Aggressive First touch. He obviously needs to control the ball better but he needs to be Michy. He is quick and strong has the skill set to cause lots of problems for defenders. He needs to be the target and lay the ball off when we need to keep it. But if he wants to make it he needs to be trying to turn his man or off balance his man every chance he gets put his head down and try to get a shot off. He may lose the ball often this way but the one time he scores it will be priceless and get defenders to drop off of him.
· Antonio Conte – Gamble. We have become too pragmatic, too scripted and predictable. We will need to take risk to win big games, and we will need to be diverse to beat lesser teams. I have no clue what Conte is yelling during the game but I feel right now he is yelling at the player that runs up to get back when we lose possession when he should be yelling graciously and praising the player who sprinted back to cover the guy out of position. It is a small detail but I do not want my players keeping what to do when we lose the ball in the front of their mind. We need to take calculated risk, but it seems like we are doing more calculating than risk taking at the moment.