Chelsea boss Antonio Conte shifted to a 3-4-3 formation during the early parts of the 2016/17 season and since then the Blues have been virtually invincible. The Blues went on to win the title emphatically and suffered only three defeats ever since Conte made his team play with a 3-4-3 formation. Out of these three defeats, two came at the hands of Spurs and Manchester United and these two defeats were orchestrated by two tactical geniuses by the names of Pochettino and Mourinho. And these two managers might just have shown the other gaffers how to handle Chelsea and unhinge their famed 3-4-3 formation
Spurs vs Chelsea: 2-0
The first defeat after shifting to the 3-4-3 formation came at the hands of Spurs, courtesy the tactical genius of Pochettino. Or should we rather say that the Spurs boss put a very simple plan to some great effect? In a 3-4-3 formation, the backbone of the team is always the midfield, and Chelsea had one of the best midfielders in the league. So Pochettino simply cut off that midfield supply and stopped Chelsea from playing their natural game. Pochettino used his two wide players – Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen to press the Chelsea midfield and break up play. And this worked like a dream for Spurs. The Chelsea midfield were virtually stopped in their tracks and they did not know what to do with that pressure.
And every time Spurs would dispossess Chelsea, Eriksen would move out wide to create a bit of space for himself while Alli would move forward straight down the middle of the pitch. The result? Alli scored two goals for Spurs on the night and both of them were assisted by Eriksen. With this game, Pochettinho showed everyone how a very simple and effective method could be used to negate the 3-4-3 provided you have some dedicated players who were willing to play out of their usual positions for 90 minutes.
Man Utd vs Chelsea: 2-0
The second of the three matches that Chelsea lost was to Manchester United and their ‘Judas’, Jose Mourinho. Mourinho knew exactly what was coming his way so he prepared a team that would stand up and see eye to eye with the Blues. And being the master tactician that Mourinho is, he came up with an ingenious idea. He knew that in order to negate that attacking threat he has to cut off Eden Hazard from the equation but to do so he would need someone who would stick with the Belgian each and every second. So he deployed Ander Herrera to do that job.
And when the 90 minutes were up, Herrera almost took Eden Hazard in his pocket and went home. Herrera played a Ji-sung Park kind of man-marking role and pulled it off brilliantly. In fact, he was so good at nullifying Hazard that come the full-time whistle Chelsea were unable to register a shot on target. Mourinho knew exactly what he had to do and he also had the right players to execute the plan. And his plan was so successful that midway through the match Conte was forced to drop the 3-4-3 formation and shift to a direct tactic.
When Conte started playing with the 3-4-3 formation it turned out to be an absolute fortress but Mauricio Pochettinho and Jose Mourinho have successfully managed to pull out a couple of bricks from that fortress.
So will all the other managers follow suit and employ similar tactics to stop the Blues?