Tactical football boff Chris Bland (@blandc_1996) reviews the weekend, picking out a series of themes he believes we can exploit in future weeks.
Weekend Debrief: 9th December 2019
Chelsea’s defensive concerns exposed
Everton, Aston Villa and West Ham have highlighted an area where Chelsea desperately need to improve if they are to continue their excellent run of results in recent weeks, and with the transfer ban being lifted, it immediately brings into play the transfer market prices for Frank Lampard’s side.
The Blues have struggled to keep clean sheets throughout the season, and Lampard’s side are showing an increased vulnerability to crosses into the box, with Aston Villa’s equaliser, and Everton’s opener, coming down these avenues in recent weeks.
Not helped by attacking wingers who fail to track back, the full backs are left exposed, and sides are now opting to overload the box with attackers, looking to whip the ball into the box to exploit these weaknesses.
The physicality of Dominic Calvert-Lewin up top for Everton was evidently a problem for Kurt Zouma and Andreas Christensen on Saturday, and with Antonio Rudiger still returning to full fitness, added depth, and a different option at the back for Chelsea will be required in the coming months.
Mistakes on the ball when playing out from the back have also plagued Chelsea, and goals conceded against Southampton and Manchester City, amongst many other chances gifted to the opposition, have shown them to be the manufactures of their own downfall, and could see Lampard dip into the January market for a centre back.
Nathan Ake has been linked in recent weeks with a return to Stamford Bridge, and is currently priced at 7/1 (SkyBet) to move in January. Although he arguably wouldn’t alleviate all the worries of what Chelsea require at the back, he does fit the ball playing centre half mould that Lampard loves to play.
Ake's ball-playing ability would arguably help to ease some of the pressure on the less comfortable Zouma and Tomori on the ball (the latter who is improving game by game with this distribution, but still prone to mistakes), and has been standing out for Bournemouth regarding this, averaging 89.6% pass completion.
The Dutchman has shown he is a capable option in a back three this season for Bournemouth, and would allow Lampard to utilise another formation he has tinkered with this season, and being comfortable enough to bring the ball out from the back, as well as the passing statistics discussed, he is certainly an option worth looking at.
He has seen his stock rise quickly, and is on the cusp on the Dutch national team, albeit with the impressive Mathias De Ligt and Virgil Van Dijk in front, although mistakes in the past few weeks from De Ligt have increased the pressure on the Oranje centre back. He does possess the pace required to play a high line for Chelsea
However, he could still be left found wanting regarding the threat that sides have looked to exploit in recent weeks, and with only 1.7 aerials won per-game, and only standing at 180cm, it does highlight a weakness in his game. However, as aforementioned, a move for Ake would open up a number of defensive options and flexibilities for Lampard to explore to help solve the defensive issues.
Priced at 7/1 (SkyBet), it would be no surprise to see Ake's price drop for a move to Chelsea as transfer talk intensifies.
Luis Alberto's exploits deserve Spanish call-up
Lazio dispatched Maurizio Sarri’s Juventus 3-1 on Saturday night courtesy of goals from Luiz Felipe, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and Felipe Caicedo, whilst in form striker Ciro Immobile even had the chance to miss a penalty, in a deserved victory over the champions.
Simeone Inzaghi’s side have been in red-hot form this season, and with seven Serie A wins on the spin, have shot up the table to just three points behind the Old Lady, and five off table-topping Inter Milan, reinforcing their credentials as potential title contenders.
Inzaghi’s outfit are showing great balance with their 3-5-2, and the exciting Rome club have such an array of attacking options, it is no surprise to see them racking up 36 goals in 15 games, led Immobile, who has already netted 17 this season.
Lazio are outperforming their Expected Goals (xG) output by 8.45, however it would still see them scoring two per-game, and these impressive statistics are heavily influenced by playmaker Luis Alberto, who has really impressed in attacking midfield.
The Spaniard joined Lazio following a torrid spell with Liverpool in 2016, after joining the Reds from Sevilla in 2013. The creative midfielder has since scored 18 and assisted 35 in 84 games for Lazio, and he has stoodout once again, with the team built around his creative talents.
Alberto’s eye for a pass cannot be underestimated, and with Joaquin Correa and Immobile’s movement up front, it is often hard for the opposition to deal with the threat without leaving space in behind for these players, which Alberto is more than adept at picking out. He showcased this for Lazio’s second on Saturday, and has been a theme throughout the season.
The 3-5-2, with wing backs pushing on, enables width and an out-ball for Lazio if a side does choose to pack the midfield centrally, and as a result, has seen them become an attacking force to be reckoned with.
With Luis Alberto particularly standing out, he is certainly worth keeping an eye on when considering markets in Lazio games in the coming weeks, particularly highlighted by some of these statistics. Having racked up 11 assists, he is full of confidence, and his 3.1 key passes and 2.1 completed dribbles per-game highlights his creative talents, particularly against Serie A defences who are more than happy to sit deep.
Luis Alberto showed on Saturday his willingness to do the defensive work when asked, topping the ball recoveries (7) and tackles (2), and his all-round game makes him appealing for two different markets.
On a game-by-game basis, he is certainly one to keep an eye out in the assist markets for Lazio, especially when considering their attacking threat and the numbers he is posting. An added bonus is that he is on set-pieces, reinforcing it as an angle to keep in mind.
However, another worthy option to consider is that if this impressive attacking for continues, he could become an outside option for the Spanish national team come Euro 2020.
With packed defences expected to try frustrate the Spanish side, they will need an array of attacking talent at their disposal, and with injuries plaguing the likes of Marco Asensio, and Luis Enrique’s willingness to use experienced players and give players a chance, he could be an outside option.
Last called up for the October internationals, but without a cap since 2017, Luis Alberto is a major outsider worth considering to be involved in La Roja's squad.