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How Conte can fix Chelsea’s defence

Of their last four Premier League games, Chelsea have won only one: their last one, away to Hull City.

An away draw at Swansea was followed-up with defeats against Liverpool and Arsenal before finally a victory against Hull before the international break. The club are suffering through something of a crisis – and though it may not be full-blown just yet, it does at least show Antonio Conte that there are serious issues in his team, if he didn’t already know that.

The only other win Chelsea managed in that period of time was an EFL Cup game in which the Blues rallied from 2-0 down to beat, Leicester City – and fittingly, that is Chelsea’s next fixture this weekend.

So what was special about the two games Chelsea have won since August 27th? One was a League Cup game, the other against a newly-promoted club who didn’t even have a permanent manager at the time.

There is also another factor: Chelsea’s new left back, Marcos Alonso has only started two games under Antonio Conte, but the games against Leicester and Hull are the only two. And fittingly enough, Alonso is Chelsea’s highest points scorer on FanDuel. And now that the Premier League is back, FanDuel will match your first deposit all the way up to £400 – so it might just be time to get on it!

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One of the plus points for Antonio Conte following the victory over Hull must have been the way his team adapted to a new formation. In the absence of John Terry – and they are still missing Kurt Zouma, of course – Chelsea went to a back three of Gary Cahill, David Luiz and Cesar Azpilicueta with Victor Moses and Marcos Alonso functioning as wingbacks. It worked.

This weekend, John Terry might be fit enough to make his return against the champions, but Victor Moses missed Nigeria’s international fixtures in the week. What that might mean – if Conte plays a back three again – is John Terry coming into the back three and Azpilicueta moving out to right wing back.

It would be sensible for Chelsea to stick with a three-man defence given their opposition. 3-5-2 was a popular formation in the late 1990s, specifically in order to combat 4-4-2 – it gives you a spare man in the heart of the defence, but the flexibility allows a centre back to come wide to cover space behind the wingback if needed.

Leicester will likely play with Jamie Vardy and Islam Slimani in the striker positions, but with a back three, Chelsea would have a spare man who can also be used as an outball when playing out of defence. Another plus against a Leicester side who like to play without possession and on the counter attack.

The downside for Chelsea is whether or not John Terry’s lack of pace means that a back three of Cahill, Luiz and Terry could be horribly exposed by the pace of Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez or even Ahmed Musa. Playing with Azpilicueta in a back three against Hull meant having a central defender who was comfortable in wide areas and had enough pace to deal with counter attacks, even if Hull didn’t pose a particular pace threat. Against Leicester, that might see them exposed.

Chelsea are suffering unfamiliar defensive frailties: they’ve conceded nine goals already this season, but seven of those have come in those last four fixtures.

A back three may not help the Blues out defensively, but it might help them when they do have the ball. That spare man at the back could help, as might the ability to retain width through wing backs whilst also allowing Eden Hazard to cut inside.

But looking at Chelsea’s FanDuel points-scoring defenders – their most consistent and in-form defenders – it’s clear that they need Marcos Alonso on the pitch.

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Article title: How Conte can fix Chelsea’s defence

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