The Chalkboard: Sarri must reconsider Chelsea’s defensive balance

Chelsea’s 6-0 mauling at the hands of reigning Premier League champions Manchester City last time out will have raised plenty of questions about the state of the Blues’ defence. 

To a man, each of Chelsea’s backline produced a poor performance at the Etihad Stadium, and as a team they lacked cohesion, discipline and tactical intelligence. Against a team as good as Pep Guardiola’s City, there was only ever going to be one outcome. 

Maurizio Sarri must now find a way to solidify his rearguard before Chelsea’s hopes of Champions League qualification fade entirely.

On the chalkboard

The Italian coach has his own style of play and preferred system, and it appears unlikely he will deviate from it during his tenure at Stamford Bridge. We cannot expect to see Chelsea switch to a back three, for instance, anytime soon then.

However, in terms of personnel and individual instructions, Sarri can make some tweaks that will make his side altogether harder to break down. He can retain his possession-heavy, passing style of football, but it must be balanced with greater defensive diligence and discipline.

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Bringing balance

In order to strike this all-important balance, the make up of Chelsea’s first choice rearguard must change. Two players struggling to meet the demands of Sarri’s system are 31-year-old Brazilian centre-back David Luiz and 28-year-old Spanish left-back Marcos Alonso.

The latter’s attacking instincts make him a genuine threat in the opponent’s final third. Defensively though he is prone to lapses in concentration and errors in judgement. As a wing-back, the three-cap Spain international has perviously excelled in west London, but as Sarri will not use him in that role, Emerson must now come into the starting XI in his stead.

The same applies to Luiz. As a ball-playing defender he is amongst the elite. However, without the additional cover provided by being part of a back three, his defensive frailties are exposed. Andreas Christensen represents a more reliable defensive option than the 56-cap Brazil international.

Dropping out these more attack-minded defenders in favour of more limited, but reliable, alternatives would bring a greater balance to Sarri’s backline and team as a whole.