Conte's formation frenzy

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Chelsea FC manager Tony Conte. Picture: Action Images


Tim Harrison

By Tim Harrison

Different shapes appeal to different people, but few would deny the alluring symmetry of Marilyn Monroe’s 35-22-35.

There’s a balance to it, a confidence, a swagger, a joyous equilibrium. Tony Conte (married, with one daughter, as you ask) appreciates formations and permutations, and you sense he’s homing in on a balance of his own at Chelsea.

As Marilyn would have doubtless confirmed, it’s important to get the right support up front. But it’s also vital to have a well-marshalled rear, moving together in harmony to deter approaches from opponents.

Up at Hull, Conte achieved a nimble, agile formation by starting with three at the back. A 3-4-3 has flexibility, but can leave the team exposed to counter-attacks.

Fortunately Thibaut Courtois was on fine form on a couple of occasions when he needed to be, and Chelsea scored twice through Willian and Captain Haddock to achieve three points and a clean sheet.

Gary Cahill, David Luiz and Cesar Azpilicueta did well as a unit at the back, with the intriguing pairing of Victor Moses and Marcos Alonso as the sprinting wing-backs, keeping the front men supplied.

In the past Conte has also had some success with 4-2-4, but that really doesn’t look and feel like Chelsea’s best set-up at the moment. It’s early days, but if the Blues do settle down to winning ways with three at the back, then it really could catch on.

Other managers at other teams have tried it, but have almost always reverted to four at the back when the going gets tough. This stuttering season takes another break now as everyone disperses for internationals and friendlies, but there are mouth-watering goodies to look forward to.

Leicester City visit at lunchtime on the 15th, then Jose returns to the Bridge a week later, followed by Chelsea’s League Cup expedition to the old Olympic stadium to take on a wounded West Ham.

But we’re looking shapely.

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and unless specifically stated are not necessarily those of the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham.

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