CHANGING FORMATIONS

So that was what the fuss was all about.

It didn’t take long for Chelsea fans to come up with a ditty for Willian after he rejected Tottenham to come to Stamford Bridge.

But it was at Norwich last weekend that the Brazilian truly announced his arrival as a Chelsea player as he came on as a late substitute and helped to set up a goal for Eden Hazard before curling in a brilliant effort 90 seconds later for his first goal in English football. Naturally, it sparked off a non-stop rendition at Carrow Road of the song in which he saw the light after Spurs had bought his flight.

Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Norwich City v Chelsea - Carrow Road

While I would have preferred a more dominant display like the one witnessed in the 4-0 win at Steaua Bucharest earlier in the week, it was still very satisfying to see us grab a late victory on the road especially as it moved us up to third in the Premier League, just two points behind the leaders in what is shaping up to be a very competitive season.
And with opponents like Norwich willing to battle to the end for every last point, it was good to see that Jose Mourinho has not lost the ability to make the crucial decisions as a manager that can turn a single point into three. The decision to throw on attacking players and change the system to 3-5-2 formation in the closing minutes paid handsome dividends as substitutes Hazard and Willian both hit the back of the net.

It was not an ability that was often called upon during his first spell as Chelsea manager but Jose certainly showed back then that he had the knack for making the calls that could turn things around for the Blues.
Of course there were some days when it didn’t quite work out, most notably at Newcastle in the FA Cup in 2005 when he made three substitutions at half-time only for Wayne Bridge to go off injured early in the second half which left us with a man down for the rest of the game.

But more often than not, the changes worked. In the League Cup final in 2005, the half-time introduction of Eidur Gudjohnsen saw us peg back Liverpool as we came from a goal down to win 3-2 after extra-time.
At Everton in late 2006, he threw on attacking players and went 3-5-2 which helped us to come from behind twice to record a thrilling 3-2 victory.

And just a few months later at Watford, he brought on so many attackers that we were playing with what appeared to be a 3-0-7 formation when Solomon Kalou snatched a stoppage-time winner.
Now Jose is by no means the first Chelsea manager to make a bold move that has changed the course of a match.
Many may recall the FA Cup clash against Liverpool in 1997 when Ruud Gullit brought on Mark Hughes at half-time when we trailed 2-0. ‘Sparky’ lived up to his name as he joined Gianfranco Zola and Gianluca Vialli in an attacking trident that saw us to turn the two-goal deficit into a 4-2 victory that paved the way to our first major trophy in 26 years.
Going back to 1978, Ken Shellito brought on Clive Walker with 15 minutes left in what looked to be a lost cause with the Blues 3-0 down against Bolton. But Walker ran the Trotters ragged, scoring and setting up two goals as Chelsea won 4-3 in perhaps the greatest comeback win in our club’s history.
And of course, there was the move that backfired when Claudio Ranieri gambled and lost at Monte Carlo in the 2004 Champions League semi-final. With Monaco reduced to 10 men following a red card, he rolled the dice by replacing defender Mario Melchiot with striker Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink only to see the team lose their our shape and concede two late goals in a devastating 3-1 defeat.

Soccer - UEFA Champions League - Semi Final - First Leg - Monaco v Chelsea - Training

The Tinkerman’s big gamble is lamented to this day by Chelsea fans but given the situation that we were in, a man up with 35 minutes left, wouldn’t you have thought of doing something similar if you were managing the team? In most cases, football fans would prefer a bold approach by their team over a cautious one and I doubt that many of us would have settled for playing out a 1-1 draw knowing that we had an opportunity to try and kill off the tie.
While he has often been painted as a cautious manager, content to settle for a one-goal win, I don’t think that boldness has ever been an issue with Jose.

A case in point is the league match against West Ham in April 2006 when he opted to pair Didier Drogba and Hernan Crespo up front in his starting line-up only to see things begin badly as we went a goal down and then a man down following the 17th minute dismissal of Maniche.
But the manager stuck to his guns and Chelsea proceeded to tear apart the Hammers, scoring four unanswered goals to win 4-1. All of that with 10 players although Drogba’s unstoppable performance that day made it look like it was the Blues that had the extra man.

However, while those big comebacks and last ditch wins may live long in the memory, I don’t think that many of us could handle that sort of drama every week. So if I could, could I put down a request for a straightforward 5-0 win for our next match at the Bridge?

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Please note : the views in many of our blogs are written by fans of Chelsea FC and are not necessarily the views of the club

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