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Lee Dixon's tactical view

Lee Dixon
By Lee Dixon
Match of the Day 2 pundit


I don't want to go too overboard about the way Chelsea played in their 4-0 victory over Portsmouth on Sunday as it is the first game of the season.

Deco
His movement to try and get the ball was brilliant

Lee Dixon on Deco

But Luiz Felipe Scolari's team were playing against a team which last season finished high in the league and won the FA Cup and they really demoralised them in the first 20 minutes. It ended up being like a practice match.

From the outset, I was interested to see how they would play with Nicolas Anelka up front and a midfield flooded with an array of talent, including new man Deco.

How would they mix in? Would they be able to play alongside each other?

As it turned out the midfield of Deco, Frank Lampard, Joe Cole, Jon Mikel Obi, Michael Ballack and later Florent Malouda played with such fluidity that everyone on the ball had two or three passes on.

Games don't come up like that very often, where you just see pictures all the time, passes to make and you end up being spoilt for choice really.

When you get a game like that you have to make the most of it and they did in the first half, they were outstanding in the way they moved off the ball, the way they interchanged positions, the way they got players in the box.

Deco received many of the plaudits but it wasn't all about him. I thought Cole was brilliant in his movement, just playing off Anelka.

Some of the balls up to the front and then back into midfield with what we call the 'third man running' were outstanding and Cole's goal came from exactly that sort of movement.

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Because Cole plays so high, Anelka can drop deeper and that automatically creates space behind him.

Deco played really well too but he was quite quiet to begin with. Then as the pressure built he became the player who was on the ball quite a lot and tried to create things.

His movement to try and get the ball was brilliant and then once he got the ball he had options on. The players around him were smart enough to follow his lead and move into the space he created.

Although Portsmouth were poor at closing the ball down as a team, one of the reasons the Chelsea midfield got so much space was because of Anelka.

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The Frenchman's pace is always a threat so that led the Portsmouth defence to play a little bit deep. There were one or two examples in the first half where Mikel found Anelka over the top and he nearly got in, so that made the decision for the back four to drop off a bit.

Overall there were times when you had to ask what positions the Chelsea midfield were playing in because their movement was fantastic.

Mikel played quite deep, as usual, but Deco played where he wanted and very rarely was there a time in the midfield where there wasn't a triangle formed between the players. As one player moved to get the ball another would move into the space left for him.

When you've got that sort of fluidity, you can get the full-backs forward, which is crucial with the formation they play.

Narrow midfields like Chelsea's tend to mean there is lots of space out wide and that is where the likes of Ashley Cole and new right-back Jose Bosingwa can play to their strengths by joining the attack.

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We're yet to see whether Bosingwa can defend, and we saw a few signs in the Euros that he couldn't, but it might be that we don't see that for a while because the way Chelsea play they have the ball most of the time and the full-backs are often forward.

It is important the full-backs fill these wide areas because if you're asking your midfield three to do that work it becomes very difficult.

You can create situations against Chelsea's type of formation where in a 4-4-2 you can have a 2 v 1 against their full-backs using a wide midfielder supported by a full-back, and that is something their opposition will look to exploit.

Certainly Chelsea will face sterner tests than they did at Stamford Bridge. The way they passed and moved, yes they were good, but a lot of that was to do with Portsmouth being poor as well.

Chelsea got into wide positions and got crosses in so easily that when you looked back at the action Portsmouth had too many men who were passive. There were a lot of men around the ball but there was no closing down.

That is something Portsmouth coach Tony Adams has been brought up on at Arsenal so I'm sure he'll have something to say at their next training session.

But for me, compared to Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool, Chelsea were head and shoulders above the other three teams this weekend.

Lee Dixon was talking to Alistair Magowan


see also
Chelsea 4-0 Portsmouth
17 Aug 08 |  Premier League
Scolari surprised by winning margin
17 Aug 08 |  Match of the Day
Redknapp bemoans 'basic errors'
17 Aug 08 |  Match of the Day
Sunday's football photos
17 Aug 08 |  Football
MOTD: 23 & 24 August
18 Aug 08 |  Match of the Day
Hero or zero?
29 Mar 08 |  Premier League


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