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Last Updated: Saturday, 30 April, 2005, 18:25 GMT 19:25 UK
Chelsea title built on classic lines

By Pat Nevin
Former Chelsea and Scotland star

Chelsea's Premiership title triumph has been based on interesting tactical innovations in attack - but on the oldest adage of all in defence.

Manager Jose Mourinho builds from the back and establishes the side's base around the back four and a truly outstanding goalkeeper in Petr Cech.

There are some high-class keepers in the Premiership, such as Antti Niemi, but Cech is head and shoulders above all of them.

I spoke to the former Chelsea goalkeeper Peter Bonetti recently and he told me that when he had been scouting for Manchester City, he mentioned to them a couple of years ago that he had just set eyes on the best goalkeeper he had ever seen - the best ever.

The key to Chelsea's defensive strategy is more simple than people would actually like to hear about
That keeper was Petr Cech, but City said they had Peter Schmeichel so they missed out.

But Chelsea were quickly on to it.

Some may make a case for Juventus keeper Gianluigi Buffon as the best in the world - I'm not so sure, and even if he is he won't be for long because Cech will be the best.

John Terry has been outstanding, and even though Ricardo Carvalho has sometimes been rash in adapting to the style of the Premiership, their defensive record has been spectacular.

The key to Chelsea's defensive strategy is more simple than people would actually like to hear about. Defensively it is five guys who stay in there.

Claude Makelele plays what you'd call the old fashioned holding role in midfield. He's a shield for the back four. There are loads of guys around doing it at the moment - Neil Lennon earns a fortune doing it at Celtic.

CLAUDE MAKELELE'S KEY ROLE AS CHELSEA'S HUMAN SHIELD

In some ways it doesn't seem the hardest job in the world because you don't go forward.

The real joy is nothing to do with your passing ability, and only a little bit to do with your tackling ability - which may surprise some people.

It's all to do with your positional sense, your game knowledge, and Makelele is outstanding.

It is down to your ability to read the game and see where problems might arise and it seems clear to me that Makelele understands the players he plays with.

He very rarely makes mistakes, and on occasions when Carvalho has been a bit rash he has even gone in behind him to solve problems. Makelele made a couple of great saving tackles against Arsenal.

With Gudjohnsen, Mourinho has shown the difference between a good manager and a great one
He can spot danger. He is there as security and is also possibly the best reader of the game Chelsea have got. I think Mourinho agrees with that because he makes Makelele Chelsea's player of the year.

The other Chelsea midfield men such as Tiago and Frank Lampard do their bit coming back as well, but Makelele's contribution is key to protecting Chelsea's defence and allowing Lampard to become the complete midfield player.

Lampard has been brilliant. He has reminded me of Bryan Robson this season, and having played against Bryan, that is high praise indeed.

Everything in the team is linked. Makelele covers his defence, men like Lampard cover Makelele.

It is all about game knowledge, which people assume every professional player has but is not necessarily the case. These Chelsea players have it and it shows.

Further forward, Mourinho has done something different with Eidur Gudjohnsen, and shown the difference between a good manager and a great one.

I love what Mourinho has done with Gudjohnsen. I would never have thought of making the switch he has made to Gudjohnsen's game.

Good managers make good, sensible decisions, while great managers pick something out of nowhere that makes the crucial difference.

He's pulled Gudjohnsen right back into midfield and he is a phenomenal link player.

EIDUR GUDJOHNSEN'S INFLUENCE AS ATTACKING LINK MAN

We used to think of him as an out-and-out striker playing alongside Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, but Mourinho has given him an extra dimension.

This may seem a pedantic point, but he doesn't play behind the strikers, he plays in front of the midfield men.

There is a difference of 15 yards and that space and time is crucial at the highest level. There is quite a big difference.

It is very hard to set yourself up defensively and know where to line up against Chelsea
Gudjohnsen's link-up play is not designed to get knock-downs from the striker, it is to take the ball off the midfield. Some teams push a player such as Makelele into the space, but he is busy taking care of the back four.

You need to be the right player to play that role, and Gudjohnsen is brilliant at it, and it is credit to Mourinho and the player that is has been so successful.

When Gudjohnsen plays for Chelsea, he now actually lines up as a midfield player, which he didn't used to.

Didier Drogba is a good focal point, and the wide men Damien Duff, Arjen Robben and even Joe Cole can all switch wings.

It is very hard to set yourself up defensively and know where to line up against them, especially when they are breaking on you.

It has been a real team effort under an outstanding manager.

Chelsea have proved themselves over the whole season and deserve to be champions.




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