Regardless of how Leicester do on Sunday there will still be a lot more to play for. Securing 2nd place, above Arsenal. Finishing the season strong for the sake of morale. Finishing the season with our highest ever Premier League points tally. And, most immediately, the opportunity to break a tragically long victory-less record at Stamford Bridge by giving Chelsea a much deserved punishing.
We are without Alli and probably Dier. Alli’s replacement will most likely a straight swap for one of Son or Chadli who will play a very similar role.
Dier gives us more of a headache. Mason seems the most likely to come in. I think his performances in the defensive role this season have been thoroughly underrated. He might not have the physical presence of Dier but his defensive reading of the game is hugely improved. His ability to intercept the ball with a pass that makes us immediately transition from defence to attack is a fantastic skill to have in the squad. But I won’t deny that we will still be somewhat defensively weakened.
Without Dier’s ability to move between shielding the defence from midfield, playing as the central defender in a back three or moving out to the right to support Walker playing as a winger we will probably expect more defensively from our full-backs and from Dembele.
With Rose and Walker playing as more traditional full-backs we will lack width and energy. But there is another option that would keep our existing structure. All three of our centre-backs are probably capable of doing Dier’s job. I think I’m right in saying all three have at least a little experience in defensive midfield. Most likely it would be one of the left-footers so that we can keep our balance at the back.
I mentioned last week that we played a more standard 4231 against Stoke and Liverpool in combination with playing a more direct, counter-attack game. Playing in a more standard and balanced shape allows us to have more easily defined defensive roles which makes finding our two banks of four much easier and it creates more confusion when we break from that shape with freedom.
I suspect we have the opportunity to do the same here. Chelsea have made it clear how much they want to win this game, it’s at the Bridge, and Mourinho is long gone. That all points to them coming out and trying to out-play us.
Only a couple of weeks ago Man City went to Stamford Bridge, played a 4231, let Chelsea attempt to play fairly weak, wide, possession football before striking on the counter. You can read more about that game here: http://spielverlagerung.com/2016/04/17/chelsea-manchester-city-03
There’s a lot to learn from City in that game and our tendency to surrender the wide areas whilst protecting the centre before winning the ball and keeping our overload central should really suit playing against Chelsea’s overly wide, somewhat flimsy set up.
Additionally it seems John Terry will be back for Chelsea. He remains a legendary defensive reader of the game, but he won’t suit Chelsea’s possession game at all. He will be vulnerable to pressing and easily beatable with space behind him.
But Hiddink is no fool. Maybe he will recognise the mistakes from the City game, how unsuited Terry is to the existing methods, how us losing Dier will significantly damage our ability to attack across all 5 vertical divisions and set up in a very Mourinho-esque manner.