Leicester 1-3 Chelsea, 29th April 2015.
Willian quite rightly took the plaudits last night at the King Power Stadium with arguably his best performance since joining the Blues. A Brazilian playmaker turning up on a cold night in Leicester, who’d have thought it?
Willian has rewarded Jose’s trust in him with solid performances in high pressure games, and last night Jose went one step further by specifically setting him up to succeed.
He has rarely been played as a central attacking midfielder, spending much of his time at Shaktar Donetsk operating on the left and the majority of his time at Chelsea on the right.
Knowing his natural tendency to go in search of width on the pitch is the exact reason why Jose played him through the middle. Just as Oscar played as a false 9 against Arsenal, Willian played segments of last night’s game as a false number 10.
Let me explain.
Leicester Forced To Change
Leicester started with a back 5 which we anticipated in yesterday’s match preview, however while we thought Mourinho might target Leicester’s right back it was actually at left back that he picked his key battleground.
Leicester’s game plan and formation was disrupted in the 23rd minute by an injury to Robert Huth who was replaced by Ritchie De Laet (a natural right back). This forced Pearson’s hand into switching to a 4-4-2 pushing Albrighton further up the field to right wing and reverting to 2 centre halfs (Morgan and Wasilewski) instead of 3.
What that transition made available to Jose was the opportunity to overload the right hand side of the pitch and playing Willian through the middle was the perfect foil.
Ramires was the wide right midfielder playing with endless energy and Ivanovic doesn’t need telling twice to get forward in support. Where the scales were tipped in our favour was Willian’s natural instinct to drift to the right in an advanced role.
Leicester were left to defend that trio with no natural left sided midfielder (they had 3 central midfielders and a right winger playing in their midfield 4), a 33 year-old Paul Konchesky and Wes Morgan playing on the left side of the two centre half. Morgan in fairness has been a solid defender for Leicester this season but succumbed to one of his poorer performances which could quite feasibly be put down to the intensity of Chelsea’s right side.
Didier Drogba’s Equaliser
This tactic was perfectly epitomised by Drogba’s equaliser. In this instance, Ramires had swapped with Hazard (to cover his run to collect the throw in) but the principle remains the same. 3 players on the right complemented with a touch of quality and good movement. Leicester couldn’t cope despite the 4 players back to defend.
Ivanovic crosses for Drogba to equalise and the balance of the game swings in Chelsea’s favour. As they say, the rest is history.