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Chelsea | 4-3-3 – who’s the best front line?

With a fee agreed for Belgian wonder-kid Romelu Lukaku, it is apt to look at Chelsea’s strikers and which ones fare best. Anelka, Drogba, Kalou, Sturridge, Lukaku, Torres and maybe even Malouda could be considered as ‘strikers’ or players who can play in a front three which based on Andre Villas Boas’ friendlies is what the manager is going to use week in, week out and as such is what I’m going to base this article on.  What we don’t know however are the players who will make up those three front men, Boas has used all of the players (excluding Lukaku of course) in pre-season to varying degrees, all of them getting a decent amount of playing time to show their worth and to many Chelsea fans the main player that impressed was Daniel Sturridge.

When looking back at last season, Chelsea fans were dismayed that Sturridge went on loan to Bolton last season and wasn’t given first team opportunities regularly which many thought his talent deserves. On loan to Bolton Sturridge scored a remarkable 8 goals in a short space of time, he made a remarkable impact scoring against Arsenal and last minute goals becoming pivotal to Bolton’s very good season in the premier league, he has a 72% passing accuracy however has made no assists, no tackles and only 2 interceptions at Bolton, obviously as a forward player the last statistic regarding tackles and interceptions isn’t that important however in a 4-3-3 and as Sturridge will probably be operating on the right hand side or left hand side it is important for someone operating on the wings to track back, especially as we have attacking full backs and as such he needs to improve on that side of the game.

As Chelsea do play a 4-3-3 there is going to be one ‘front man’ or ‘lone man’, this will probably be between Torres and Drogba, Lukaku has the physique of Drogba and can naturally play that role also but with the two other strikers it seems unlikely that he will feature as much this season as he is one for the future. Both of these players had below par seasons relative to their normally high standards, Torres only scored 1 goal since coming in from the January transfer window while Drogba, although scoring 11 goals didn’t have as much of an impact as he has had in previous seasons. Torres had a 70% pass completion while Drogba had a poor 56%, both of these statistics are poor in comparison to many others in the league. Another statistic which is to Drogba’s favour is when comparing the assists that both of these players have to their name, Drogba has a sizeable 13 assists while Torres for Chelsea had a mere 2.

Based on goals scored as well as assists it is obvious that Drogba had a better season than Torres however there are a number of factors that need to be looked at when it comes to Torres and his poor form. First of all, he has had consecutive seasons where he hasn’t been able to get a good pre-season under his belt, secondly he is settling in to a new team and thirdly, the midfield is starting to lack creativity. Out of the two it is difficult to judge who should start of the other but solely based on stats we should start Drogba, the problem for Andre Villas Boas lies in Torres, whether he starts him or doesn’t he will be criticised at the start of the season, if he starts Boas will get criticised as he is not confident and people will say Torres won’t score goals, on the other hand if Torres doesn’t start then Boas will get criticised, not giving him the game time to improve his confidence and score goals, this was a dilemma which dominated Carlo Ancelotti’s downfall last season.

Personally I would start Torres when fit, although Drogba is a fantastic player Torres needs to get confidence now, he has looked decent in pre-season and his movement looks good, whatever decision Boas makes he still has a quality striker who can come on and make a difference.

In terms of the wide positions in this 4-3-3 formation I have already talked about Daniel Sturridge and his good period on loan at Bolton, the other two players that seem to be contending for the wide positions are Florent Malouda, Saloman Kalou and Nicolas Anelka, the former is normally a left sided midfielder but in the last few seasons has been used as in a front three as an attacker.

In the 2009/2010 season he was superb and even though was below par last season he was still Chelsea’s top scorer with 13 goals, 4 assists and had a pass completion of 77%. The problem with Malouda is firstly his age and secondly his tendency to come inside, although this lets Ashley Cole make surging runs it means we don’t have a natural winger, someone who has genuine pace and trickery to cause defenders problems, the same can be said for the other strikers, Kalou and Anelka, we have no natural out and out wingers who have pace and can really beat a defender, all three of the players come inside as that is what suits them.

Saloman Kalou although heavily criticised by a lot of Chelsea fans had a good season and scored some key goals mostly off the bench, he scored 10 goals, made 3 assists and had a pass completion of 80%, again like Malouda he likes to come inside as naturally he is a striker, the problem with Kalou is that whenever he starts many Chelsea fans feel that he doesn’t make an impact, I would tend to agree, he is always has more of an impact on the game when he comes off the bench.

Nicolas Anelka is the one for me that Chelsea fans seem to unsure of, Anelka himself has stated that he will be staying until the end of next season although many would like him to leave, many feel his peak was the 2009/2010 season. His languid style annoys many fans however he can make an impact and is a very skilful player, he has scored less goals than Malouda, Kalou and Drogba, only scoring 6 and making 4 assists with a 78% pass completion, I still think that Anelka brings more to the team than Kalou, especially when starting.

Out of Anelka, Malouda, Sturridge and Kalou the two that I feel are the best to start are Malouda and Sturridge. Malouda is still the highest scoring attacking player without actually being an out and out striker while Sturridge showed during his time at Bolton that he can score goals when given the chance.

Purely based on statistics the three players that should start are Malouda, Drogba and Kalou, Kalou being a surprise, however he has scored the third highest amount of goals in our team as well as making a few assists, Malouda had the best season out of all the attacking players which can be used in a front three scoring the most goals as well as being a decent assist maker. When it comes to the ‘lone-man’ up front between Drogba and Torres it was obvious Drogba had a better season for Chelsea scoring a decent number of goals as well as making an abundance of goals.

However statistics don’t tell you the context of last season, Torres was a striker who was short of confidence and needed a quality playmaker, Kalou was a player who was much better coming off the bench and Daniel Sturridge was in a Bolton team who weren’t as good as Chelsea and still scored an abundance of goals when given the chance.  Given the statistics as well as context the front three I’d have at the start of the season are Malouda, Torres and Sturridge.

Torres and Sturridge have had good pre-seasons, especially the latter, Torres needs game time and good service, Sturridge is pacy and can cause problems but as his assists show he can be a selfish player and this needs to be weeded out of his game, Malouda although slightly off form still makes the difference in games with goals, assists and trickery. I haven’t even looked at Romelu Lukaku and the potential that he has so it is easy to see that Chelsea have an abundance of strikers to Andre Villas Boas’ disposal, it is just finding the right balance for the Chelsea manager to keep all strikers happy as well as performing.

Kieran Makwana
Kieran Makwana
My name is Kieran Makwana, currently studying Management at Lancaster University, I'm a lover of all things Chelsea Football Club, apart from Ron Gourlay. Follow me on Twitter - @BigMak92
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