The chosen formation
Structured, versatile, the 4-2-3-1 is an incredibly popular formation among premier league managers due to it’s ability to seamlessly switch around players, allowing you adapt your tactical setup. It begins with a standard back 4, who are supported by two holding midfielders, who also support the 3 attacking midfielders that supplement the lone striker. We have the personnel to effectively play this formation, likely being able to fit all our best players into the system without shoe-horning them. It is also Slav’s preferred setup for the side, so there’s a lot of familiarity and cohesion when we play this way. Due to it’s adaptability we can react to the lineup Conte chooses to play by adjusting the instructions players are given in fulfilling their role.
The goalkeeper and back line
GK: Darren Randolph – As I said in my previous post about our first team goalkeeper, I see Randolph as our best number one, so he’ll be starting in goal. The assurance he brings to the side should allow us to have a cool head, and a well marshaled back line with him between the sticks. The Bridge won’t be kind and we need someone that can take the stick from the croud, and not get flustered.
RB: Sam Byram – Sam is a solid full back, who’s capable in both attack and defence. During pre-season he’s been playing a lot a left back, which is obviously not his favoured side, but he still did a good job there. I’m unsure why Bilic didn’t put more faith into him last season, though when facing an opponent like Hazard we’re going to need a natural, competent defender in at full back in order to limit his effectiveness.
CB: James Collins – You may see this as an odd decision, (playing Collins over Reid) however when faced with a striker such as Diego Costa, a brute at the back is required. Collins knows how to handle a big striker, he is exceptional in the air and a hard tackler. He leaves nothing on the pitch, just like the striker he’ll be marking.
CB: Angelo Ogbonna – A classy centre back, Ogbonna brings, like Collins, exceptional ability in the air. He’s also calm on the ball, which may be his Italian experience, and knows how to play out from the back. A skill like that is crucial to a Bilic back four, as he loves to play good football and build from the defence. When playing alongside Collins during Reids absence around Christmas last year, they formed a formidable partnership at the back, keeping around 6 clean sheets in about 10 games.
LB: Arthur Masuaku – A new boy, Masuaku will be filling the very big boots of Aaron Cresswell. He is a left back that loves to go forward and join the attack, he’s also fast and powerful and will give his man a tough time. Bilic once described Cresswell as ‘a playmaker from left back’, and while Masuaku will unlikely earn such high praises, I hope he’ll be a suitable replacement all the same.
The two holding midfielders
LDM: Mark Noble – Club legend and captian, Noble brings a priceless leadership and heartbeat to the midfield. He dictates the tempo for us and has a much improved range of passing since playing under Slaven Bilic, he’s really grown as a midfielder in the past year. His contrast with Cheik really creates a good midfield duo, both perfectly complimenting each other’s game.
RDM: Cheikhou Kouyate – Cheick brings power and combativeness to our midfield pairing. He’s superb at picking up the ball, and then driving from deep. He’s a real Range Rover of a player. He’s tall and lanky, but when he gets going he’s deceivingly quick. His passing isn’t exquisite, but it does the job. He also have a knack of arriving in the box unmarked, which leads to several chances. So they are the two I’d be playing to hold.
The three behind the striker
RM: Sofiane Feghouli – An extremely quick and tricky winger, Sofiane Feghouli will be occupying the right wing in my side to face Chelsea. He likes to hug the touchline and take on his man, and that could be important if Chelsea do set up with 3 at the back. He has an excellent delivery on him, and, with the striker I’ll be starting, that will come in very handy. Any ideas on who’s up top?
AM: Andre Ayew – Our record signing at £20.5 million, Andre Ayew is an extremely versatile he’s capable in any position across the front 4. In this ase I have him playing behind the striker, but not in the way Mesut Ozil does, almost in the way Antoine Griezmann did for France at the Euros. Ayew in my side will be looking to make runs beyond the target man and feed off his flick ons, he did this sort of thing very well for Swansea last season. His clinical finishing will be made best use of in this position as he ghosts in behind the opposition back line.
LM: Michail Antonio – Last season Michail was superb. His ability to leap above full backs at the back post means he can supplement the already substantial aerial threat of the striker and Ayew. He’s also daring, never backing down from a challenge with his marker. His speed and strength mean when he gets up to speed he is exceptionally difficult to stop. He also has a very decent weaker left foot, as well as a goal-scoring nature about him, meaning cutting in on to his right foot will be as effective as getting to the by line and sitting the ball up.
ST: Andy Carroll – The definition of a target man, Carroll is focal point of this teams attack. The ball will be played into his feet for the three behind to feed off. The crossing threat from either flank will also be utilised with such a threat up front. In my honest opinion, he is perhaps the best header of the ball in the world. Even a centre half like John Terry will struggle to live up to the physical expectation playing against Carroll will demand. His dominance and ability to bring the more ‘flair’ orientated players into the game means the in-form Andy will be starting up front.
The match day bench
In other features of this I’ll break down the opposition side, and how I predict them to set up tactically however this time round there is a huge unknown. Conte hasn’t specified his preferred formation, though I predict it could be a 4-4-2 with Costa and Batshuayi leading the line. In that case, Collins will be key in matching the physicality of those two, making sure they don’t get space to shoot, or free balls to their head. Kouyate will also be crucial in limiting the effectiveness of N’golo Kante. The buzzing midfielder is a nuisance on the worst of days but if he’s on his usual A game Cheick will have to be quick in shifting the ball on, as well as beating him in the 50/50’s Kante is so good at. Ayew’s knack of running on past the striker and exploiting slow on the turn defenders should come in handy. The likely to centre halves will be Terry and Cahill, which, even most Chelsea fans would admit, is a very sluggish partnership.
Thank you for reading. This lineup is all my opinion, not a prediction. Let me know your lineup, and your thoughts on the squad Bilic should play against Chelsea by tweeting me @Will_8_WHU