The game of football is a contact sport that divides opinions with regards to how it should be played. While some managers prefer to be artistic in approach, some others pride themselves with their pragmatic style. The big clash between Chelsea and Manchester United this weekend will showcase a game of contrasting style – Maurizio Sarri’s artistry will be up against Jose Mourinho’s pragmatism.
Without a doubt, the Italian will set up the Blues to boss the game by controlling possession and using it to great effect to get maximum points. The same cannot be said of the Portuguese whose reactive game plan will be to set up United to absorb the pressure from Chelsea and strike through counterattacking play. The battle will surely be fierce at Stamford Bridge.
Another contrasting element to this game will obviously be down to how both managers employ their key players. Sarri’s insistence that his players express themselves and have fun while playing his style of football means Chelsea’s flair players will be unlimited in executing their manager’s idea on the pitch to great effect. But Jose’s safety-first approach means his attacking players also take up defensive duties which limit them in games. The truth is Sarri would be more interested in outplaying his opponent with the club’s talismanic player, Eden Hazard expected to lead this charge. The Belgian’s current form and football ability will play a huge role in Jose’s game plan.
The former Blues coach is always more interested in stopping his opponents from playing. So in effect, I won’t be surprised to see him adopt the same man-marking tactics he used with Ander Herrera to limit Hazard in this fixture two seasons ago at Old Trafford which United deservedly won. Our greatest undoing was that then manager; Antonio Conte had no backup plan to counter that of the Portuguese.
The big question is: How can Sarri counter the man-marking tactics of Jose if he decides to use it again in this weekend’s clash? Here are 2 ways:
PLAY HAZARD AS A FALSE NINE:
The decision to play Hazard as a false nine might not sound so nice in the ears of the fans, but this may just be a way to counter Jose’s man-marking tactics. Playing the Belgian as a false nine will give him the freedom to roam around the United penalty area and equally in midfield areas in Messi-esque style. This will make him free to play down the channels, find spaces in the between the lines and also force his marker to play out of position to free up spaces for other players to hurt the opposition. More so, this will give Sarri the option of playing another winger as the triumvirate of Willian – Hazard – Pedro can outrun and outplay the Red Devils defence with brilliant show of skill-set and pace.
ENCOURGE OUR MIDFIELD RUNNERS AND WINGERS TO GET INTO ATTACKING PLAY AND POSITIONS:
Another possible way to counter Jose will be to encourage midfielder runners and the wingers to play fast-paced attacking football with the players interchanging passes and positions with good tactical and positional discipline. Encouraging them to take dangerous positions will also knock Jose off his perch into a game-plan rethink and change. This means no player becomes static in a position as the pass and move will hardly restrict their flow of movement around the midfield and attacking areas. This also means Hazard will not be confined to being played as a left-wing forward, thereby making it difficult for his marker to pick him out.
It’s eventually up to Sarri to find a way out. Let’s hope for the best. Cheers!