Is Mourinho hinting at a continued return for the 4-3-3?

Bryn Lennon

Saturday was a good day.

Chelsea won and won convincingly.  Easily even, you might say.  Comfortably even, Mourinho might say.  We haven't had many days like that yet this season.  And like a well-executed, emotional, and exciting 50th Anniversary Special (hello there, eyes of Peter Capaldi; hello there, 'The Curator;' hello there, all my Doctor Who feels), Chelsea and Mourinho brought back a good friend, a blast from the past: the 4-3-3.

On paper (err...Twitter-paper, yeah!), Chelsea lined up in the (current world) standard 4-2-3-1, an RDM "double pivot" of Mikel & Lampard seemingly tasked with controlling the midfield (as if they've previously ever actually accomplished such a feat) behind an attacking band bolstered by Ramires as a defensive winger.  In practice, and especially after the opening few minutes, the Blues fell into something much more akin to a 4-3-3.  Eden Hazard and Oscar patrolled the wings (the former staying wide much more so than the latter of course), Ramires and Lampard played line abrest in center midfield and Mikel dropped deep to play that one non-fancy position with many fancy names: the anchor man, the water carrier, the Makelele role.

Now I'm of the opinion that the 4-3-3 is the once and future best formation - flexible yet strong, balanced yet overwhelming - and with most of our players (especially of the center midfielder variety) well-suited to a 4-3-3, I'm hardly surprised that we looked so efficient and, simply, so good in it.  You might say that West Ham aren't exactly the toughest opposition we'll ever face, but there is no such thing as an easy away fixture in the Premier League.  Yes, that's clichéd.  But that doesn't mean it's not true.

Mourinho himself expected a tough match and was thusly quite pleased with the performance:

"The game was very good for us, it was very comfortable..."

"Today was from the first to the last minute, very solid, very comfortable and everybody was committed to the clean sheet against an opponent that is always difficult, where every set-piece is a threat and they are very physical. We coped well with that style and at the same time, when we had the ball, we played according to our qualities."

Comfortable; very comfortable.  Today's word in José's page-a-day calendar was 'comfortable.'

"We played in a way where everyone felt very comfortable."

The players were comfortable.  Eden Hazard was comfortable.

"We organised the team in a way where Hazard didn't need to defend, he was protected behind him so he just had to get the ball, turn and go."

Frank Lampard was comfortable.

"He played very well, he was another one very comfortable on the pitch. He played a bit different to before with Mikel in there for protection so he could go forward more ... [with] more freedom to go and support in shooting areas."

Oscar, of course, is always comfortable.

"He played fantastic, it doesn't matter where, in the middle on the sides, he works hard, recovers balls, he presses high and gives the opponents a difficult time when they have possession. When he has the ball he's able to assist and score. He's a very young kid, it's not easy to succeed in this country when you have the talent he has but not the physical ability, he's a fragile boy as you can see. The talent is amazing and the kid can only improve."

(On a sidenote, "fragile?"  Is this a sly motivational tactic aimed at young Oscar?)

So, on a tough away day, where all involved looked comfortable (Jose did not spare a word for Cesar Azpilicueta, but the "Dave" may have been the most impressive, most comfortable of all, out there on the left in a probably still unfamiliar position), where Chelsea didn't try to fit its square pegs into round formation holes and decided to drop the pretense of a functioning double pivot and roll with a three-man midfield instead and in the process turn in the most impressive, most comfortable performance of the season ... could we finally have (re-)discovered the solution to our problems?

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