(This ended up being longer than I thought. Sorry.)
Hello all, first Fanpost here and I wanted to see if any of the more informed of you could help me out with my understanding of tactics and our beloved Chelsea FC.
So, as we all know Chelsea made the now somewhat unloved choice to switch to 4-2-3-1 after AVB left and RDM came in. My actual first thought with the hiring was, "He was notorious for never playing other formations at West Brom, and I wonder how we'll play it now." We proceeded to pretty much use 4-2-3-1 at the expense of any other formation, and since Benitez has arrived it's been even worse.
My problems with this initially were: a) We're Chelsea FC and we should dictate games, b) why change the system that had worked for years (something varying between 4-3-3 and 4-5-1 with occasional ill-fated two-striker variants) and c) I didn't want Mikel playing more (to be fair, remember when no one loved Mikel?).
Now, my questions pertain to the formation. I know that this board has seen probably [insert large number] of discussions about how our squad isn't really fit for a 4-2-3-1, but I want to actually touch on broader level issues. Mainly: Isn't a 4-2-3-1 inherently a more counterattacking formation?
Chelsea fans aren't new to being a counterattacking team; Mourinho instilled strong defensive discipline, and we won games by bludgeoning people with one of the most physically strong teams ever assembled and counterattacking. Robben, Cole, whatever right back we were playing, Drogba, and Lampard finishing could destroy pretty much anyone on a good breakaway.
As you have noticed, we no longer have that type of team. Now, we don't have reactive players but proactive players. They're smaller, more skilled, and not as strong. So, if we're fielding a team of Hazard, Oscar, Mata, [pick names out of the Moses, KDB, Marin hat] shouldn't we become a team used to dictating games?
And that's where my tactical question comes into play: isn't the 4-2-3-1 inherently a more reactive, counterattacking formation? I'll give some examples, but feel free to disagree. To me, the world's best/most prominent 4-2-3-1 teams were the 2010 era Inter team (Mou!), current Real Madrid (Mou!), Bayern, 2010 Netherlands, 2010 Spain, and Dortmund. Of those, the only real 'front foot' teams were 2010 Spain and Bayern (but I don't watch much of the German teams).
As best as I can figure (could be wrong), Dortmund, Madrid, that Inter team, and the Netherlands were/are all vicious counterattacking teams. Inter was playing Eto'o on the wings for his speed (and Mourinho told his players to give the ball away if the situation wasn't advantageous for a break), Madrid have di Maria and some guy named Ronaldo, the Netherlands broke with Robben on the right, and Dortmund seem to break with that guy whose name I can't spell and Reus.
Bayern and Spain are the only proactive teams, and Spain just plays tiki-taka, not a formation.
So, if we have players that aren't suited to soaking up pressure and breaking (and, with Cole's lost pace and the defense looking increasingly shakier, we don't) and the pivots we have aren't really phenomenal at long-forward-ball distribution (looking at you, Mikel), shouldn't we use a formation made for attacking on our own terms? Barcelona plays a 4-3-3, and I have to wonder if we wouldn't be better playing a variation of it.
Thanks everyone, hope it wasn't an awful read, and please enlighten me in the comments.