Antonio Conte’s gambit to stick with mostly the same players who played in the 0-0 draw against Arsenal four days ago did not pay off, as Chelsea labored to yet another goalless draw, their third consecutive. During this remarkable streak, Chelsea have used just about every player in some capacity and tried both the 3-4-3 and 3-5-2 formations, but with largely the same results. Perhaps the biggest difference was that today, instead of struggling to finish chances, the Blues struggled to even create chances. Conte blamed this on fatigue, but after being pressed on the situation, admitted that there is a problem at the attacking end that needs to be solved.
Conte: "I saw a lot of players very tired. We suffered a lot in the first half & start of the second half. Then when I decided to put fresh energy, the game changed. We created chances to score & tried to win the game" #cfc— Liam Twomey (@liam_twomey) January 13, 2018
Conte asked if he should have rotated more: "But I think I'm doing more rotations. Against Norwich I made nine changes, against Arsenal maybe 10 changes. Then I thought 2.5 days to recover the same players was normal" #cfc— Liam Twomey (@liam_twomey) January 13, 2018
I ask Conte if Chelsea's goalless run will push him back to 3-4-3. He says the problem isn't the system because in both formations they are conceding less but scoring less #cfc— Liam Twomey (@liam_twomey) January 13, 2018
Conte on 3-5-2 over 3-4-3: "Don't forget last season there were different players. We use these players together to find the right balance. Don't forget we used 3-4-3 against Norwich and we didn't score. It is not a problem with the system" #CHELEI #CFC— Nizaar Kinsella (@NizaarKinsella) January 13, 2018
Conte on 3-5-2 not being the problem: "We must improve our shots from outside the box to score and to win." As he offers an alternative concern #CHELEI #CFC— Nizaar Kinsella (@NizaarKinsella) January 13, 2018
When Conte made the famous switch from four-at-the-back to three-at-the-back last season, it was to solve a systemic issue in Chelsea’s defending. Now we’re facing the opposite problem. Conte had been a bit reluctant in admitting it up to now — concerns over finishing downplayed — but in light of yet another game where we largely failed to create good chances (see also: first halves against Norwich, Arsenal, etc), it now perhaps the time to look for a new solution. That doesn’t necessarily have to mean a new formation, but perhaps a different style of play, different sets of players, or different strategies.
Conte has shown the ability to not only switch tactics when needed but make the correct switches, so we should trust that he will push the right buttons once again.