Chelsea have problems with injuries as they prepare to host Liverpool in the Premier League. It could once again open the door for Roberto Firmino.
Chelsea look likely to be without five first-team players today. According to Football London, new signings Hakim Ziyech, Ben Chilwell and Thiago Silva will miss the clash. Christian Pulisic is out, too, and Billy Gilmour is a long-term absentee after surgery.
You can read our thoughts on the news here but the crux is this – the injuries make life difficult for Chelsea.
No team wants to face the champions without their best options, but the Blues will lack several of theirs. In fact, you’d expect all except maybe Gilmour to take a spot in Frank Lampard’s preferred XI.
And if their game against Brighton is anything to go by, this could be great news for Liverpool and Firmino.
Wrong kind of plan
Lampard set up with five central midfielders against the Seagulls. But then, he didn’t really have a choice. Both Pedro and Willian left Chelsea this summer, with Ziyech and Pulisic were out. It left the side short on wide players, so he packed the middle.
Jorginho, N’Golo Kante, Kai Havertz, Mason Mount, and Ruben Loftus-Cheek all played in a 4-2-3-1/4-2-2-2 kind of system.
Injuries mean Lampard pretty much has to play the same way against Liverpool today. And as we wrote at the end of last season, Firmino thrives against such systems.
The flat midfield two creates a gap between them and defence. That’s the Brazilian’s favoured space, given his False 9 role. Most teams play with a solitary holding player who eliminates it and smaller teams play so far back that there’s little space anywhere in their half.
But bigger sides, like Chelsea, leave it open. And usually, Firmino wins games there.
Tellingly, Chelsea played a flat midfield two at Anfield in July. Firmino played, naturally, and scored his only home goal of the season. He was also the only player in Liverpool’s attack who the Blues never won the ball from (per Whoscored) as they couldn’t get near him.
And if Chelsea do play in a similar way today, we expect much of the same.