Rafael Benitez: Play Nathan Ake, Go 4-3-3 And Prove You're A Tactican

The sting of Thursday night football with the fat waiter in charge still hasn't faded but we Chelsea may as well use today's tie as a chance to blood youngsters like Nathan Ake, who could be the future of our midfield.
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The sting of Thursday night football with the fat waiter in charge still hasn't faded but we Chelsea may as well use today's tie as a chance to blood youngsters like Nathan Ake, who could be the future of our midfield.


I’ll be straight with you, I know virtually nothing about Steaua Bucharest apart from the fact that their owner is a bit of a loose cannon. But for Chelsea this is a highly inconvenient fixture given that we travel to Old Trafford on Sunday.  Ideally I would like to see key players rested, and Demba Ba is as he is ineligible to play, and also a couple of youngsters given a run out. But there is one in particular I would like to see and that would be Nathan Ake who impressed many with a highly matured performance against Middlesbrough last week.

I don’t think Chelsea should have too many problems getting past Steaua but in the first leg tonight we have to kill the game off early so we can keep the trio of Juan Mata, Eden Hazard and Oscar fit for Sunday at Old Trafford. However if we fail to kill it off early, as we have done countless of times under Rafael Benitez, then I can see Steaua causing us a lot of problems towards the latter stages of the matches, making us chase the ball which would be hardly ideal given our ridiculous fixture list over the next few weeks.

What I would like to see Benitez do is move away from the two holding midfielders especially for a fixture like this. Two defensive midfielders works against a bigger team when you need control of the midfield but for tonight’s match and with all due respect to Steaua, this is an opportunity for the Blues to get our confidence high and score a few goals. I want to see Benitez show his tactical flexibility, as he has failed to do so since becoming The Interim One, and would like to see the team go to a 4-3-3 that worked well under Jose Mourinho and Carlo Ancelotti. This would mean ideally we would have Nathan Ake in the holding role with Oscar and Frank Lampard playing in more central positions. Obviously Oscar would have to play deeper than usual but he showed that he is versatile and his performance to man-mark Andrea Pirlo earlier in the season should have given former boss Roberto Di Matteo an option to play him deeper. As for Lampard, well he hasn’t exactly done wonders with his defensive duty but allowing him more freedom to move forward would get him closer to his 203rd goal and who wouldn’t want that? The exclusion from the squad of Ramires will help rather than hinder Chelsea tonight.


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I know he scored one of our most important goals last season but I don’t think Ramires suits Chelsea’s style of play and more importantly his performances have declined drastically since last season. There have been many occasions this season where Ramires could, and in fact should, have been sent off. As he plays in a deeper role in Chelsea’s 4-2-3-1 alongside either John Mikel Obi or Lampard, he has to do a lot of tackling and quick incisive passing, of which he can do neither.  He has great pace and finishing but when you play as a defensive midfielder these traits are hardly vital. I still think he has a role at Chelsea but just not as a first team regular.

Steaua will no doubt be eager to show the world that they can match Chelsea and will be quick off the block which is why Chelsea’s counter attacking style that The Interim One has continued should work a treat. What we need to do is to be to very quick with our attacking movement and get the ball to Hazard or Mata at every opportunity.  I say this every time we play a smaller team, but Fernando Torres could score a few tonight if his head is screwed on straight, against ‘Boro he looked promising outside the box but every time he stepped into the box it was like his confidence was drained out of his soul.

I can’t see Chelsea having too many problems tonight but knowing the way our season has gone I wouldn’t be surprised if we left Romania with a deficit.