Antonio Conte hosted the reincarnation of the back-five in English football from his time in west London, emphasising the importance of athletic wing-backs who can supplement attacking transitions.
But, since arriving through the gates of Cobham training ground in January, Thomas Tuchel has rewritten the blueprints of the back-five framing a renewed perception of the formation in a way that accentuates the shapes unexplored attacking possibilities.
The Chelsea boss has evolved said shape to the next level by shifting the creative focus on the outside centre-backs which has seen the likes of Trevoh Chalobah, Cesar Azpilicueta and Antonio Rudiger prosper.
Tuchel’s renewed focus on the outside centre-halves has seemingly brushed aside the common misconception is that a back-five is heavily defence-orientated, by shining a light on the array of attacking avenues that can be explored using an unlikely source of goal creators.
This amendment not only continues to optimise wide spaces with wing-backs, but also the inside half-spaces rolling out the red carpet for centre-halves to gallop forward and partake in goal creating phases of play.
Chelsea have seen three goals scored already this season that have been directly resultant of an outside centre-half stepping out of defence and contributing to an attack. Trevoh Chalobah picked up the ball deep drove forward into the space and took flight with defenders pressing off him.
This is as many as Chelsea’s favoured and so-called, primary creators Kai Havertz and Mason Mount have directly contributed to, highlighting the creative potential the outside centre-halves can offer.
Azpilicueta’s cross versus Zenit and Chalobah’s goal versus Crystal Palace highlight how stepping out with such authority can navigate Chelsea through alternative routes of attacking passages against low-block sides who concede possession to play on the counter-attack.
The Blues utilised the outside centre-halves to great effect against Zenit, whether it be Azpilicueta’s assist or Rudiger’s surging run from deep and will likely look to do so once more against an injury-ridden Tottenham.
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The north London side are currently nursing the injury of Eric Dier, who was stretchered off versus the Eagles, while Davinson Sanchez and Cristian Romero remain unavailable due to Covid regulations.
This leaves Nuno Espirito Santo fairly light in terms of defensive reinforcements at his disposal, which could open the door to an enhanced focus on channelling attacks through Chelsea’s outside centre-halves.
Azpilicueta’s quality of delivery coupled with Romelu Lukaku’s aerial presence could cause problems for Spurs back-line allowing the Blues the emulate the goal versus Zenit.
Equally, with Spurs at a potential disadvantage and Hugo Lloris without his prised doormen, Espirito Santo may be inclined to concede possession and look to hit Chelsea on the counter-attack.
As difficult as the Blues found attacking a low-block against Zenit, Tuchel still found a breakthrough after his outside centre-halves reignited the intensity of the clash.
The west Londoners could find themselves singing from the same hymn sheet as Tuesday night, so it is certainly worth keeping an eye on how Chelsea’s outside centre-halves fair come Sunday afternoon.
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