Chelsea continue to find joy in inverting the pyramid as defenders put Juventus to the sword
Playing with a false 9 seems to be the modern football way. But Chelsea appear to have taken it one step further by having a completely false attacking line-up.
Perhaps it was a case of needs must with the long-term injury to Romelu Lukaku necessitating a change of approach.
Yet rather than look for nippy midfielders and wide strikers to fill the void, Thomas Tuchel has hit upon a formula whereby the defenders are the ones most likely to find the net.
Reece James has already hogged the headlines for a prolific run of goalscoring form and was at it again in Tuesday night’s final Champions League home group stage match against Juventus.
He went close with one raking low drive in the first half and was always looking to get into shooting positions – only paying a passing interest in any defensive duties he might be expected to perform.
Ben Chilwell has had an equally astonishing run of form in the opposition box and clearly Trevoh Chalobah does not fancy being left behind.
He is was who blasted home the half-volley before the break to put Chelsea on their way to a 4-0 win, which secured progress to next year’s knock-out stages.
What is a top-end man-marking warrior like Leonardo Bonucci supposed to do? The Italian has had a star-studded career dealing with all the conventional strikers the world has to offer. Here he was left patrolling an area with nobody really in it.
He was still excellent with his blocking of course, but you can only keep out these marauding Chelsea defenders for so long.
Perhaps it is the John Terry legacy.
The former skipper helped himself to such a huge stack of goals that it times it seemed only Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard were keeping off the top of Chelsea’s goalscoring charts.
Toni Rudiger carried a threat at set pieces too and the front three of Christian Pulisic, Hakim Ziyech and Callum Hudson-Odoi seemed to be playing only the roles of stooges in the great attacking-defender masterplan.
And all this is before we factor in the fine defensive record these players are cobbling together. They have only conceded one goal in five matches so far in Europe and have the meanest Premier League stats too.
Typical of the desire not to concede was the moment Thiago Silva got back to hook a goalbound chip from Alvaro Morata off the line. He ended up tangled in the net and hurt. The fans cheered his name appreciatively.
In the second half, the Brazilian glanced a header at goal which nearly beat Wojciech Szczesny in the Juventus goal. No defenders are permitted to neglect their striking duties.
Chelsea have inverted the pyramid.
Were we in the least bit surprised when James rippled the far corner of the net with the second goal 10 minutes into the second half? Not a bit. It was his fifth of the season. He is now one ahead of Lukaku.
Eventually a forward did get in on the act – Hudson-Odoi side-footing home from inside the area, with even sub Timo Werner being allowed to take centre stage to poke home a late fourth, as the hosts ran riot.
The hot-shot defenders had long since retreated into the shadows. Their day's work done. Once Again.