CHELSEA are considering bringing in Zinedine Zidane to replace Maurizio Sarri before the end of the season.
SunSport revealed that the Blues boardroom has been in talks this week to decide whether to replace the faltering Italian.
Chelsea are considering whether to appoint Zinedine Zidane before the end of the season[/caption]
Maurizio Sarri is under massive pressure after a poor start to his reign[/caption]
Fans have turned on former Napoli boss Sarri after the 6-0 humiliation at Manchester City.
His stubborn refusal to change tactics away form ‘Sarri-ball’, to drop Jorginho and his continued poor handling of Callum Hudson-Odoi have also proved to be factors in the 60-year-old losing supporters.
But if Zidane, who won three consecutive Champions League trophies with Real Madrid, arrives at Chelsea soon, how would his team set up?
Should he come now, Zidane would have to work with the current squad and wait months until he has the chance to bring in new players.
But, unlike Sarri who has rigidly stuck to his 4-3-3 formation even in the roughest times, Zidane proved at Real Madrid he can be tactically flexible.
The football great will stick with a back four but during his tenure at the Bernabeu he tinkered with a two, three and four-man midfield and sometimes used a lone striker, a pair or three up top.
Chelsea’s current squad has nowhere near the talent level Zidane had available to him in the Spanish capital. Only Eden Hazard would get into the Los Blancos team.
Should he arrive before the season ends, Zidane would have to get creative – we look at some options Zidane could use.
Zinedine Zidane was Eden Hazard’s idol growing up[/caption]
N’Golo Kante would surely go back to his favoured position under Zidane[/caption]
The most obvious place to start, Zidane tended to play a 4-3-3 in the majority of his games at Real Madrid.
This would cause the least disruption to the Chelsea players who have played this way all season.
However, unlike the team Sarri players, this team would have three key changes.
While the rest of the back five stays the same, it would seem logical that Zidane would prefer Emerson Palmieri to Marcos Alonso at left-back.
Emerson Palmieri could be brought in at left-back as he offers more speed and dynamism than Marcos Alonso[/caption]
Marcelo became arguably the best left-back in world football under Zidane, and his vice-captain, and was an absolutely crucial cog in the way the teams played.
Marcelo is actually a pretty average defender but his attacking prowess helped impose Zidane and Real’s style on weaker opponents.
Alonso has struggled since Antonio Conte left, lacking the athleticism to support in attack while starting from a deeper position and being exposed defensively without an extra centre-back to cover him.
Emerson has started just one Premier League game under Sarri – the 4-0 defeat to Bournemouth – and while he is a weak defender, he provides much more attacking verve and athleticism than Alonso.
You could also make an argument that Andreas Christensen should start ahead of David Luiz, but we’re guessing the Frenchman would go for experience and leadership – Luiz is a big character in the dressing room.
At least until an inevitable error from the floppy-haired Brazilian.
Andreas Christensen is in with a chance but we predict Zidane would favour the experience and leadership of David Luiz[/caption]
The midfield sees another major change with N’Golo Kante (finally!) taking his rightful place at the base of midfield.
The former Leicester man is the best defensive midfielder in the world and although he has done brilliantly adapting his game to fit ‘Sarri-ball’, it’s seems obvious he is wasted playing so far up the pitch.
Kante is best covering every section of the pitch from the centre of the field – Chelsea’s extremely weak defence could do with that kind of protection.
Jorginho keeps his place in the team but swaps with Kante’s current position.
His defensive inefficiencies would be less exposed from the right-central position and he would, in theory, still be able to dictate the tempo of the match with his passing.
Imagine Kante is Casemiro and Jorginho is Modric – it makes much more sense to play them the way Zidane did at Real Madrid than Sarri does at Chelsea.
Jorginho would retain a place in midfield – but would no longer be the deep-lying ‘regista’[/caption]
The final midfield slot is taken up by Mateo Kovacic, who would likely get the nod ahead of Ross Barkley and Ruben Loftus-Cheek because of his familiarity with Zidane.
However, Kovacic never won the trust of Zidane – the Croatian was bought by previous manager Rafa Benitez – and could quickly find himself out of this team if he didn’t impress.
Further forward there is a major change, with Callum Hudson-Odoi getting his chance to impress ahead of the ageing Pedro and Willian.
Zidane, the former manager of Real Madrid’s B team, was not as keen to give youth a chance as you might think.
But here’s hoping that the former Ballon d’Or winner recognises the immense talent and X-factor Hudson-Odoi could provide to a functional team lacking inspiration.
Hazard and Gonzalo Higuain have to start.
Mateo Kovavic would likely get the initial nod over Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Ross Barkley because of Zidane’s familiarity with him[/caption]
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A formation Zidane would play frequently at Madrid if one of his first-choice midfield three (Modric, Casemiro, Toni Kroos) were missing.
This formation sees two holding midfielders, in a so-called ‘double pivot’, screening in front of the defence, allowing the four players further forward to have fewer defensive responsibilities.
In this formation, Hazard leaves his position on the left wing to start as a forward, but like Cristiano Ronaldo, he would be afforded a free role.
Kovacic keeps his place but Hudson-Odoi misses out for Loftus-Cheek with the two attacking midfield spots not quite wingers.
The formation allows Chelsea to quite quickly move into a 4-4-2 and offer a bit more defensive solidity should they be on the back foot.
The problem for the Blues in this formation would be a lack of creativity and width.
At Real Madrid the two advanced midfielders would have been Isco and Marco Asensio.
The difference between that pair and any pair Chelsea could offer is vast.
Hazard has only ever played in flashes as a No 10 throughout his career, but on paper he has all the skills to succeed in the position.
A great dribbler with an eye for a pass and deadly in front of goal, Hazard has everything it would take to be a hit.
And, of course, Zidane was his idol growing up, so who better to teach the Belgian the intricacies of the position than one of the greatest to ever play there?
Zidane may think that his best option would be to make his best player the creative hub of the team.
Hazard has always been better out wide than through the centre in Blue, but playing as a false 9 is different to playing as a No 10.
As a false 9, Hazard has both centre-backs and usually a defensive midfielder specifically tasked with dealing with him.
This formation would have Higuain taking attention away from the centre-backs and Callum Hudson-Odoi – or Pedro or Willian – further in front of him as well.
Another frequently used formation by Zidane was the diamond.
Although the above formations can quickly turn into a diamond should the situation need it, starting with a diamond would give more specific instructions to Kante and Loftus-Cheek especially.
Kante would be stripped of his attacking responsibilities and, like Fernandinho at Man City, would effectively become a third centre-back while full-backs Emerson and Cesar Azpilicueta push right up into midfield.
Similarly, Loftus-Cheek would have little incentive to track back to ensure Chelsea always have enough options should a counter-attack present itself.
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Whatever formation Zidane theoretically picks, the likes of Kepa Arrizabalaga, Azpilicueta, Antonio Rudiger, Luiz, Kante, Jorginho, Hazard and Higuain would appear to be guaranteed starters.
The likes of Hudson-Odoi, Pedro and Willian are interchangeable, as are Kovacic, Loftus-Cheek and Barkley.
But it is clear there is little quality throughout the squad, as Sarri has found with just 14 players (not including Higuain) making double figure Premier League appearances this season.
In fact, it’s reasonable to assume that should Chelsea sack Sarri and move for Zidane before the end of the season, the former Real Madrid manager would turn them down knowing an overhaul is needed in the summer.