After persisting with a three-man defensive setup in the initial weeks of the Premier League campaign, Mauricio Pochettino made a crucial tactical adjustment in Chelsea’s recent 0-0 draw against Bournemouth. The alteration involved a shift back to Pochettino’s favored formation, the 4-2-3-1. Levi Colwill took on the role of left-back, while Malo Gusto occupied the opposite flank. Surprisingly, it took until this match for Pochettino to revert to this familiar system.
Despite the formation change not yielding the desired result, Chelsea appeared more cohesive on the field. The goalless draw, while not ideal, was somewhat unfortunate, with Nicolas Jackson and Raheem Sterling each striking the woodwork on different occasions. The West London side also faced an inspired performance from Neto, Bournemouth’s goalkeeper. However, it marked the second consecutive Premier League game in which Chelsea failed to find the back of the net.
Nonetheless, there were several positive aspects to Chelsea’s performance. Malo Gusto delivered another composed display while deputizing for the injured Reece James. Robert Sanchez also showed signs of improvement in goal after a shaky start to his Chelsea career. In the attacking third, Mykhailo Mudryk showcased glimpses of his potential, providing reasons for optimism considering Chelsea’s significant investment in him.
Mudryk has faced scrutiny and criticism since his arrival at Chelsea, particularly after a subpar performance in Ukraine’s draw with England earlier this month. However, the pressure was always on Mudryk to perform from the moment he joined the club for an initial £62 million at the beginning of the year. Moreover, the challenges of adapting to a new country and culture following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have inevitably affected his settling-in period.
Yet, in a system that plays to Mudryk’s strengths, it won’t be long before he begins to make a more significant impact for Chelsea. In the recent match against Bournemouth, although he only played for an hour, Mudryk stood out among Chelsea players. He made more key passes and completed more dribbles than most of his teammates. Defensively, he contributed with a high number of tackles, displaying his willingness to work both on and off the ball to protect Chelsea’s goal.
While it wasn’t a flawless performance, it’s clear that Mudryk is improving, particularly in comparison to his earlier displays. What’s crucial now is that Pochettino places his trust in Mudryk and affords him a consistent run of matches to regain form and confidence.
Pochettino’s role in this process is pivotal. He needs to stick with a gameplan and system that allows Chelsea’s expensively assembled squad to flourish. Injuries to Christopher Nkunku and Carney Chukwuemeka have limited Pochettino’s options for deploying a traditional number 10 in his preferred 4-2-3-1 setup. However, with the three-man defense not yielding the desired results, it’s essential that Pochettino remains steadfast in his selection, both in terms of formation and personnel.
The 4-2-3-1 formation used in the recent match caters to the abundance of wingers at Pochettino’s disposal. With Chelsea’s management keen to see a return on their substantial investment in wide forwards, maintaining a 4-2-3-1 formation is a logical path forward. By doing so, it won’t be long before Mykhailo Mudryk starts fulfilling his potential and justifies Chelsea’s significant investment in him.