It isn’t the big name we wanted or a position on the pitch that urgently needed improving, but the arrival of Brazilian Kenedy finally signals the start of a much needed recruitment drive this month. On the surface it seems slightly odd that Rafa would chase a loan signing of a young player whose temperament has been questioned, but many at Chelsea feel he is a big talent who just need games.
As with any loan deal where the parent club are keen to see him develop and get his chance, he’s come to get played each week, so I’ve been wondering where he may fit into our team..
I’m wondering if his arrival may see Rafa trial the popular 5-2-2-1 / 3-4-3 system used affectively by Chelsea, Arsenal and Spurs at present?
Here is what this could look like in reality and my thought as to why this might be the best thing for the team to pick up the points needed to stay up…
The potential line up
Kenedy in his favoured position
From watching him a little and from observing the opinions of Chelsea fans, Kenedy seems a talent, but one that must be nurtured. He has clear skill (see that sublime trick against Norwich!) but on the face of it doesn’t score enough goals, nor does he have the defensive instincts to be a left-back in a four man defence (why would Rafa drop Dummett on current form?).
With that taken into account, I don’t see him being used as a left winger (Atsu, Murphy and Ritchie all viable options at present) and don’t see him being used as an out and out left-back, but feel he could thrive in a left wing back role of a back five.
The likes of the more defensively minded Dummett playing left centre half and covering while the Brazilian can use his pace, skill and attacking flair (which we badly lack) further up the field. Our current full backs, mainly Dummett and Manquillo, offer next to nothing going forward. Switching to this system would give us two pacey full backs in him and Yedlin, making assurances for both their defensive weaknesses. It also would allow a far more solid base than when we have been overpowered in midfield playing 4-4-2.
As this clip of him in a recent FA Cup game vs Norwich highlights, he looks ideal as a left-wing back role:
More support for the lone striker
The new system would mean four quick wide players on the field at once, which can only help the striker playing, whether it is Joselu or a new centre forward (hopefully.) It would also explain why the likes of Jorgensen and Slimani are being targeted, with both being more of a target man in style and not lightening quick.
Both could thrive with a quick and supportive supply line at hand. Whether it is Joselu still starting for us come February depends on how serious Ashley is in actually investing…
Gives us better balance?
As well as going forward it could give us more balance in midfield and defence too. Rafa appears hesitant to play Merino and Shelvey together and often likes to play Hayden instead as sort of defensive screen. Having 5 at the back gives you an extra centre half who can help with that job and allows more creativity in the middle of the park, hopefully. As Chelsea showed in their title winning season under Conte, this system can allow you to have an array of attacking options and a comfort blanket at the back at the same time (if played correctly of course – but I’d back Benitez to make it work).
The players have also played this system already this season as well so it should be familiar to them. I think it would give us a far better balance between attack and defence, whilst giving us full backs who are comfortable going forward and perhaps less comfortable defensively. Maybe it could be the key to pushing us on at home? Something’s got to give to improve our wretched run at St James’!
Gets rid of the number 10 role…
Having looked at the benefits of this formation, the main drawback is that it doesn’t allow you to play a number 10. For top teams, like Chelsea and Spurs they have adjusted to this by playing this system but playing the likes of Eriksen and Hazard as one of the two wide men off the striker. After all, world class number 10’s like those two players are able to play anywhere across the striking roles.
This isn’t a drawback for NUFC particularly as this is a position we have struggled with since we sold Wijnaldum. We got promoted without having a successful attacking central midfielder/goal scorer. Rafa has used it as it offers a better defensive shape but going forward it offers us no real goal scoring benefit when it is the likes of Perez and Diame occupying the role. Until we sign a quality number 10, this formation switch could work well and would explain why Rafa has been so keen to get Kenedy on board.
What do you think of this potential line up? Where do you see Kenedy fitting into our plans?