CHELSEA NEEDS TO win against Tottenham on Saturday in order to keep their hope of playing in the Champions League next season. With point tally, goal difference, and fixture list working against Chelsea, a draw or a loss would be a big blow. It is understandable that a game of this significance will make every Stamford Bridge faithful nervous -- especially the threat of Spurs' danger-man Gareth Bale. Obviously the left winger must be tamed if Chelsea wants all three points, but the potential absence of Ivanovic, plus the potential presence of Bosingwa, on Chelsea's right raises valid fear in Blues fans. But stopping Bale will take more than just a decent right back. Reasons after the jump.
(1) Location, Location, Location!
|Picture 1. Bale's Goal against Wigan|
It is almost impossible for a right back to mark when a "left winger" is playing on the right. Yes, 'Arry doesn't do tactics but he has been dragged into this "inverted winger" business like every other football manager. So, Bale switches wings and sometimes, plays on the right wing. Picture 1 shows how he scored Spurs' first goal against Wigan from the right, by getting on the end of a beautifully crafted pass from Modric. If Bosingwa plays, we are right to worry about Bale skinning the Portuguese down the right but Cole must be on his game too on the left side of Chelsea's defense.
(2) Moving from Right to Center
|Picture 2. Bale's Shot vs Wigan|
So, when Bale plays on the right, it will be the left-back's duty to defend him. But he also does this thing where he cuts onto his left and moves into the center to take a shot at goal. We are all very familiar with this of course, thanks to one Daniel Sturridge. In Picture 2, Bale bombs down the right and moves horizontally towards the center. His shot was saved by Al Habsi. The point is -- our defensive midfielder and our center-backs will have to alert for this too.
(3) Operating in Center Left
|Picture 3. Bale's Second Goal vs Wigan|
When Assou-Ekotto received a long pass on the left flank, Bale was ready to make a central run into the box, possibly to get on the end of a cross. In this case, it was the job of the right back to close down Assou-Ekotto while the center-back watches Bale's run. The Welsh later offered himself for support when Assou-Ekotto had no other options. At this point, Bale was marked by a defensive midfielder. The Spurs man got himself a little bit of space and shot to the far right corner for his brace.
WE ARE RIGHT to be nervous about Bale and our right-back situation. But it will take more than a right fullback to contain Bale if he is on a good day. Our center-backs, defensive/central midfielders and even our left fullback will have to be sharp. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Some have suggested that Bale's form has taken hit because he's trying to do too much, losing focus on his strength on the left. Also, Bale's threat level will depend on the kind of game Spurs will have at Stamford Bridge. At least their recent away form -- D,L,D,L,L -- suggests that it could be a Blue day on Saturday.
[Note: If you prefer to watch a video rather than look at these picture frames, here's a link.]
Carefree, wherever you may be...