Raheem Sterling the wing-back: What Potter’s plan means for the Chelsea forward

Graham Potter’s first sport accountable for Chelsea may have felt curiously acquainted to anybody who frequently watched his Brighton facet.

There had been components of the Brighton from the previous couple of seasons: dominating however failing to win. And there have been bits of the Brighton from the starting of this season: the extremely uncommon form, the place Potter’s facet defended with a three-man protection, however with out correct wing-backs defending the vast areas.

On paper, Potter’s facet may both have been a again 4 — with Cesar Azpilicueta partnering Thiago Silva in the heart of protection, and Reece James and Marc Cucurella on both facet — or a again three that includes Azpilicueta, Silva and Cucurella. It turned out to be the latter, with James pushing forward to develop into a wing-back. That left Raheem Sterling, in principle, as the wing-back on the reverse flank.

But in actuality, Sterling was nothing like a wing-back. Take this example, for instance, after a throw on the far facet. Cucurella is ready that means he is accountable for overlaying the total left facet of the protection…

…and it is solely as soon as Red Bull Salzburg definitively wins possession from the throw that Sterling comes ambling inside from a really vast place. This, clearly, is just not a correct “wing-back” — however, in the absence of a correct time period, let’s persist with that for now.

Indeed, at instances it felt like Sterling was extra a part of a entrance three, alongside Kai Havertz and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Midway by means of the first half, he’d raced in behind to gather a Havertz lofted go over the high of the Salzburg protection…

…and, on this place, seems like extra of an inside-left.

Sterling’s solely actual defensive contribution was when he rushed again to assist dispossess Salzburg by the touchline, however the extra notable characteristic of this transfer was how Cucurella had moved out from a left-sided centre-back place, and the way Jorginho had dropped in to successfully preserve the three-man protection.

And the important characteristic of Sterling’s sport was not likely hugging the touchline and dribbling forward immediately however as an alternative ready at the far publish to gather crosses. Ten minutes in, James’ deep cross to the far publish…

…was miscontrolled barely by Sterling, however he did properly to get better…

…and slip in Cucurella on the overlap.

Eight minutes later, it is the identical factor — this time James will get to the byline…

…and performs a deep cross over to Sterling at the far publish to deliver the ball down, and check out to create space for a shot.

The subsequent state of affairs got here after an exquisite flip from James — and, recognizing Sterling on their own at the far publish, he tried to fireside in a strong low cross…

…nevertheless it was performed past Sterling and Aubameyang.

And then there was some variation — James knocking the ball again to Azpilicueta, whose deep cross…

…invited Sterling to volley in direction of the aim, together with his shot blocked.

But, in Chelsea’s first transfer of the second half, the plan lastly paid off. This time Mason Mount made a run upfront of James, and obtained the ball on the run.

It’s powerful to know whether or not this barely miscued cross, which one way or the other evaded 4 gamers in the center, was really supposed to succeed in Sterling. But, from the aforementioned deep crosses in the first half, it seems like there is a good likelihood this was the concept…

…Sterling took a contact to set himself, after which curled the ball completely into the far nook. 1-0.

And, by this level, Chelsea had not encountered too many defensive issues.

Suddenly, although, maybe when their urgent dropped somewhat, Salzburg got here into the sport. And Chelsea’s defensive form began to look barely loopy — that is basically how they had been taking part in, with one thing approaching a five-man midfield however the notional wing-backs really in entrance of the midfield.

Maybe it is a utterly fallacious interpretation of the system, and it is really a 3-3-2-2. Either manner, nonetheless, on this state of affairs Chelsea are permitting Lucas Gourna-Douath time on the ball in midfield, and missing width of their defensive form.

And, certain sufficient, Gourna-Douath has time to string the ball by means of to Maurits Kjaergaard. Here, it feels prefer it’s really Mount and Mateo Kovacic who’ve the duty to defend the vast areas, however Mount is not ready to cease this go.

Salzburg have simply discovered area on the outdoors of Chelsea’s protection.

Nine minutes later, Chelsea have possession and it is price assessing the positions of the two “wing-backs”— James and Sterling are each excessive and, in Sterling’s case, astonishingly vast. The different notable participant on this picture is right-sided center-back Azpilicueta, on the close to facet.

And when Chelsea loses possession, James and Sterling are each unable to drop again and assist. Azpilicueta is just not in a position to defend the proper of the pitch. Again, Salzburg received males in behind down the close to facet, and will have labored this example higher.

Two minutes later, the aim comes. Again, Sterling and James aren’t ready to help the protection — they’re on the midway line — though maybe they’re merely not purported to be supporting the protection. Still, this once more means that Chelsea are uncovered down one facet when a large centre-back — this time Cucurella — will get sucked up the pitch…

…and after Silva misses a sort out on the far facet and Azpilicueta will get caught out by the motion of Noah Okafor, Salzburg snatch an equalizer, which leaves Chelsea at the backside of group E.

It felt like the objectives stemmed immediately from Chelsea’s method — extraordinarily excessive wing-backs (or wingers) together with a three-man protection meant Sterling regularly obtained deep crosses on the outdoors, but in addition meant Chelsea merely could not cowl the width of the pitch at the again.

But that is clearly what Potter wished, primarily based on the manner his Brighton facet performed this season, and the manner Chelsea had been positioned all through this sport. It’s too quickly to make judgments on whether or not Potter’s method will show profitable at Chelsea, however both manner, it is unlikely to be uninteresting.

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