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Modric wouldn't solve Blues' lack of width
Published : 15 Aug 2011 15:11:00
TEAMtalk guest John Baines believes Chelsea need a specialist winger more than Luka Modric - and suggests five potential targets. New manager, same side, similar failings. Andre Villas-Boas is the fresh-faced tactician charged with revitalising a stale Chelsea, but after his first competitive game in charge it was evident that the side he has inherited are very much stuck in their old ways. The pattern was very familiar as last season's Premier League runners-up were held to a 0-0 opening draw against a resilient Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium on Sunday. In isolation, a point in such surroundings was not a bad one given the hostility visiting teams face when coming to these parts, but the superiority the Blues held in possession gave scope for greater gains. After weathering the inevitable early onslaught from the hosts, Chelsea increasingly forged a stranglehold on the game but barring a fine Asmir Begovic save, a weak Salomon Kalou header and a couple of either way penalty shouts, Villas-Boas' men created few clear-cut opportunities to have genuine grievances about the outcome. Even with Fernando Torres brimming, the predictability in Chelsea's attacking manoeuvres was too easy for the feisty Potters to countenance. Devoid of enough width and tempo, the regimental resilience of Stoke's defending was infrequently turned or tormented, their cause aided and abetted by the congestion the Londoners created for themselves. The introductions of Nicolas Anelka and Didier Drogba did nothing but thicken the middle malaise as the futility of the approach drew wild gesticulations from Villas-Boas. The frustrations of player, manager and fans only served to further highlight the necessity to find one player who can provide one moment to turn one point into three. The summer-long pursuit of Luka Modric will likely intensify after another performance in which Chelsea resembled a toothless tiger - knocking on the door inquisitively rather than with insistence. But should the pursuit of Modric prevail, how differently would things fare with the Croatian schemer in the side? Villas-Boas has made little secret of the desire to keep his and his squad's preferred 4-3-3 as the modus operandi, yet the Modric acquisition would do nothing to rectify the major failings of their version of this particular system. Whilst Modric of course does possess the subtlety and craft to pick passes which can unlock massed defences, Chelsea's fundamental flaw at present is a chronic lack of width to sufficiently stretch opposition defences to breaking point. Any combination of their flanked forwards have a proclivity to drift infield and thus create the sort of bottleneck which suffocates the team. As time ticked on at the Brit, so did the tally of attacks snuffed out within the width of the 18-yard box. Instead of shelling out for Modric, Villas-Boas would be better served with a touchline hugging winger - somebody to provide the necessary width, pace and penetration to replicate the Duff-Robben duoploy that led the Blues to back-to-back titles under Jose Mourinho. The integration of such a player into the line-up would be a double-edged attacking sword. Not only would the wideman offer their own attacking outlet, but the positioning of a genuine winger makes the pitch bigger and wider, creating space elsewhere for others to thrive and for the opposition to cover. One of the features of how Stoke on Sunday and others previously are able to defend against Chelsea is that the back four can narrow and restrict gaps in between each other. The space Fernando Torres is supposed to be furrowing is plugged by the inability of the Chelsea side to create it in the first place. Regardless of how good Modric is, in the current set-up he would be confined to the same spacial limitations which is prohibiting Chelsea at present. So I've come up with five alternative transfers Chelsea could explore: Marko Marin (Werder Bremen, approximate fee: £15m) The little German flyer would be ideal and available. Quick and direct, Marin commits defenders and causes endless problems for full-backs as Vedran Corluka will testify to after Spurs' Champions League meeting with Werder last season. Aaron Lennon (Tottenham Hotspur, £20m) Potentially more saleable from Spurs and arguably the type of player Chelsea need more than another central midfielder. Lennon's roadrunner style would enable the Blues to turn defences and even if his output isn't all it should be, his presence immediately alters the mindset of defences and put teams on the back foot. Milos Krasic (Juventus, £25m) Not a prolific scorer, Krasic is a touchline winger or orthodox right-midfielder whose pace and guile creates ample opportunities for others. The Serbian only arrived at the Olimpico at the start of last season but was one of the only positive aspects of another dire season for the Bianconeri. A seventh-placed finish means no European football this year and the financially stable footing the Turin giants once held is starting to slip. Pedro (Barcelona, £25m) The arrivals of Alexis Sanchez and Cesc Fabregas at the Camp Nou may mean Pedro will have his first-team opportunities restricted this term and Barca could be willing to recoup some of their summer splurge. The Spanish international offers the sort of intuitive trickery currently missing from Chelsea's current batch of wide forwards and combines this with a prolific goal-scoring record. Juan Mata (Valencia, £20m) Only Arsene Wenger would be reticent to pay £20m for one of the most talented young attacking midfielders in the world, with an eye for goal and a repertoire of tricks and flicks to mesmerise most defenders. Mata notched up a catalogue of assists in La Liga last year, and could be the perfect foil to extract the best out of his la Roja amigo Fernando Torres.