Andre Villas-Boas has generally favored the 4-3-3 throughout his managerial career and this is what he usually opts for as his Chelsea formation.
Since the days of Jose Mourinho, Chelsea coaches have rarely strayed from the 4-3-3, a system that helped the club to two titles during his tenure. Carlo Ancelotti enjoyed success with the diamond formation, but Villas-Boas, who took over from the Italian in June 2011, is an advocate of 4-3-3.
In goal, Petr Cech is the undisputed number one and has been the club’s first-choice since joining from Rennes in 2004.
4: DefenseJose Bosingwa or Branislav Ivanovic usually occupy the right-back slot. The pair have entirely different strengths, with Bosingwa uncomfortable when on the back foot, and Ivanovic more at ease with his defensive duties. The Portugal international is a better attacking option than Ivanovic, though the Serbian, who can also play in the center, is hard to stop when in full flow. Paulo Ferreira can also play at right-back, but has never really lived up to expectations in a Blues shirt.
In the center, captain and club stalwart John Terry is partnered by either David Luiz or Alex. Luiz is one of the best attacking central defenders in world soccer, and there are few more adept at dribbling the ball out of defense. Luiz can be rash, however, where as Alex is usually a picture of calm when selected by Villas-Boas. He also possesses a kick like a mule when given free-kick duties.
At left-back, Ashley Cole is the undisputed first-choice, having provided years of service for Arsenal, England and Chelsea. Still one of the best attacking full-backs in the Premier League, Cole is equally comfortable when on the defensive. Ferreira can also play at left-back if called upon, while young Ryan Bertrand is another option.
3: MidfieldVillas-Boas likes to play one holding midfielder, with Jon Obi Mikel, Oriol Romeu or Michael Essien all comfortable in that position. Essien can also play in a more advanced midfield role. Raul Meireles, Frank Lampard and Ramires are all given license to go forward, and all get regular games, with Chelsea involved on four fronts for much of the season. Josh McEachran is another option for Villas-Boas and is considered one of English soccer’s hottest prospects.
3: AttackIn attack, Juan Mata, signed from Valencia in August 2011, is a regular, and can play either left or right of the central striker. If Florent Malouda is selected, Mata is more likely to feature on the right, with left being the Frenchman’s preferred position. Daniel Sturridge and Nicolas Anelka, meanwhile, are two strikers comfortable in a front three because they can work effectively on the right of the attack and in the center.
With Didier Drogba and US$80 million striker Fernando Torres on the books, Anelka and Sturridge, more often than not, are deployed out wide. Drogba is the old fashioned center forward who leads the line and holds up the ball, while Torres prefers to use his pace and run on to through balls.
Salomon Kalou is another player who regularly features out wide in a front three, while Romelu Lukaku is seen as the eventual successor to Drogba at the point of the attack.