Man United celebrate

How Man United’s midfield diamond shows Premier League’s top sides have figured Chelsea out

As highlighted by Nizaar Kinsella this afternoon, Manchester United’s formation change for their clash with Chelsea last night provided further proof that the Blues’ Premier League top-6 rivals have figured out exactly how to nullify the intended effects of ‘Sarri-ball’.

Chelsea 0-2 Man United

Maurizio Sarri’s men welcomed high-flying United to Stamford Bridge last night, for a high-profile FA Cup 5th-round matchup.

Hosts Chelsea headed into proceedings having bounced back from their 6-0 mauling at the hands of Manchester City last weekend with a 2-1 win away to Malmo in the Europa League last Thursday.

United, meanwhile, saw their stunning run of form under new boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer come to a grinding halt last time out, when the Red Devils fell to a deserved 2-0 defeat at home to PSG.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – FEBRUARY 12: Prenel Kimpebe of PSG celebrates after he scores his sides first goal during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 First Leg match between Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain at Old Trafford on February 12, 2019 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

United emerge victorious

However, when all was said and done in London last night, Solskjaer’s men once again showcased their new-found character in the wake of the Norwegian’s appointment, emerging with a 2-0 victory to book their place in the FA Cup’s quarter-finals.

The Red Devils’ 2 goals came during the first-half, the first of which saw Ander Herrera get on the end of Paul Pogba’s sumptuous delivery to head home with half an hour on the clock:

And Pogba went on notch the Red Devils’ 2nd on the stroke of half-time, arriving late in the Chelsea box to bullet home a wonderful header from Marcus Rashford’s whipped cross.

Chelsea, in truth, never really looked like getting back into things over the course of the second-half, with United having defended stoutly to secure a clean sheet, and their passage to the final-8 of the FA Cup.

Chelsea figured out?

Over the course of the 24 hours since last night’s clash, Chelsea’s latest disappointing showing has seen Blues’ boss Maurizio Sarri singled out for heavy criticism once again.

The Italian tactician’s insistence on sticking with his trademark ‘Sarri-ball’ setup saw his side overrun in midfield versus United, with the capital giants having looked equally bereft of ideas when in possession, and susceptible to conceding when without the ball.

Midfield pivot Jorginho yet again looked lost at the base of Chelsea’s midfield, with United’s switch from their standard 4-3-3 setup to a midfield diamond having seen Juan Mata largely-nullify the Italian international’s effect on proceedings.

As such, with full-backs Marcos Alonso and Cesar Azpilicueta continuing to offer very little in terms of attacking contribution, United’s ability to smother Chelsea’s midfield saw the hosts essentially left with only Eden Hazard as a genuine creative threat.

And, as noted by Nizaar Kinsella this afternoon, United in fact became just the latest of Chelsea’s top-6 rivals to effectively make use of a diamond formation to emerge victorious versus the Blues this season, suggesting that Maurizio Sarri needs to change up his tactical approach, and fast:

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