I was a big fan of Marcelo Bielsa’s Chile team and even wrote them a love letter during the World Cup last year. Bielsa is gone now and Chile have changed their tactical set-up while still retaining the core philosophy of relentless pressing and attacking in numbers. Claudio Bhorgi plays more of a 3412 (or 3421), which is a more traditional formation when compared to the brilliant but crazy system they played under Bielsa.
Bhorgi’s system is outlined below.
In Bielsa’s system the attack was proactive while the defence was reactive. Bielsa always wanted to have a spare defender so would move from two to three center-backs depending on how the opposition lined up. Bhorgi uses three permanent center-backs but Vidal is given licence to move into midfield when he sees fit. Medel and Carmona patrol the center of midfield, with Medel being the destroyer while Carmona holds his position defending the hole and protecting against counter-attacks . In Bielsa’s system Carmona often defended this zone on his own leaving huge gaps for the opposition to exploit on the counter . Isla and Beausejour play as wingbacks but they do not have any wingers helping them to defend the flanks. Valdivia plays as a classic number 10, given a free role to control the play and create chances for the strikers. Upfront Sanchez or Jimenez plays off the center forward, usually Suazo but against France it was the youngster Rubio. This current Chile team seems to be set up to press teams in central areas and force them to attack down the flanks
The weaknesses of a 3 man defence are well known. Against a one striker system one of the spare center-backs is wasted and leaves the team outnumbered in other areas. The team also has a weakness down the flanks because the space behind the wingbacks can be exploited.
In the game against France both weaknesses were plain to see. As seen in the image above Karim Benzema(red) often moved out to the left wing to exploit the space behind Isla. Benzema does not play as a traditional center-forward and loves to drift out wide to receive the ball, something that happened many times in this game. As he does so one of the center-backs comes with him but the other two centerbacks(yellow) are left in the penalty box with no one to pick up. Two French players are waiting at the far post(blue) and are only picked up by one Chilean defender. This is a poor allocation of resources and it is this situation that lead to France’s goal.
Another weakness has to do with Chile’s pressing game. In Bielsa’s system the wingers could apply direct pressure to the opposition’s fullbacks and force them to release the ball quickly. In Borghi’s system there are no classic wingers and the wingback is expected to press the opposing fullback. This is a problem because the wingback also has to worry about any wingers in behind him so he ends up being caught in two minds. It is too easy for the opposition to create two on one situations against Isla and Beausejour. In the image above Clichy(purple) is not being picked up because Isla is occupied by the French winger. France’s fullbacks were given a lot of time and space and if Clichy and Sagna were better crossers of the ball they could have made Chile pay.
Chile’s new formation gives them greater protection against the counter attack but leaves them weak on the flanks. The use of three permanent center-backs creates problems when playing against a one striker system. Chile may have lost their flexibility and reactive tendencies but they are still a joy to watch.