Chelsea & Radamel Falcao: The benefits of a structured environment

Rademel Falcao is no longer Radamel Falcao.

The Colombian, who looks certain to be heading to Chelsea on a season-long loan within the coming days, is a pale of imitation of the player he once was and, at twenty-nine, it’s unrealistic to expect him to return to his Atletico/Porto levels ever again.

The last eighteen months have been cruel. The serious knee injury he sustained in early 2014 not only prevented him from appearing at last Summer’s World Cup, but the game time he missed and the associated difficulties he has subsequently suffered have all occurred during what should have been his athletic prime.

Manchester United was a strange move for him. His loan to Old Trafford probably owed more to the English club’s need to convince themselves of their own appeal than it did any footballing logic and, in combination with his obvious physical problems, Falcao laboured in a Louis Van Gaal squad which neither needed or suited him.

To accentuate the negative, the full, exorbitant details of the agreement between Manchester United and Monaco were very public and the forward bore the full weight of the inevitable derision that followed his fallow form.

It must have been very humbling; elite players are not without ego and Falcao effectively went from being a marquee player to a figure of fun within the space of eight months. He was the elephant in the room at United, a player without a discernible purpose and who, on more than one occasion, looked like he would prefer to be anywhere else.

So what of Chelsea’s interest?

Being in decline as he is, it’s right to question what he can add to a squad which is already so well-endowed - and also to recoil at how powerful Jorge Mendes has been allowed to become.  The Portuguese super-agent clearly wields an enormous amount of influence over the European transfer market and, as Jose Mourinho’s representative, it’s mighty convenient that a declining Falcao should be afforded another chance at a club of Chelsea’s size.

Negativity, though, can be to a player’s advantage. If this move goes through, Falcao will arrive in South-West London with precious little expectation. With Chelsea already well-set to defend their title and Diego Costa indisputably Mourinho’s first-choice forward, the Colombian will be required to provide little more than first-team support and security against Costa’s troublesome hamstrings.

He knows that and the fans, writers and journalists know it too.

That’s probably a role that suits him.  Beneath the radar is probably where he would prefer to be in his current state and, in any case, Chelsea will provide him with a very healthy situation within which to recuperate.

While Falcao must take his share of the blame for last season, but he was also at a natural disadvantage. He was a semi-fit player moving to a new country who was also required to periodically step into an attacking formation which was essentially a week-to-week experiment. Van Gaal’s side may have finished the year strongly enough to requalify for the Champions League, but their Premier League campaign was characterised by a lack of offensive fluency. Four goals from fourteen appearances was a meagre goal-return for Falcao, but neither Wayne Rooney (12 in 33) or Robin van Persie (10 from 25) were overly-prosperous either.

Yes, Falcao under-performed, but United spent the entire season trying to discover an attacking rhythm and their failure to every really find it - combined with their back-and-forth between different formations - cost him the opportunity to become familiar with his surroundings.

It was still a failure, but it had its mitigations.

Chelsea provide . As and when Falcao is used, he will be asked to play a role that is already well-established. Regardless of who occupies the position, Jose Mourinho’s lone forward is required to perform the same set of tasks: press high-up the pitch, interact with that trio of attacking-midfielders, and provide off-the-ball movement for the supporting playmakers to exploit.

Tactical life under Mourinho is very rigid and, for Falcao, that will be a pleasing difference between Cobham and Carrington.  He will, of course, have to find some kind of form to be successful during whatever pitch-time he’s afforded, but the situation will at least be theoretically conducive to his short-term recovery.  He’ll be dropped into a shape with a lot of existing familiarity and he’ll be lining-up alongside players whose inter-connecting habits and traits are already very well-established.

That can help a player; continuity is an obvious comfort to any athlete with a confidence problem.

He may not play every week, but when he does he’ll understand what’s required of him and that never seemed to be the case at Manchester United.

Follow @SebSB

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