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Anchor role in midfield seems to suit the Portuguese schemer...

There is an old saying that states, perhaps optimistically, that "a problem is just an opportunity in disguise".

That must be the attitude of Carlo Ancelotti and Deco, however, because the two have seemingly combined to use the problem of Chelsea's current lack of traditional defensive midfielders as an opportunity to find a different tactical solution — one that might yet benefit the team for the challenges ahead.

It was Deco who played as the nominal 'anchor' in the Blues' midfield as the team eased to a 3-0 win against a Birmingham City side that had previously gone 15 games unbeaten.

But Deco did not play as an 'enforcer' — the role Michael Essien, Juliano Belletti and John Obi Mikel have taken turns to do at various points this season — but rather as what Italians like Ancelotti would call the regista (director), a sort of deep-lying playmaker.

The 32-year-old dropped off to pick the ball up from in and around his own half all game, and distributed it with the sort of imagination and technical proficiency all midfielders that have ever spent any time at Barcelona seem to have.

He even put his foot in to challenge for a few loose balls — a welcome surprise to those who have seen his various insipid displays while stationed further forward this season.

It was an accomplished individual performance, but more importantly it seemed to help his more adventurous team-mates to break down an opposition known for their obdurate defence.

It was Frank Lampard who took advantage with two goals, including his first strike from outside the box in the Premier League since December 2008. But Florent Malouda (a goal and two assists) and Joe Cole (one assist) also prospered from the superior service they got, and while Michael Ballack didn't score he made sure his team, and predominately Deco, never struggled to get hold of the ball.

That was partly due to circumstances, as home advantage and Birmingham's tactical plan inevitably handed the home side the majority of the possession. This allowed the platform for Deco to excel, just as it did in his audition for his new role after Belletti departed early in the weekend's cup clash at Preston North End.

It remains to be seen if he will be similarly effective when the battle for possession is more even, but at the least he will prove a handy weapon in breaking down sides that come to Stamford Bridge simply to park the bus.

While Essien has been the anchor man for much of the season, there were always nagging concerns that his outstanding defensive efforts were at the expensive of a similar impact further forward. In the Ghanaian's absence, however, Deco might have hit upon the solution. Ancelotti will now surely be eagerly anticipating Essien's return, so he can play him slightly further forward, with a licence to both defend and attack. With the delivery of Deco, who knows what havoc he might yet unleash.

That is something to be discovered a few weeks from now, however. For now, thanks to Arsenal's draw at Villa Park, Chelsea will just be happy to be back atop the league — and confident for the challenges ahead.

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