Chelsea came into this match with a fantastic opportunity to move into sole possession of third place in the table with Tottenham, Arsenal, and Manchester United all dropping points at the weekend. The opportunity was squandered as a dominant attacking performance was undone through poor defending on set pieces. Set piece goals from Burnley’s Jeff Hendrick and Ashley Barnes negated the enormous Chelsea advantage in the run of play.
The possession advantage for the match was 74% to 26% in favour of Chelsea while the xG numbers from wyscout.com ended with 2.17 for the Londoners and 0.58 for Burnley. Using tactical analysis and statistics we will look at how Chelsea broke down Burnley’s two blocks of four and how Burnley succeeded on their two set-piece opportunities.
The home team, Chelsea, came out in a 4-3-3 formation. Kepa Arrizabalaga was in goal, with Emerson Palmieri, David Luiz, Andreas Christensen and captain César Azpilicueta in the backline. Jorginho anchored the midfield with Ruben Loftus-Cheek and N’Golo Kanté. Eden Hazard, Gonzalo Higuaín, and Callum Hudson-Odoi made up the front line.
Burnley countered with a 4-4-2 formation, naming Ashley Barnes and Chris Wood up top. A midfield block of four consisted of Jeff Hendrick, Ashley Westwood, Jack Cork and Dwight McNeil. The four-man defence was Matthew Lowton, James Tarkowski, Ben Mee and Charlie Taylor. The captain Tom Heaton played in goal.
Burnley set pieces
Wyscout.com had Burnley with four shots for the match and an xG of 0.58. They scored from a corner kick that was a 0.04 xG chance and a free kick that was a 0.54 xG chance. Their other two shots registered less than 0.01 xG. The only chances that registered xG were the two set-piece goals. Burnley were thoroughly dominated by Chelsea in every area except set pieces and the scoreline.
Jeff Hendrick goal off a corner kick
The setup for the goal by Hendrick saw Burnley commit five players around the six yard area with three players at the top of the box. Chelsea countered this by putting 10 players around the six yard box and Hazard wide to take away any short options.
The ball is served to the back post where Azpilicueta fails to clear it beyond the box. The weak clearance spells disaster for Chelsea based on their setup. They are positioned to handle the first ball in but are vulnerable at the top of the box.
Azpilicueta’s clearance puts the ball directly on Hendrick’s right foot. Chelsea have no time to step to the ball as Hendrick puts the volley into the back of the net. The chance was equivalent to just 0.04 xG. Based on the setup by Chelsea, the responsibility for the two free Burnley players looks to fall on Kanté. He is late closing them down.
Ashley Barnes goal
The setup for the goal by Ashley Barnes was a free kick where Chelsea committed eight players just above the box to deal with a ball played in. Ashley Barnes positions himself in an offside position to free himself for a second ball.
A good ball is served towards the far post for Ben Mee to head back across the box. A group of four Chelsea players are all ball watching. Luiz, Hudson-Odoi, Palmieri and Jorginho all get caught in no man’s land leaving Chris Wood, #11, unmarked in the middle.
Wood flicks the ball to the back post where Barnes finds himself all alone due to the synchronised falling down of Jorginho, Hudson-Odoi and Palmieri. The result is a 0.54 xG chance that Barnes buries into the net.
The dominant Chelsea attack faced a difficult challenge of breaking down the two blocks of four. Down the left side, they used the brilliance of Hazard and short passing to open up play. Down the right side, it was all about getting between the lines and dragging Burnley left-back Charlie Taylor out of position.
Charlie Taylor getting pulled high
From the kickoff, Chelsea worked the right side getting between the two blocks of four and dragging Charlie Taylor out of position.
Here we see Christensen on the ball looking to pass down the right side. Burnley have a nice tight midfield block of four. The problem arises as Hudson-Odoi checks into midfield and Taylor steps with the Chelsea attacker instead of passing him off to the midfield block.
Taylor chases Hudson-Odoi past his own midfield block. This allows Azpilicueta to release into the space vacated by Taylor. A simple drop pass to Jorginho and ball into the channel breaks the Burnley defence.
The result of Taylor getting dragged out of shape is the ball in the channel with eight Burnley defenders facing their own goal. This is a bad situation for the defence with Higuaín, Loftus-Cheek, and Hazard all lurking in the blind spot of a defender.
Charlie Taylor getting isolated wide
The Burnley left-back is also caught dragged wide out of shape. Below, Jorginho is on the ball between the lines and Taylor is out wide and not compact with the rest of the defence. A large gap in the back line is available for Chelsea to exploit.
Jorginho, Higuaín, and Azpilicueta create a great triangle picture to exploit the gap in the Burnley defence.
The result of the play is a cracking goal by Higuaín off some tidy combination play in the box. Chelsea take advantage of the back four being pulled out of shape.
Higher up the field, Chelsea create another great opportunity through exploiting the positioning of Taylor. Luiz is on the ball with zero pressure. Taylor is caught wide and Kanté exploits the gap in the back line with a run off the back of the Burnley midfielder.
Luiz plays the ball into Kanté’s run. Kanté receives the ball and lays it off to Higuaín for an opportunity at the top of the box.
Burnley’s Tarkowski makes a goal-saving block from Higuaín’s shot, nullifying the great build-up.
Chelsea had complete dominance of play through consistently pulling Burnley out of shape. Hazard dominated the left side of the attack in his typical fashion. Chelsea really shone in attack by being balanced, and also exploiting the right side of the pitch. They converted their 74% possession into 21 shots. It was not pointless possession, but instead produced an xG of 2.17.
This was a definite missed opportunity by Chelsea to take hold of third place. Burnley took advantage of Chelsea’s poor set-piece defending to share the points. Burnley take this much-needed point to go nine points clear of relegation with three tough games remaining in Manchester City, Everton and Arsenal.
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