Chelsea FC continued their savage streak, following their loss against Leicester City, by beating Crystal Palace with a clean sheet. Thanks to Sarri’s tactically flexible approach – and of course NGolo Kante‘s cognizance of the key situations, which accommodated the offensive dynamics of Chelsea against Crystal Palace and turned the game in the favour of his team, as explained in the tactical analysis below.
The home team played with a low block defence using centrally concentrated 4-5-1 formation against Chelsea’s 4-3-3 vertical tiki-taka. Palace’s low block set up was in fact found distracting amidst a tactically dynamic offensive gameplan of Sarri men. This combination of formation plus Chelsea’s tactically dynamic offensive plan put three more points in Sarri’s pockets. The following picture shows the tactical formation used by each team in the fixture.
Chelsea contracted the play to expand the attack
Sarri men executed their play by contracting the passing combinations in the deep central planes of the outfield right from the build-up from the first line. This concentrated the opponent defenders in the respective region allowing Chelsea to eventually expand the play when going up to the open flanks in the final third of the pitch. This contracting of play approach to eventually expand the attack made full use of the fullbacks to penetrate into Chelsea’s final third frequently. Azpilicueta and Alonso made their maximum contributions respectively in running up the open flanks in line with the ball played by their teammates. Similarly, Luiz, Jorginho, Barkley, and Chelsea’s frontline offered their passing talent to keep the play within the central planes.
The match-shot below explains how Chelsea is contracting the passing play by directing it towards Jorginho and Barkley as the deep midfielders and then to the frontline. The passing play ended up with a winger (Hazard here) stepped out to expand the play.
Here again, Jorginho played a through pass to Giroud who then passed to Hazard. The latter then expanded the passing play towards the respective flank to have the ball picked by Alonso.
In the match-shot below, Chelsea’s front line is closed down to make space for Azpilicueta at the width.
This approach was adopted by Chelsea almost throughout the game. The away team enjoyed 86 per cent of the accuracy of passes into the final third by playing this approach. The last time they attained higher accuracy rate of the final third passes in the Premier League was in Chelsea’s home leg fixture against Crystal Palace.
One key spillover effect of Chelsea’s strategy is having enough room for the midfielder N’Golo Kanté to ensure his offensive presence frequently into the goal area. In the match-shots below, Kante can be seen going into the advanced regions while Willian moving back. These movements created multiple tactical opportunities for their teammates, one of which led to Kante’s goal following a brilliant run in the open region.
Luiz’s midfield bypassing build-up tactic
Since Palace played with a low block defence, this freed up not only Jorginho in key occasions but also enabled Luiz to drop into the offensive half of the pitch and distribute the play from there thus bypassing the midfield. This enhanced the probability of Luiz’s long ball being retained by Chelsea. Luiz has already been famous for his distribution skills and building up from the first line. Now with him empowered enough to get past the half line and connect with his teammates, Chelsea got equipped with an additional pass-maker who can get his teammates bypassing the opponents in the midfield.
Throughout the game, Luiz’s passing game was dominant in distribution and playmaking and became critical when Jorginho was too blocked to play his action. As mentioned earlier, it was Luiz midfield bypassing assist which led to Kante’s goal.
Palace’s poor passing structure
It was not just Chelsea’s tactically clever approach to exploit the widths of the final third of the pitch but also the home team’s poor passing structure which couldn’t let Chelsea’s opponents execute a successful passing play. This resulted in incoherent passing coordination of the home team players.
The picture below illustrates how isolated Palace’s players were when on the ball which restricted their passing options. On the contrary, Chelsea, displayed strongly coherent passing structures to ensure their possession and distribution game.
The conversion rate of Palace’s passing plays into the attacks was also very low. The home team couldn’t hit even a single shot on target and played only two shots off target.
Be it Chelsea’s dynamic passing game, Luiz’s penetration and distribution in advanced regions, or Crystal Palace’s distracting low block defence, Chelsea are through past their twentieth league game with 65 per cent win record. However, the record seems too unimpressive for a team which is under the supervision of the manager like Maurizio Sarri. The lack of technical elements especially playmaking talent amidst unsuccessful overdependence on Jorginho will continue to make Chelsea predictable. All eyes are now on Sarri’s next tactical dynamics ahead.
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