FAWSL 2021/2022: Chelsea’s 3-4-3 and their effective attacking plans vs Everton’s defensive and playmaking issues – tactical analysis
After losing 3-2 against Arsenal, Chelsea Women were able to bounce back by beating Everton Women with a 4-0 win at Kingsmeadow in their second FAWSL fixture. Brighton, Manchester United, Arsenal and Tottenham all share the lead at the top of the standings, and teams like Chelsea and Manchester City will have to be more consistent in terms of results and avoid giving away points if they want to challenge seriously for the title.
In this tactical analysis article, the focus will be on identifying Everton’s issues that led to their second consecutive heavy loss following the similar 4-0 defeat against Manchester City in the first fixture while suggesting tactical ideas for the adequate use of their new players to get the best of their abilities. Then, the analysis will also include Chelsea goals, attacking performance and the extent of efficiency of their 3-4-3 formation.
Chelsea started the game using the 3-4-3 formation with Ann-Katrin Berger as a goalkeeper, Millie Bright, Jessica Carter and Magdalena Eriksson in defence, Erin Cuthbert, Sophie Ingle, Ji So-yun and Guro Reiten in midfield while the front three are Pernille Harder on the left wing, Fran Kirby as a right-winger and Sam Kerr as a striker.
Everton lined-up according to the 5-3-2 formation with Alexandra Elena MacIver as a goalkeeper, Nicoline Sørensen and Danielle Turner as full-backs, Nathalie Björn, Megan Finnigan and Gabrielle George in defence, Hanna Bennison, Izzy Christiansen, Aurora Galli and Claire Emslie in midfield and Anna Anvegård as the team’s striker.
Chelsea’s 3-4-3 and their attacking performance
Chelsea started the match in the best possible way by pressing high on Everton’s players and attacking the final third continuously either by crossing from the wings or trying to penetrate thanks to the efforts of one of Kirby, Harder and Cuthbert. In fact, Chelsea did their best to intercept the ball at the start of Everton’s build-up phase before they even reach midfield.
This happened numerous times in the match, and it helped Chelsea a lot in playing without too much defensive efforts or off-the-ball runs. At the same time, Chelsea’s back-three were usually quick in passing the ball to midfield players to avoid Everton’s pressing attempts and oblige them to be always at their own half. This made Everton’s players tired from defending against the consecutive attacks as Chelsea didn’t allow them to attack so often. However, this didn’t continue and Chelsea’s passing in Everton’s half was not as accurate as at the first minutes of the game.
Chelsea faced some difficulties in the first-half due to their inability to threaten Everton’s goal as they looked a bit in a hurry when attacking and lacked concentration. But as the time went on, Chelsea were able to get their first goal thanks to a great effort from Kirby who got away from her marker with one touch and then shot the ball towards the far post. What was remarkable in this action though is Chelsea’s quick passing in midfield until reaching the penalty box, something that wasn’t executed accurately in the previous attacking actions of this match.
Following the first goal, Chelsea continued their pressing to oblige Everton into committing mistakes in their own half. Ingle and Ji’s role in intercepting passes was also fundamental for their team as they ensured that they serve their attacking teammates quickly to give them the chance to be in a numerical superiority.
This happened repeatedly and in this following chance for instance, Ingle was the one who started the action after intercepting a pass in Everton’s own half and serving Kirby who was acting like an advanced playmaker. Then, Harder was intelligent enough to continue running on the left side to ensure that one or two defenders follow her while Kirby passed to Kerr who was better positioned inside the box. The only problem however was that Kerr’s finishing wasn’t good in this action.
Everton’s defensive mistakes helped Chelsea even further in this game as Kerr was able to intercept a wrong pass from Finnigan to her goalkeeper and score the second goal of the match, making Chelsea less stressed about the result and allowing the players to play without too much worry. The 3-4-3 formation also helped them keep the balance between attack and defence as the three defensive players were excellent in terms of defensive duels as well as in clearances.
At the same time, Cuthbert and Reiten had a double mission to achieve by helping in playmaking in the final third and retreating to defend against Everton’s wingers when needed. Both played succeeded in their mission as Reiten was the source of the third and the fourth goals while Cuthbert provided many crosses and contributed in scoring the fourth goal with a powerful shot. Reiten’s crosses in particular were decisive as one of these assists was scored thanks to Kerr’s header and the other was exploited by Cuthbert, as you can see in these pictures.
Everton’s attacking and playmaking issues
Everton struggled a lot in this match mainly due to the lack of chemistry between some players and especially the lack of ideas in the final third. In fact, the use of Bennison’s as almost a right winger doesn’t seem fruitful as the player plays naturally as a defensive or a central midfielder. Plus, Anvegård was deprived of the ball and isolated for most parts of the match since both wingers were distant from her and both Galli and Christiansen are not advanced playmakers who can penetrate, dribble or provide final passes. They are rather players who can control the build-up, serve the wingers or the attacking players and shoot from distance. Therefore, Everton’s formation and use of players lacks attacking depth and especially a player who can advance to help the attacking players.
For instance, it would have been better from an attacking perspective to use Bennison as an advanced midfielder with Emslie and Sørensen as wingers in a 4-2-3-1 formation. However, we can’t blame Willie Kirk a lot since he is still discovering his new players and the best way to employ them in the team while improving the overall performance. He opted for a more defensive formation against Chelsea after using the 4-1-4-1 formation against Manchester City but that also didn’t help as the team didn’t find the necessary tools to make a reaction following Chelsea’s goals.
Also, Everton didn’t exploit the period during which Chelsea lacked passing accuracy and were not able to attack well or create danger. The blues tried to circulate the ball and create something, but it was clear that the players are not yet used to playing with each other as there were no specific attacking ideas to apply.
Emslie had a good opportunity in that period but failed to give a through pass to her teammate or attempt at beating her direct opponent and shoot. Emslie however tried to dribble while returning backwards but didn’t pay attention to Chelsea’s midfielder who was running towards her to steal the ball, missing a very important chance that could have allowed Everton to play with more determination and courage in the rest of the match.
The team’s inability to create concrete chances even when they were losing 3-0 and 4-0 is what makes the situation even more worrying despite having one of the best squad depths in the league this season. Chelsea’s attacking efficiency obliged Everton to defend with nine and ten players most of the time and have only few opportunities for attacks. In reality, Everton were not even able to launch quick counters as Chelsea were attentive enough to not leave a lot of space behind the back-three and retreat quickly as soon as they lose the ball. Moreover, their attacking players’ counter-pressing often made sure that Everton don’t have the desired ball possession (42% for Everton).
Chelsea bounced back with a great win in this fixture and showed an impressive attacking performance while knowing how to defend and keep the team’s balance with the correct use of the 3-4-3 formation. This could be the real start of the season for Chelsea as they can consider this match as a reference for their future performances and try to keep the same level and why not do even better. The team will have to make some rotations too as they will have to play in UWCL group stage too which will require a lot of extra efforts and sacrifices from the players. Emma Hayes however is now used to dealing with these situations and will most probably succeed in qualifying to the next UWCL round while continuing in winning games in FAWSL.
On the other hand, Everton will have to fix their numerous issues quickly before they lose other fundamental points as the situation is becoming worser than everyone expected prior to the start of the season. Using the players in their natural positions while employing an adequate formation will quickly improve the team’s situation as it will enable them to start winning. Also, player roles should be well-explained and repeated in training to make the players grasp what they have to do on the pitch, otherwise, they will feel confused in the match.