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FAWSL 2022/23 : Chelsea vs Manchester City - tactical analysis tactics

WSL 2022/23 : How Chelsea exploited Manchester City’s finishing issues – tactical analysis

Chelsea Women hosted Manchester City Women for the second fixture of the 2022/23 WSL season and the game ended with an important Chelsea win which would give a psychological boost to the team in order to continue in their positive run of form just like in the previous one.

Chelsea are actually very difficult to beat in the WSL because they not only won numerous league titles in a row but also because they have managed to get a certain amount of experience that allows them to know how to earn the three points even when they don’t manage to play well. And that’s exactly what happened in this clash between the Blues and the Cityzens.

Chelsea didn’t really dominate this match but they were rather the ones who conceded the bigger number of shots and attacks. Nevertheless, they were decisive enough when they got the opportunity to threaten Manchester City’s goal, and that’s mostly what helped them take the three points.

Finishing and shooting accuracy are what lacked Manchester City in this match as they were able to threaten Chelsea’s goal on numerous occasions but all of their attempts were missed either thanks to Ann-Katrin Berger’s saves or due to poor finishing. This means that Manchester City were able to attack, create chances and reach the box despite playing at Kingsmeadow, but they were unable to score.

The team didn’t start the season in a positive way as they lost two games in a row, against Aston Villa and Chelsea. Therefore, Manchester City should make a reaction in their upcoming game against Leicester City in order to make up for the missed points at the start of this season. A lot of work on finishing and concentration in front of goal is required so as to score more goals per match and exploit the created chances in the needed way, knowing that the team doesn’t lack quality players in almost all positions.

In this tactical analysis article, we will be exploring the reasons that led to Manchester City’s second loss of the season while shedding some light on Chelsea’s attacking tactics and identifying their weaknesses.


But before delving into the analysis, let’s have an idea of how both teams were lined-up during this match. Emma Hayes, Chelsea’s head coach Emma Hayes preferred to start using the 4-2-3-1 formation with Ann-Katrin Berger as a goalkeeper, Maren Mjelde, Millie Bright, Kadeisha Buchanan and Magdalena Eriksson in defence, Jessie Fleming and Erin Cuthbert as central midfielders, Guro Reiten and former Manchester United’s Lauren James as a winger, Fran Kirby as an advanced playmaker and Sam Kerr as the team’s striker.

On the other side, Manchester City opted for the 4-3-3 formation in this match with Ellie Roebuck as a goalkeeper, Kerstin Casparij, Steph Houghton, Alex Greenwood and Leila Ouahabi in defence, Laura Coombs, Deyna Castellanos and Laia Aleixandri as central midfielders, Chloe Kelly and Lauren Hemp on the wings while Khadija Shaw was the team’s forward.

FAWSL 2022/23 : Chelsea vs Manchester City - tactical analysis tactics

Chelsea’s performance

Chelsea match performance was not a very convincing one as the team conceded too many chances and risked conceding a number of goals if not for Berger’s saves. It is true that the Blues were superior in terms of possession with 59,27% against 40,76% yet this didn’t mean that Chelsea were secure.

On the contrary, they will need to be much more compact and allow fewer penetrations to happen inside their own final third and penalty area. Manchester City looked more aggressive on the ball and in duels and that’s what helped them disturb Chelsea a lot.

Early in the game, Chelsea could have conceded a Manchester City goal by Kelly as this picture shows. She found herself in an excellent goalscoring situation but failed to finish the action well. Chelsea defenders should defend better in such situations and not let a dangerous player like Kelly touch the ball with ease inside the box.

FAWSL 2022/23 : Chelsea vs Manchester City - tactical analysis tactics

Kirby was one of Chelsea’s key players in this match as she was able to help a lot in transitions using her pace and dribbling skills whenever she had the ball. She also scored Chelsea’s first goal and was dynamic throughout the game. Such a player will be much needed, especially in the UEFA Women’s Champions League and the team will be hoping to find her in form throughout this season. Here is a heatmap that proves how dynamic Kirby has been at the start of this season as she covers almost all pitch positions.

FAWSL 2022/23 : Chelsea vs Manchester City - tactical analysis tactics

Nevertheless, both Kirby and Kerr missed a big opportunity in the 11th minute, following a passing mistake from Houghton. Kerr was attentive enough to intercept the pass and find herself in a one-on-one situation with the goalkeeper who went out of her goal in order to confuse Kerr. They later decided to pass to Kirby who looked in a better situation but Kirby was surprised by the pass and wasn’t able to deal with it in the necessary way. She shot it with her weaker foot and the ball was cleared by Aleixandri.

Chelsea should have exploited this chance better and Kerr could have finished the action in a more efficient way either by dribbling past the goalkeeper and scoring or by shooting from distance since she had the time to do so.

FAWSL 2022/23 : Chelsea vs Manchester City - tactical analysis tactics

After conceding numerous Manchester City chances, Chelsea were able to surprise their opponent with a goal in the last minutes of the first-half thanks to a great effort from Fleming who advanced on the left-wing and dribbled past a defender before Reiten continued the action and provided an assist to Kirby who was well positioned to shoot. Kirby finished the inviting action with success using her weaker foot once again but this time the ball went inside the net.

FAWSL 2022/23 : Chelsea vs Manchester City - tactical analysis tactics

Manchester City’s reaction

Manchester City were very close to scoring in the first half and also in the second half as they had numerous occasions and shot 14 times on goal. But the problem is that out of those 14 shots, only 5 of them were on target.

The team doesn’t have problems neither in chance creation nor in key passes or final passes, the only aspect that didn’t serve them in this game was finishing. Here is a clear example that shows how close Manchester City were to scoring their first goal. After receiving an accurate cross inside the box, Coombs found herself unmarked near the far post and decided to shoot the ball towards the far post as well. But despite being so close to the goal, Berger was still able to save it because Coombs’ shot wasn’t very angled.

FAWSL 2022/23 : Chelsea vs Manchester City - tactical analysis tactics

Yet, it should be said that Coombs’ penetrations inside the box were key and the player was very dynamic in this match and provided passing solutions continuously in attack. Manchester City looked less fluid and failed to be as dangerous as in the rest of the match after conceding a penalty to Cuthbert who was intelligent enough in that action.

Shaw was a key player for the Cityzens as well and did her best to use the passes she gets in the required way but couldn’t score. Moreover, both wingers Kelly and Hemp could have done more to score or provide assists as they have the talent and the experience needed to leave a concrete impact on such big games.


Chelsea won the match thanks to their realism in attack and most importantly thanks to the experience of their players in winning such games. They exploited the chances they got in the best possible way even though they could have done better in some opportunities. Chelsea are actually on the right track to have a successful season if they keep up their solid performances and keep winning points.

On the other side, Gareth Taylor should focus on fixing the team’s finishing issues as soon as possible in order to recover and start winning points to be able to challenge for the second or the top spot before it becomes too late. It is true that such a start could be demoralising for the players but they shouldn’t look back at these past results and focus only on what’s coming next in order to be 100% motivated to win. The team has got what it takes to win a lot of games in WSL and challenge for the top spots and there’s no obvious reason for that to not happen this season.