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Chelsea 3-0 Bournemouth, Premier League: Tactical Analysis

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Chelsea continue their winning run without Costa and Kante

Chelsea with the ball

Bournemouth pressed high but Chelsea were regularly able to work the ball out and play forward passes. While they weren’t always successful in holding up or getting to the ball in forward areas, they were able to do so more consistently than Bournemouth were able to when they had the ball.

Chelsea found ways past Bournemouth’s high press in a few ways. In the following situation they did it through both playing through pressure and an error in Bournemouth’s pressing.

Usually Surman would remain in his defensive midfield position during higher pressing, while Wilshere would pickup the central midfielder on the side of the ball. Since Wilshere was in a higher position on the right in this instance, he moved back to cover Matic, while Gosling shifted across to pressure Cesc.

With Cesc finding the pass out to Moses, Willian moved towards the ball to draw Daniels away from the backline.

The ball was then immediately played forward to the last line, creating a 2v2. Although Chelsea were unable to hold the ball in this situation, they created a good opportunity to create a chance.

This situation is useful even if Chelsea don’t win the ball, as it leaves the team in good defensive positioning. The front three can immediately press the ball if Bournemouth’s backline has the ball, the wing-backs are behind the ball and covering Bournemouth’s wing-backs, the central midfielders are deep and the backline can quickly narrow to control central areas.

When Chelsea did win the ball, they could create a chance or draw a foul.

When Bournemouth were looking to press from their closed block from midfield, Chelsea were able to make use of the overload (5v4) against Bournemouth’s pressing to find the spare man. Bournemouth would use Arter and Gosling to move up to pressure Chelsea’s wide central defenders, while King would cover Luiz and Wilshere the central midfielder on the side of the ball.

Due to the distances they needed to cover to get around the ball (moving up), they were unable to consistently have sufficient cover of options and, as a result, opened up their defensive block. Chelsea’s central midfielders were often the benefactors, where they would often find themselves free to receive the ball inside, from the wide central defender, before having spaces to pass the ball forward to the front line.

Upon receiving the ball the Chelsea front line were able to demonstrate their individual talent on the ball—where they could hold the ball, dribble past the line of pressure and combine quickly.

Hazard was especially prominent in these situations, where he showed one of the reasons why he was chosen as the striker to replace Costa. One of the crucial parts of Costa’s game, to allow Chelsea to have good possession when they play forward passes, has been his ability to hold the ball before dribbling past the line of pressure from the opponent. Hazard was able to both do this and dribble past multiple opponents when he received the ball outside of Bournemouth’s block.

The final way Chelsea were able to reach the last line was through quick long passes behind the Bournemouth backline. From the kick off Luiz immediately played a long ball behind Bournemouth’s backline for Pedro; any time the central midfielders, or Luiz, were free on the ball in midfield they could play long; and Cesc played quick and long free kicks from midfield. This is another area where Costa can be quite influential but Hazard did not replicate these movements (only Pedro did).

Bournemouth problems with the ball

While Chelsea were able to make use of the talent of their attacking players with the ball, Bournemouth had problems in both finding passes inside Chelsea’s block and being able to continue progressing with the ball after a forward pass.

When Bournemouth played short from goal kicks, Chelsea applied high pressure.

Chelsea were able to push them back into the corner, while also preventing forward options.

When Chelsea held the ball under pressure (as discussed at the beginning of this analysis), they had good options numerically on the last line. Bournemouth had fewer options on the last line and more spare players, but they were unable to reach the spare players (e.g. switch the ball to the right) due to the direction of Chelsea’s pressing. The situation below, for example, resulted in a Chelsea throw.

Where Bournemouth tried to be more aggressive, push the midfield higher and open their defensive block, Chelsea were more patient and waited for the right moments to press high—keeping their own block compact and closed. This was a key reason as to why Bournemouth were unable to play the ball into higher areas and maintain it.

Chelsea would allow Bournemouth’s back three to have the ball. Hazard could block Surman making forward passes through his positioning, while Arter and Gosling could receive the ball in deep areas without pressure. From here the forward options were blocked, where Luiz was close to King, the wing-backs covered and if Wilshere found space between the lines he was covered by one of the wingers narrowing or one of the wide central defenders moving up.

When the passes were played forward, there was often no support around the ball to play a short lay-off. Anytime the ball was played to King’s feet with back to goal, Luiz was too aggressive for him and took the ball from him, and while Adam Smith did try to move the ball past pressure when receiving with back to play, he was either let down by the weight on his touch or dribbled into more pressure and lost the ball.

A couple of situations where Bournemouth were able to create a good chance with their possession was mostly from finding Wilshere between the lines. In this next situation Cook used his body shape well to show for a pass to Francis, before playing the ball on the inside. Wilshere was able to hold the ball before finding Arter, who played a first-time pass behind the defence. Luiz moved out to cover the wide areas often in these situations, usually on the right, while Cahill or Azpilicueta remained higher up to mark one of the options between lines.

Another situation where Bournemouth found Wilshere between lines was during poor reorganisation by Chelsea, after they created a good situation through pressing to force Bournemouth back.

After the ball was forced back, Chelsea tried to moved the block up but didn’t cover the options upon the pass to Surman—leaving him free to make a forward pass into open space.

Changes

Bournemouth’s initial changes in the second half moved Wilshere deeper, from where he was able to play a few passes behind the Chelsea defence—most noticeably the pass to Afobe for the 1v1. Stanislas was more active as the highest central midfielder, moving to collect the ball between lines, while they opened their team up more to try to create with the ball—the wide central defenders moving out to play as fullbacks and leaving Cook 1v1 against Hazard centrally. They had their best possession during these moments, although the increased open shape allowed for more Chelsea counters, where Willian as able to expertly dribble past multiple opponents on various occasions.

Their final change, bringing Ibe on to switch to a 4231 (Wilshere back up as the attacking midfielder) made them weaker both with and without the ball. Their pressing was no longer clear (while the change was clearly made with offensive intentions, so not a priority based on the decision) while Chelsea’s wing-backs were now finding more spaces and creating a 5v4 against Bournemouth’s backline—such as for the miss by Moses. With the ball Bournemouth still had the same problems as in the first half when playing forward passes centrally, while Chelsea could easily cover the wide areas against the wingers and fullbacks—as well as have numerical superiority for any cross.

Conclusion

Chelsea’s individual talent advantage made the difference for the most part. A lack of forward options meant that most of Bournemouth’s possession was defensive and led to dangerous Chelsea counters, while their pressing would often do more harm (open up their block) than good (cause Chelsea problems on the ball).