Chelsea with the ball
Key aspects of Chelsea’s possession in this game were: holding possession deep to invite pressure before playing forward, creating situations for Willian and Cesc to have the ball facing play, the advancement of the wing-backs to overload Peterborough’s backline, and the speed of their counter attacks.
In this first situation, Cesc initially received the ball from Begovic side on, with pressure, before playing it out to Cahill. The ball was then circulated between Pedro, Loftus-Cheek, Terry and Zouma to break pressure, before returning the ball to Cesc—now out of pressure and facing play. From there he could play forward to the last line, propelling Chelsea into attack against stretched lines.
Later in the half (and throughout the rest of the game), Willian became influential and began making his inside movements with and without the ball. In the following situation, he dribbled inside before playing a pass behind to set up a shot for Batshuayi. The crucial aspect of these situations was that Willian was able to immediately have the ball running at the backline after beating Hughes on the inside.
Here Peterborough had the central midfielders higher during pressing, which opened more space centrally for Willian to play a combination with Batshuayi before finding a pass behind to Loftus-Cheek, making a diagonal run behind Bostwick.
From a similar situation a few minutes later, Willian elected to use Loftus-Cheek as a runner, making the pass to Pedro instead. Chelsea pushed both wing-backs up to create the overload on the visitors’ backline.
When Peterborough tried to press high, Chelsea were frequently able to maintain the ball before circulating it. For example, in the next image, Begović finds Zouma who then plays a 1-2 with Cesc, which draws Forrester forward and opens space for Zouma to progress with the ball and create another good attacking situation.
Where Chelsea had problems with deep possession was when the passes from Terry or Begović were behind the wide central defenders or when the weight of the pass was slow—both situations inviting pressure from the opposition.
After breaking the press, Chelsea often found Batshuayi, who could receive with back to goal and hold off the defender before making layoffs or switching the ball wide, as well as making runs behind the defence. For example, in the following case, Chelsea have drawn Peterborough high to pressure the ball and open up their block, before Zouma finds the pass through to Batshuayi. Willian makes a curved run inside to receive the layoff—his his pass outside to Pedro was blocked this time, but Chelsea’s wing-backs were causeing problems time and time again for Peterborough’s backline by simply outnumbering their defensive cover.
At the start of the second half Peterborough continued their high pressing, while Chelsea found additional ways of breaking through it. On this occasion Zouma did well to maintain the ball under pressure, before using his strength and speed to move pass Maddison. Willian’s movement towards the ball takes Tafazolli out of the picture while Hughes has already pushed high to mark Ivanovic—leaving a 2v2 on the backline, large spaces to attack either side, and Pedro breaking from deep on the far side.
Chelsea created good opportunities nor only during these moments but throughout, the match, as they were consistently able to attack Peterborough's exposed backline at speed—such as the 4v2 for Batshuayi’s goal with Loftus-Cheek powerfully carrying the ball forward centrally, and the buildup for Willian’s goal.
Additionally, the overloads at the back were key for both allowing Chelsea to maintain the ball under pressure, as well as recovering the ball quickly to launch another attack.
Peterborough with the ball
With the ball Peterborough caused the most problems with their long play to the last line. Early on they played a diagonal from the wing to Chelsea’s backline (12:33), where the front two were able to cause problems by winning the second ball—Cahill recovered to clear the ball for a corner. More frequently, when Peterborough were able to hold the ball in a wide area (after a long goal kick to the left or a diagonal from the central midfielders) they could play the ball back to Forrester centrally, where he could play long passes behind Chelsea’s defence—a switch to Smith going behind on the right, or a vertical pass over the top for the strikers going behind centrally.
When Peterborough had possession in midfield, they opened their team up, which hurt them when they lost the ball. They weren’t in positions to cover Chelsea’s players, couldn’t match the speed of their counters, and, for Pedro’s first goal, they had 6 players ahead of the ball when they lost it—after the first past took Forrester out of the game—gifting Chelsea a 4v3. Slow recovery from the rest of the team, along with Cesc and Chalobah taking up positions on the edge of the box for second balls (throughout the game) meant that even if they did slow down the initial attack the danger wasn’t over.
Even after their wingers switched flanks, but maintained the same roles. Maddison would leave his wing to move inside and support the front two (in positions to receive pullback crosses), while Edwards would carry the ball up the wings quickly, cross the ball into the box and join the box for crosses.
In the following situation they manage to find Maddison after a throw-in, where he’s able to put in a quality cross to the far post. (ed. note: that play sure seems familiar from Wednesday’s loss to Spurs...). Similar to their goal in the second half, they had three players in the box (Samuelsen in place of Edwards later) to compete for the ball.
Long passes behind Pedro to Smith in order to create the cross was another aspect prominent throughout the game for The Posh.
But they had a lot of problems with Chelsea’s pressure on the ball throughout the match, especially with Chelsea pushing up in wide areas and outnumbering them with intensity. In particular, ‘Boro’s short play from the back was easily pressed and Chelsea took advantage even of quick throws out from McGee.
Peterborough’s attempts of high pressing, as well as their lack of numerical cover at the back allowed Chelsea to consistently open their block, overload their exposed backline, and create situations for both Willian and Cesc have the ball facing play in dangerous positions.