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Chelsea 2-0 Hull City, Premier League: Tactical Analysis

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Get well soon, Ryan Mason

Chelsea with the ball

Chelsea found some problems with holding the ball and breaking Hull’s backline in this game. While being matched numerically along the backline (5v5 with the wing-backs up), the pressure on the first pass to feet on the last line was controlled well by Hull. Hull’s numbers in deep areas and strength in the air to clear crosses was another area where Chelsea struggled.

On Chelsea’s left Maguire was very dominant. He was quick to press the first touch, using his body strength to put the Chelsea forwards, usually Hazard, under physical pressure, while also getting his foot on the ball.

Not only were Hull able to cause problems when pressing the ball high on the left, Hazard also found problems when receiving the ball between the lines in higher areas. Unable to hold the ball from the pressure, he tried to play quick combinations with Costa, but Hull were able to cluster around the pass to Costa and prevent the return pass to Hazard.

When Hazard received the ball on the outside of the left he was often double marked and forced down the line. Similarly on the right, Moses found himself in some situations after switches where he was 1v2 or 1v3 on the right.

To find a new solution, Hazard began moving deeper to receive the ball facing play from midfield, before playing forward passes and combinations, while also moving more freely in the final third—in both cases, he was mostly moving over to the right of the field.

On a couple of occasions in the first half, he received the ball centrally and out of pressure (as in the next image) usually after Chelsea regained the second ball from one of Hull’s long balls—Chelsea were able to recover most loose/bouncing/2nd balls throughout. While this allowed advancement of the ball into higher areas, Chelsea were unable to create many situations where they were able to break Hull’s backline after the first pass to feet—Hull’s numerical advantage providing cover.

When Hazard moved to the right he was able to dribble past the pressure from Davies with more consistency, to get between the lines with the ball and facing play. On another occasion he received the ball from Azpilicueta out of pressure (Davies not close enough) and played the ball behind for Costa—where he was called offside.

Davies not being able to move forward to follow his man was something Pedro was also able to make use of. The following situation is another result of Hull having the ball deep in their half, playing long, Chelsea winning the ball and the Hull backline unable to move up to get tight to the first forward pass. Kante is able to receive the ball out of pressure before playing to Hazard—where he is able to hold the ball under pressure and dribble forward. The rest of the team followed Hazard’s movement forward with the ball, allowing Chelsea to keep Hull pinned inside their own box for a sustained period of time, with many crosses and corners into the box.

A good situation Chelsea were able to create before the goal was a cross for Kante joining the box. Pedro initially received the ball under pressure from Maguire and lost control, before receiving it again quickly—this time out of immediate pressure—before holding the ball to draw the Hull defenders around him (as well as Costa’s run behind drawing Dawson and Davies) to create the space on the outside for Alonso to cross and the disorganisation inside the box to leave the front post free for Kante.

While this was one of very few occasions where Chelsea were able to create a good chance against Hull’s deep block, they found a few other ways to create, too, such as the long ball from kick off—Costa free between lines for second ball before the shot—as well as consistently dangerous counter attacks from defensive set pieces in their own half. These either resulted in an error to prevent the continuation of the counter or a foul from Hull to stop the attack—one of which led to the free kick for Chelsea’s second goal.

Hull with the ball

When Hull played long from goal kicks, they moved up to have their back five around the halfway line and on the left side of the pitch, to be around the target of the long ball. The central midfielders sat ahead of them, behind the line of the long ball, while Henandez, the target, was moving away from the last line (followed by Luiz). Evandro and Clucas were narrow and running behind Hernandez for the second ball—Chelsea had the wing-back deep to provide support for the second ball, along with Cahill and Azpilicueta dropping early to prevent any space behind them being exposed.

When Hull played long from the back, after short possession or after being forced to play long, they could also play to Clucas on the left, moving diagonally on the inside, but again Chelsea were able to control the second ball the majority of the time.

During moments when Hull won the ball from Chelsea in deep areas, they were pressed immediately, but did well to maintain the ball on various occasions with short passes. Although they maintained the ball in their own half—while Chelsea dropped to set up for another press—they, like Chelsea, found problems with the pressure on passes to the last line.

In the following situation Hull try to play short, but Kante switches from tracking Mason to recovering ball. On other occasions, Azpilicueta (or in this case Luiz thanks to a temporary switch) would take the ball from Clucas instead.

Where Hull were able to find some success was Maguire joining play in higher areas, usually after Chelsea’s midfield was drawn to Hull’s left. He would receive the ball running onto the pass, and then be able to unleash a few powerful shots, cross the ball into the box, or carry the ball into the box.

With Evandro and Clucas moving away from the last line to receive the ball out of pressure, Hull were also able to create some good short passing combinations from midfield to the final third—although sometimes lacking in the final ball wide. Huddlestone and Hernandez were able to quickly combine on one occasion to create the chance for the former to shoot from outside the box.

2nd half changes

Niasse gave Hull an extra outlet on the last line, a runner behind the Chelsea backline who was able to carry or move the ball forward. Hull changed their shape to a 433/4141 where he was on the right—diagonal movements forward—and Clucas would either move inside to collect and pass the ball centrally or make movements behind and inside the box.

With more options in higher areas to hold the ball, the fullbacks advancing, and Huddlestone, Meyler, Clucas and Evandro playing narrow centrally and using short passes, Hull were able to sustain the ball for longer periods in midfield. Additionally Chelsea began playing too many long balls from the back—Hull happily collected the second balls—allowing them to have more opportunities with the ball in Chelsea’s half.

Cesc and Willian going on for Chelsea allowed them to regain some control. Willian introduced his speed and intensity both on and off the ball, while Cesc’s more positional role provided support in midfield, along with his excellent passing to help retain the ball.


Although Hull caused Chelsea some problems with their defensive performance, Chelsea managed to find solutions to advance the ball and create chances. When Hull had their best period of the game in the second half, Chelsea continued to prevent good chances, before the changes and the second goal allowed them to regain control and effectively end the game.