clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Patient Chelsea reap rewards against Qarabag, continue establishing 3-5-2 system — tactical analysis

Chelsea qualify for the knockout stages

Qarabag with the ball

In the opening stages of the match, Qarabag attempted to create using the movements of their central midfielders behind Chelsea’s midfield line.

From the front, when Qarabag had the ball at the back, Chelsea didn’t apply pressure since they were outnumbered 2v3 (Hazard and Willian versus Qarabag’s central defenders and defensive midfielder. Instead, Chelsea would hold positions centrally to prevent passes through the middle and primarily try to pressure forward passes into midfield. Pedro would drop back into midfield to prevent Qarabag gaining a numerical advantage, allowing Willian to be in closer support of Hazard when Chelsea won the ball.

Qarabag’s midfield movement had more success on their right, where they could draw Chelsea to pressure the ball from midfield and pin back both Alonso and Rudiger. Ndlovu on the inside remained high on the backline (not dropping towards the ball) to keep Rudiger back, and Guerrier’s high positioning on the wing kept Alonso deep, leaving space in the middle behind Chelsea’s midfield for Michel to use—Pedro and Kante would be stuck higher up after pressuring the pass out wide. This movement by Michel into the box led to their best chance of the game when the former Birmingham City player hit the crossbar.

On the left, Almeida made his movement to the wing earlier and Agolli was higher up (whereas on the right Medvedev remained deep and Michel moving ahead of him) which gave Chelsea the opportunity to push up and press more aggressively with Zappacosta and Azpilicueta.

Although Qarabag’s approach had some success in midfield, in the final third they had problems creating and sustaining attacks in general against Chelsea’s numerical advantage. Chelsea also managed to snuff out counters via Ndlovu thanks to Rudiger and Azpilicueta.

Chelsea with the ball

Chelsea, once again, used the wide central defenders moving into midfield to create the spare man on the ball and thus be able to comfortably manoeuvre the ball through pressure—they mostly found Rudiger as Guerrier would drop back deep to follow Alonso. Pedro would also move higher up, joining Willian and Hazard on the front line, essentially playing the Bakayoko shuttling role between midfield (out of possession) and attack (in possession) in the 3-5-2 setup. Kante and Fabregas remained deep as the central midfielders.

While Chelsea stayed very patient to break pressure and find space to play forward, once there, they were very direct and quick to play forward passes both in front and behind Qarabag’s backline. Hazard and Willian made good use of combinations, where Willian used his inside arching his runs around Hazard to receive the second pass—as he would do for his first goal.

Hazard dropping deep for the ball would once again pay off through the quality of his passes behind the defence, where Willian made runs behind (such as on the first penalty incident). Fabregas again playing long passes behind the defence found Pedro for another clear chance in the second half.

For ground passes forward Willian moved outside to open the line behind Qarabag’s midfielders. He would use the inside of his right foot to receive the ball, to turn inside and accelerate into space, play a first time pass inside, or to shield the ball side on—using his left arm to hold the defender away from him.

Qarabag down to ten

Upon going down to ten men, Qarabag shifted their backline with Rzezniczak moving to left centre back, Medvedev inside to right centre back, and Guerrier dropping back to right back. On the left, Madatov would now drop back more—opposed to staying higher up as he had earlier in the match—leaving Qarabag’s midfield three and striker to attempt to pressure the ball.

With the ball, this left Qarabag open since Agolli continued to play as a fullback and Guerrier would move up high as the winger on the right. However, it is difficult to make changes to organisation while the game is being played.

At halftime Qarabag made a change to go to a back-five through the introduction of Diniyev for Madatov—Garayev moving back into defence and Diniyev coming on as the defensive midfielder. Diniyev gave them a new dynamic in midfield with his good dribbling and ability to carry the ball forward, while also regaining defensive solidity at the back with three defenders on the inside of Guerrier.

The speed of the game slowed down considerably in the second half and there was unthreatening possession for prolonged periods. Alonso was subbed off early since he received a yellow card and was beginning to have some problems dealing with Guerrier’s speed—almost fouling him for a second yellow at one point. Serendipitously, it also gave him some rest before the Liverpool game. Morata came on and brought a fresh intensity to the game, as he was always looking to receive the ball in shooting positions, but couldn’t finish any of the chances he was able to create.


Qarabag had a good opening to the match, where they started to build some momentum and belief with the ball. Shortly after creating their first chance of the game they went down to ten men and a goal behind, which effectively killed their chances. Chelsea continued to create chances, and could have scored more than four, to comfortably win the game and qualify for the knockout stages of the Champions League.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the We Ain't Got No History Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of Chelsea news from We Ain't Got No History