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Bournemouth 1-3 Chelsea, Premier League: Tactical Analysis

Chelsea maintain their seven point lead with seven games to go

Chelsea’s long play with the ball

Unlike in the previous meeting, when they lined up in a back three, Bournemouth stuck with their usual back four in this game.

Passes along the ground from Chelsea centrally were often controlled well by Bournemouth, through pressure on the ball to either win it or prevent the receiver from playing forward. Long passes over the top were more successful. Chelsea found passes behind Bournemouth’s defence from David Luiz and Gary Cahill from deep (and out of pressure), and Azpilicueta was able play diagonal passes behind—such as the one into the box for Hazard—when he advanced with the ball.

The most success Chelsea had was when Bournemouth shifted to Chelsea’s left and narrowed as a block, leaving Moses open on the right to be found with long diagonal passes. From there he could take on his man and create either a shooting or crossing situation, where Chelsea would have four in and around the box (Alonso joining from the left).

Chelsea’s first goal came from exactly such a situation. Bournemouth shift over to press Cahill, leaving Luiz out of pressure. Upon receiving the pass from Cahill, Luiz opens his body, making Azpilicueta an option. Pugh maintains a higher position in anticipation of a pass to Azpilicueta while Chelsea’s front three occupy Bournemouth’s back four. Victor Moses is thus wide open.

Bournemouth with the ball

In possession, Bournemouth would move the fullbacks up and use the central midfielders to support the central defenders on the ball. They could maintain the ball without problems in these situations through their numerical advantage, as Chelsea would often have 9 of the 10 outfielders in their own half initially, before looking to press (Costa being the sole man in Bournemouth’s half).

These initial stages of their possession, in midfield, were sometimes followed by a quick shift in tempo, such as Daniels receiving the ball behind Pedro before playing quick diagonal passes (inside Chelsea block) to King, Afobe, Pugh or Fraser in central positions. From there they created a couple of situations to get long shots off quickly, along with the creation of pressure areas on Chelsea’s backline if the initial pass didn’t reach a Bournemouth player.

When they were unable to play the early pass inside from Daniels (through Chelsea’s midfielders dropping to support the wide areas to block the inside passing options) they would make use of the territory gained to continue the attacks deeper into Chelsea’s half. From there they could find passes back inside to their central midfielders (space created through Chelsea’s midfield dropping) before looking to continue to circulate the ball, use switches or for Wilshere to attempt 1-2’s with their strikers to get past Chelsea’s midfielders.

Where Bournemouth had problems in their creation was being able to maintain possession when they made passes inside Chelsea’s block, where they would face intense pressure from behind and passes were either bounced back or possession was lost.

While they were still able to create opportunities to play the ball into the box through switching possession from the left to the right (to draw Chelsea to the one side to make some space on the other) the width Chelsea were able to defend through the wing-backs, as well as the cover from the inside (both wide central defenders and central midfielders) could prevent the hosts from having time in wide areas pick out players with crosses.

One of the few moments when Bournemouth had space and time to create was on Afobe’s chance, when he hit the post. It was one of the few occasions where they were able to play a pass to a player (Pugh) between Chelsea’s lines and maintain the ball under pressure, before finding the pass out to Daniels on the outside. By being able to hold the ball on the inside, they drew in the Chelsea players (to cover Azpilicueta, who was closing down), creating space on the wing. Once the pass went out wide, Chelsea’s backline only had a short amount of time to drop back and find some organisation before the cross is played into the box.

Bournemouth also found success through counters, with runners getting behind Chelsea’s wide central defenders. Particularly on the right, where Fraser broke from deep to get behind Cahill for a chance to take on Luiz 1v1 (where Luiz continued to drop for support to get back) before taking a long shot, while King got behind Cahill to receive the ball before his shot for Bournemouth’s goal.

Chelsea counters

During longer periods of possession inside Chelsea’s half, where they could only circulate the ball from side to side, Bournemouth were always at risk of counter attacks. Kante and Matic could both recover the ball through interceptions or quickly pressuring the player about to receive the ball, before Pedro and Hazard quickly broke forward. Similar to Bournemouth’s counters, Chelsea found opportunities behind their defence through Hazard’s runs behind Francis (as he did for the second goal) where Smith was too high up the field to get back to Hazard and Costa would occupy Cook on the inside—isolating Francis against Hazard.

Conclusion

While Bournemouth had more players to create with the ball than the previous meeting, Chelsea were still able to cause them too many problems through the switches to the wing-backs and counters. While their goal brought the Cherries back into the game, Chelsea’s deep block proved to be too organised to break down—before Chelsea were finally able to stretch their lead through Alonso’s excellent free kick.

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