Chelsea deal with aggressive start from Forest
Nottingham Forest tried to get off to a quick start, pressing aggressively early on in the match. Immediately from kickoff they (Lichaj, Bouchalakis, Dowell) surrounded Kenedy upon receiving the ball—resulting in him losing the ball. They matched Chelsea’s formation across the pitch, leaving no free men, and would pressure Chelsea’s forward passes from the back.
Bakayoko did well to maintain the ball under pressure from Bouchalakis early on, receiving the ball with back to play but able to keep the circulation going. On the other side, Musonda was being pressured aggressively by Mancienne, leading to the ball becoming loose for a period; Musonda eventually regained possession and won a free kick through dribbling inside with the ball.
Continued high pressing close to Chelsea’s goal almost forced mistakes from Chelsea. Caballero, like in preseason, caused the building from the back some problems here. He would often throw the ball, overarm, out to players under pressure, making it difficult to control and play the ball. Furthermore, when receiving and passing the ball from one side to the other he made looped passes with his feet (bounce before reaching the target) which, again, gave the opposition a chance to either pressure the first touch or intercept the pass. As the match progressed, Caballero improved in his distribution—he began to play ground passes out to Cahill, which in turn allowed him to play forward with the ball first time.
It didn’t take too long for Chelsea to settle however, and start making use of their quality in collective movement and individual skill.
A typical move involved Hazard dropping deep to receive the ball in midfield, and easily dribbling away from Worrall’s attempts to pressure him from behind. After losing Worrall, Hazard could find Fabregas moving up on the outside of their midfield, in space and facing play. In this case, Fabregas’s pass behind the defence to set either Batshuayi or Musonda clear through on goal was blocked by Hobbs.
Chelsea’s first goal came for a similar situation, but this time it was Musonda dropping deep and receiving the ball in Hazard’s position. Upon receiving the ball, with Worrall trying to pressure him from behind, Musonda feinted inside before quickly turning outside and accelerating forward and eventually finding Fabregas in space. Since a forward pass wasn’t available to him on this occasion, Fabregas slowed down and drew Walker towards him, opening space on the outside in which he found the overlapping Rudiger. A quality far-post ball into the box and first-time finish from Kenedy gave Chelsea the lead.
Forest continued to press high up after the goal, but the relentless speed at which Chelsea can play meant that Forest were unable to maintain organisation defensively. Continuing to find Musonda and Hazard dropping for the ball made it tough for Forest’s wide central defenders to maintain intensity and to keep tight when following and pressuring them from behind. Their attempts gave them a couple of good opportunities, but, for the most part, Chelsea were able to break the pressure through the dribbling of Musonda and Hazard.
When Hazard received the ball on the left, he was also able to find some passes behind for Kenedy, overlapping on the outside. Kenedy made use of his speed and powerful striking of the ball to drive at goal or play a quality cross into the box. But during switches from the right, he was caught offside on a couple of occasions, making his run forward too early.
Ampadu, only 17, was consistently communicating with his teammates; when they had the ball he would offer himself as a passing option if he was in space, otherwise he would point to free options for the player on the ball to pass to. Defensively he continued his organising in regards to pressing and picking up of players behind him, as well as showing good intensity in his pressuring of opponents. His ground passing was consistent and he attempted long and short passes over the top of the defence with some success.
Clarke-Salter showed ability to both play forward passes and carry the ball forward from the back. He remained calm when he was being pressed on the ball, continuing to show his ability to play forward passes to players in space. When Chelsea were pressuring, he showed intensity to press his man from behind, but also be able to move off of him to intercept one long pass into midfield.
Sterling was intense in his pressuring, quickly closing down and getting his body between the ball and the opponent to win it as soon as he came on. With the ball he maintained simple ground passes, and when defending the opposition carrying the ball forward towards him he would close the ball down with a wide stance to block off more of the space around him.
Chelsea’s quality was too great for Nottingham Forest to compete with. Hazard and Musonda continuously caused problems when they dropped for the ball, pulling Forest’s wide central defenders deep into midfield, before dribbling past their men with the ball. Fabregas and Rudiger receiving the ball in space caused further problems, thanks to their quality passes behind and into the box.