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Chelsea their own worst enemy against Norwich City in the FA Cup, again — tactical analysis

Chelsea with the ball

As in the first game, Norwich’s defence continued to stifle Chelsea’s attacking play by maintaining compact lines and overloads against Chelsea’s front three.

The front three faced these overloads upon receiving the ball primarily because Chelsea failed to draw out Norwich, to invite them to pressure the ball higher up in order to open their midfield lines.

This was not the only issue for the home side however. In the moments when Norwich pressed high inside Chelsea’s half, Chelsea struggled to cope. They would often lose their order of building, have players positioned too wide or too deep, lose the ball through forward passes, and make mistakes in possession to gift Norwich the ball in dangerous areas.

Chelsea did move into midfield much more often than in the first game, from where they could use long passes behind Norwich’s defence to greater efffect. David Luiz, Azpilicueta, Drinkwater, and Bakayoko all attempted passes behind Norwich’s defence, where Willian and Batshuayi made diagonal runs behind Hanley in order to receive the ball, while Zappacosta made runs behind from the outside.

The passes behind the defence created good opportunities for Chelsea, both through successful passes behind for quick shots, and opening up Norwich’s midfield lines to win the second ball if the ball was headed away from the backline—such as Drinkwater’s long shot at goal.

Individual dribbling from the wing-backs could allow Chelsea to advance up the wings and attempt to put crosses into the box, but these were often again not done in Chelsea’s typical order. They would start the attack on the wing and try to directly attack that same side, as opposed to what Chelsea have regularly done with good effect, namely working the ball to one side before switching to the other—such as the usual pattern from Hazard to Moses.

Azpilicueta did, however, offer quality passes behind in these situations when Chelsea were higher up, by finding passes for the outside man on the right (Zappacosta or Willian) to receive the ball inside the box for a direct 1v1.

Chelsea again utilized Pedro’s and Willian’s dribbling skills to draw in multiple defenders to the side, before finding passes inside which would lead to long shots. Gunn made great saves from these shots, and when he caught the ball, showed off his distribution with quick and accurate long passes behind Chelsea’s defence to start counters.

Chelsea v Norwich City - The Emirates FA Cup Third Round Replay Photo by Kieran Galvin/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Norwich with the ball

Most of Norwich’s attacks came through counters in the first half, where Maddison was again the key player. His ability to drop for the ball and receive it both under pressure and between lines caused Chelsea problems. When he received on the half turn he could quickly move into the space between Chelsea’s lines and start attacks. When he dropped deep into his own half for the ball, and Chelsea attempted to press high, his quick turn allowed him to beat his marker and have numbers in attack. In the final third, he could make runs behind when he recognised there was space left by Chelsea’s wing-backs (such as one moment where Kenedy was high up in midfield)

Winning the ball high up, from Chelsea mistakes, provided a couple good opportunities for Norwich to score. Additionally, they created problems out wide, where Pinto showed his power to aggressively carry the ball forward up the right wing and go past players in doing so, while Lewis used his mobility to make runs behind on the other flank.

Second half

Chelsea had a better start to the second half, with Pedro becoming influential by dropping for the ball and help Chelsea build from their own half. Upon receiving the ball, Pedro could use his quick turns and dribbling to either hold the ball (before switching to Zappacosta) or beat defenders to start attacks.

Chelsea’s goal in the 55th minute started with David Luiz recovering the ball through his pressure and starting a counter that lead to a throw-in. Kenedy took the throw, then drove down the line after the return pass. Both of Norwich’s central midfielders had shifted to the side of the box to cover Chelsea’s players, which left the edge of the box free. That’s where Pedro positioned himself, ready for a pullback cross, which drew the attention of all three of Norwich’s central defenders, Klose, Zimmerman, and Hanley.

Norwich’s response to the goal was to press higher up, where Chelsea started causing their own problems again. Ampadu would find Zappacosta dropping for the ball, for example, but the more experienced Italian inernational didn’t play (or was unable to make the pass) to Batshuayi who would’ve been in space to create and combine. Chelsea were instead forced back to Caballero, but were unable to win the subsequent long balls. This gave Norwich a platform from which to sustain attacks, win a number of set pieces and attempt to score the equaliser. With their high pressing and set pieces, they forced Caballero to save a 1v1 against Maddison, and to clear a number of crosses into the box.

After a period of high pressure, Norwich went back to sitting deep and Chelsea created opportunities for long shots, but no clear chances to extend their lead.

The substitutions, as they often do, then changed the game. Norwich added more attacking players, began pressing high again, and switched to a 442/4231. They were very open, especially on the flanks with both of their fullbacks pushed high in attack. Maddison played as one of the two central midfielders, Hoolahan was playing off Oliveira, and Murphy and Cantwell were on the wings. Chelsea’s response was to switch to an attacking 352 through changes, to exploit the space and gaps left by the visitors, though without adding to the scorline. These missed opportunities allowed Norwich a final attack on the left which saw them get the late equaliser.

In extra-time, Chelsea once again had chances to win by combining into the box, crossing for Morata, or playing long passes over the top (such as Christensen to Morata). Hazard’s introduction in place of Drinkwater saw the return of the 343, which allowed Hazard to dribble against multiple opponents, create chances, and combine with Morata.

The red cards saw Chelsea switch to 423 and 431 (keeping control of the middle) though a Caballero save from a free kick was needed to preserve the draw and get the game into a shootout.


Another game where Chelsea were struggling to score as per their current poor run of form. After going behind, Norwich had an aggressive response and created opportunities to score, before finally getting the equaliser at the end of the game. Chelsea attempted to score the winner in extra time, even bringing Hazard on, but in the end, penalties were required to decide the game.

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