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Chelsea combine individual excellence and tactical superiority in win over Brighton

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Brighton 0-4 Chelsea, Premier League: Tactical Analysis

Chelsea’s quick start

Chelsea made a great start to the match, and were 2-0 up within the opening ten minutes.

Chelsea began the game with circulation of the ball in midfield, moving the ball to the wings in order to draw-in Brighton’s midfielders and open spaces behind them as they moved up to pressure.

Brighton’s front two would shift to the sides and be followed by the supporting midfield three, but maintaining pressure on the ball was unsustainable due to Chelsea having width and a numerical advantage at the back. Willian and Hazard could drop for the ball, making it easy for Chelsea to find the spare man and play forward passes into the front three between lines. Hazard and Willian were both able to receive the ball in space, facing play, and attack Brighton’s backline, causing problems for them through combinations.

For example, for the first goal, Chelsea switched the ball from left to right, with Azpilicueta receiving the ball in space and able to play a forward pass to Willian behind Brighton’s midfield line. Willian then found Hazard on the inside, where he could turn past Stephens’ attempt to recover, and carry the ball before making a pass behind Brighton’s backline.

Hazard’s individual performance was exceptional, and he was always able to quickly turn past defenders upon receiving the ball, quickly move past Brighton’s midfield line into space ahead of their backline, draw fouls, and allow Chelsea to break away from periods of Brighton momentum and high positioning with the ball in Chelsea’s half.

Batshuayi’s movements behind, availability to receive the ball consistently, and combinations with Willian and Hazard were also an important factor to Chelsea attack.

Chelsea were able to sustain prolonged periods of pressure on Brighton by pushing up high into their half and reacting strongly to quickly recover if the ball was lost.

After going two goals ahead, Chelsea could be more patient with and without the ball, which would allow them to launch counters from midfield and wait to find the front three in positions to combine or dribble with the ball to create chances.

Chelsea’s substitutions

Chelsea’s non-injury-enforced changes in the second half saw Zappacosta come on for Alonso and Musonda replace Willian.

Zappacosta was a substitution that helped defend against the threat of Schelotto’s mobility, as well as utilize Zappacosta’s own mobility for counter attacks.

Musonda dribbled with the ball well to draw fouls, before finding spaces by dropping to collect the ball in midfield, where he then had the vision and capacity to play the long pass behind Brighton’s backline for Moses to receive and score with a quickly taken finish.

Brighton with the ball

Brighton’s attacks focused on advancing up the wings from deep, before attempting to win set pieces or put crosses into the box—especially far post crosses from the right to target Azpilicueta in the air.

Both of their front two would make wide runs behind Chelsea’s wing-backs and outside of the wider central defenders to receive the ball in the corner. From holding the ball here they could then push up as a team, put numbers around the box, try to create shooting opportunities from the middle, and attempt to press high if they lost the ball. Upon moving the ball to the right, they would always attempt to play crosses to the far post. March would join them on the right, where he would move the ball onto his left foot to play in swinging crosses to the the far post for Hemed to attack the ball in the air—forcing the excellent reaction save by Caballero’s left hand, for example.

Brighton’s crosses into the box forced Caballero to make a number of saves and clearances during the game. Chelsea’s backup goalkeeper elects to punch the ball and play more aggressively in going for the ball than Courtois—both in dealing with crosses and leaving the box as a sweeper. Caballero’s aggressive approach can lead to some close calls, but his execution has been successful during his handful of starts and he is yet to make a crucial error leading to a goal.

March and Schelotto were Brighton’s two most useful players, and were able to carry the ball forward on the wings to great effect. March has more power and can dribble with the ball to draw free kicks, while Schelotto’s mobility allowed him to quickly break past defenders and get to the ball before Chelsea’s defenders, winning free kicks and penalty shouts in the process. Their enterprising play would also bring the crowd into the game, which helped create periods of momentum for the home side in both halves.

Chelsea’s high pressing was good throughout the game, shifting to the sides as needed, applying pressure on the ball, and winning the ball in central midfield by forcing Brighton to play passes into pressure. Passes into central midfield were met by Kante or Bakayoko, who anticipated well and could aggressively intercept the ball. When Chelsea’s midfielders were drawn to the side to continue pressing the ball, Chelsea’s backline were ready to push up and intercept the passes made into the middle instead. Winning the ball would again provide Chelsea’s front thee the opportunity to quickly carry, dribble, and combine with the ball behind Brighton’s midfielders, which led to them scoring, again.

Conclusion

Chelsea’s excellent start to the game provided them with a comfortable lead and allowed the front three to play with creative freedom without the frustrated reaction upon errors, which has been the case in all the recent games when they couldn’t score. Chelsea’s front three’s combinations and finishing was excellent, where they were able to find and receive the ball in spaces from Chelsea’s patient possession in midfield to move Brighton’s front two and midfielders to the one side before attacking the other.