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Chelsea 1-0 Vidi FC, Europa League: Tactical Analysis

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A classic case of letting the opposition believe and grow into the game

First half

Chelsea had a high amount of possession and territory in the first half, but missed opportunities to score and wasted a good number of set pieces and corners. Chelsea also wasted multiple crossing opportunities by not having enough options to aim for inside the box (i.e. only Morata) and Vidi could thus either clear the ball or prevent the immediate danger by giving away a corner ... which then Chelsea would waste again.

Vidi had an interesting approach using a 4321 without the ball and a 433 with the ball. The two players behind the striker without the ball (Milanov and Huszti) would act as central midfielders with the ball, and the wide central midfielders in the three without the ball (Nego and Nikolov) would move up as the wingers with the ball — deep wingers and high central midfielders defensively, similar to Croatia in the World Cup.

This defensive approach had positives and negatives. It required a lot of ground to be covered by the defensive midfielder (Hadzic) to shift to the side of the ball, while Nego and Nikolov both protected the fullbacks and covered inside — leaving space on the inside when they couldn’t shift quickly enough or the distance was too great. Fàbregas found Loftus-Cheek and Pedro to feet with early passes to exploit this space between the lines on a couple of occasions, which lead to Chelsea entering the box and creating chances.

But what it did allow was close support to the striker from the two playing off of him to launch counter-attacks or draw fouls, while also being able to then attack with numbers upon the advancement of Nego and Nikolov on the wings. Since Chelsea opened up with the central midfielders and fullbacks high to create chances in the final third, when Vidi won the ball, they could stretch Chelsea by using the space left behind. This required a lot of intensity and energy to recover the ball. Since such intensity is hard to sustain throughout a match or even a half, Vidi created danger only from some of these attacks and opportunities to score.

Second half

Vidi started the second half with the ball and attacked with numbers on the wings. Nego and Nikolov moved high and wide behind Chelsea’s full backs, while Milanov and Huszti moved wide from central positions the be an option for them. The first attack saw Vidi move up the left flank before attacking the box with numbers and forcing Arrizabalaga into an early save.

With more attacks and attempts to press Chelsea higher up, the defensive risk increased for Vidi. Chelsea could exploit Vidi during these stretched moments to move past pressure and quickly move forward with the ball into spaces and attack their backline.

Hazard on for Pedro would see Chelsea attacking and overloading the wings with more quality, where Hazard and Willian would move over to the same side to create chances and have support from the central midfielders (keeping the fullback on that side back and not as involved to create with the ball) and this made a difference for the goal. Hazard, Willian and Barkley were all on the right and interchanging, before the ball found Fabregas in space to attempt another pass into the box and behind Vidi’s backline, which Willian headed on to Morata to score.

The final stages saw an open game with Chelsea attempting to finish off the contest with a second goal while Vidi were still in the game and fueled by the belief of taking a point from their trip to Stamford Bridge. Vidi had more chances to score from creating on the right (forcing Moses into a deep recovery to clear the ball and prevent an open goal) and won the ball high from Chelsea’s unorganised attempts to play from the back late on in the game, but couldn’t find the goal to make the difference.

Conclusion

Chelsea had some early chances in the game which would have made a big difference had they been able to take them. Although Vidi’s approach was interesting, the impact of going behind early, and the subsequent potential for Chelsea to extend the lead, would have taken away any belief of achieving a result. Instead, Vidi were able to stay in the game, grow in belief as the game went went on and even create opportunities to score. However, Chelsea continued to create chances in the second half as well, and eventually found the goal they needed to win the game.