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BATE 0-1 Chelsea, Europa League: Tactical Analysis

Breaking down Chelsea’s worst performance of the season (and yet still a win!)

First half

BATE set out to not repeat their poor start in the previous meeting by playing much more aggressively and trying to press Chelsea high up. Chelsea couldn’t find a way through the pressure initially, but their patience and confidence to continue playing short and wait for BATE to tire soon saw them take control of the game in midfield, at which point BATE dropped back with all 11 players behind the ball.

It wasn’t all Chelsea’s way, however, since BATE had some good opportunities when they were able to win the ball high up in the opening stages. They also played with good intensity in the appropriate moments in the final third, taking shots from distance and winning set pieces.

Otherwise, Chelsea were able to keep the ball with relative ease in midfield and always had a spare man to find, but they couldn’t move the ball at the speed that they have in other games. BATE maintained good numbers at the back and didn’t attempt to be too aggressive with their pressure to ensure they could always drop back and defend in numbers to stop Chelsea from creating clear chances.

Chelsea’s midfielders and central defenders had very few opportunities to play forward passes to the forwards between lines or to find runners going behind BATE’s backline. Even when they did have the opportunity, Chelsea were often too cautious and didn’t even attempt to play the passes. And when they did take advantage, many of these opportunities came to nothing with either poorly weighted and badly timed passes. Hazard and Giroud attempted to combine a few times in the middle when the ball was played into them, but the number of defenders around them was often enough to stop the move.

On the wings, Chelsea again didn’t have many opportunities to take on BATE’s fullbacks 1v1 to create opportunities to cross, and even when they did, they found it difficult to beat their markers and get quality crosses into the box for Giroud.

When BATE won the ball, Chelsea’s reaction to press was good but not as aggressive or with the same numbers as in recent games. The midfielders sometimes left too much space behind them without pressuring the ball, and often failed to also protect the backline when the ball was being moved horizontally (such as when BATE hit the post).

Although Chelsea maintained control for the majority of the half and played high up with the ball, they didn’t create any significant chances, while BATE hit the post and forced Arrizabalaga into a save from a corner.

Second half

Chelsea managed to get an early goal in the second half which allowed them to continue playing safely with the ball as they had earlier on in the game, with their objective now being to wait for the opportunity to increase their lead and take the game away from BATE.

Unlike the failed first half efforts from the wings, Chelsea’s goal came from an early cross into the box that allowed Giroud to move early to get across the front of the defender and win the ball in the air. Jorginho and the fullbacks continued to try to find earlier passes into the box as the half went on, and as a consequence, especially with Willian and Barkley making more runs into the box, created more chances to score than they had in the first half.

But Chelsea were again found fairly open defensively from midfield without pressure on the ball and spaces were increasing both behind the midfield and in wide areas for BATE to counter and advance with their possession. Kovačić and Willian were good changes here since they improved the pressing higher up inside BATE’s half and gave Chelsea more defensive intensity in midfield to recover the ball.

However, without extending the lead BATE were still in the game and had the opportunity to equalise. Earlier in the half they hit the post again, before making it three times lucky for the Blues with late pressure from set pieces and crosses into the box resulting in a third woodwork. It was an uncomfortable end to a game that Chelsea had controlled, for the most part.

Conclusion

BATE made a good start to the game and then defended in numbers, but Chelsea’s possession was slow and all too often didn’t attempt to play the passes behind the defence when chances were there to create. Giroud scored an important goal to open his account for the season, but without being able to extend the lead Chelsea provided BATE with a good opportunity to equalise late on in the game. However, BATE were unable to take advantage of their chances and in Chelsea’s worst performance of the season they still managed to win the game.

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