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Chelsea 0-1 Leicester, Premier League: Tactical Analysis

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Luck, mentality, tactics? Breaking down Chelsea’s shocking, disappointing, “stupid” loss to Leicester City

First half

Chelsea dominated the ball and had control of the first half. They played through Leicester’s attempts to press high, advanced to create chances, and held a high defensive position in midfield. While this left more space for potential counter-attacks, Chelsea pent long periods of the half playing in Leicester’s half, and attempting to break through their defensive block.

Leicester’s wingers would start slightly inside to attempt to be in a position to close down Chelsea’s central defenders from the outside had there been a moment to press, but Chelsea kept the ball and found the spare man to progress forward as a team and push them back. As they dropped back and had to cover Chelsea’s fullbacks, Maddison didn’t cover the overlapping runs made by Azpilicueta with good consistency, and Chelsea created opportunities on the right to move into crossing positions. However, Chilwell blocked many of the low cross attempts made by Azpilicueta. The other option inside the box was to use pull-backs from the byline, but these suffered thanks to the numbers Leicester had back centrally to stop them—either to intercept the cross, or numbers around the receiver to block clear shots on target.

Chelsea’s central attacks in congested areas relied upon the midfielders and front three to dribble past opponents to create openings — a mistake by Maguire provided Hazard with the best chance — or long passes over the top and behind from Chelsea’s central defenders to find runners inside the box or to the wings to take on 1v1 and cross the ball into the box. Hazard leaving the central position would allow him to create overloads on the wings, but they would then lack bodies inside the box to profit from crossing situations. Hazard’s runs in-behind would’ve resulted in good chances, if only the passes to him had been made earlier to prevent him from being called offside.

From the high position, Chelsea’s recovery of the ball was strong. Vardy had few opportunities to run behind or into the channels during the half, while there was little support centrally and no threat from the wingers going up the line. However, when Maddison would leave the wing and move inside to play between lines, he could find space and play first-time flicks to find runners — such as Chilwell continuing his run into the box, before being stopped by David Luiz.

It was a good and dominant first half for Chelsea, but, crucially, lacked a lead to take into the second half.

Second half

Having not been able to take advantage of their first half performance, Chelsea were made to pay early on in the second half. Leicester took the lead by recovering the ball in midfield during a moment where Maddison had a central starting position, so when the attack reached the final third he was between lines and in space to receive the ball. There, he commited Rüdiger to the ball and played a perfectly weighted pass behind for Vardy to finish first-time.

From that point on, Chelsea began to force situations that weren’t on, and suffered as a consequence. They tried to press high in moments where they couldn’t as a team, and opened up space behind the midfielders for Leicester to progress. They attempted to build through pressure in their own half, but were faced with more aggressive Leicester pressure and numbers from midfield — which they tried to dribble through and lost the ball too often, stretching the team and killing their momentum.

With Leicester playing more aggressively and higher up, Chelsea didn’t have the same amount of opportunities to create from the final third as they had in the first half, and Leicester were creating more problems when they regained the ball higher up. Although Chelsea’s overall game suffered, they still created a number of chances to equalise and bring themselves back into the game. They attempted to find different solutions through changes, with Giroud to attack crosses in the air and long passes from Fabregas, as well as Loftus-Cheek going on into midfield, but unlike in previous matches, they couldn’t make the difference.

Conclusion

Chelsea controlled the first half with a significant amount of possession inside Leicester’s half. They created chances to take the lead and controlled most of Leicester’s attempts to counter upon winning the ball, where Vardy was isolated for the most part. However, Leicester held on and having ended the first half level, took the lead early on in the second half through a counter where Maddison was central and created the chance for Vardy. Chelsea’s performance dropped after conceding and Leicester began to play more aggressively and press higher up, which provided them with more dangerous attacks upon winning the ball higher up. Chelsea made changes to find different solutions, and created a number of good chances to equalise, but couldn’t find the net.