It is only natural for teams to identify their opposition’s weaknesses and then come up with a game-plan to exploit them in combination with their own strengths. Bournemouth are no exception, especially with 10 days to prepare for their visit to Stamford Bridge. It was so obvious, in fact, that even we noticed it at the time — yes, I’m claiming Graham as one of our own still.
What was funny in the first half eventually turned into a disaster. The injury taking Christensen out of the equation certainly didn’t help, increasing the responsibilities on Cahill and adding Rudiger, who’s good but not at Andreas’ level of comfort on the ball.
After the game, Bournemouth forward Callum Wilson was surprisingly forthcoming with the tactical details.
“We’ve been working hard on this formation and today we’ve put everything right and in a perfect performance. We knew Chelsea had weaknesses with their back line so we targeted one side as the triggers for our press.”
“The personnel changed not too long into the game, but the game plan for us stayed the same. The left side we were always going to press when the ball went to him. And it worked for us really. We got a lot of regains and won second balls.”
-Callum Wilson; source: Mail
Wilson himself was so effective at this, he set a new season record for most recoveries in the opponent’s half.
Callum Wilson: No player has won possession in the attacking third more times in a Premier League match this season than @CallumWilson vs Chelsea (6)— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) February 1, 2018
For more match stats -- https://t.co/neBh93tOJf pic.twitter.com/JELyUC7ZB9
The left side of Chelsea’s line was of course Cahill and Rudiger, both right-footed and both long suspected to be the weakest links of the line, certainly in terms of playing the ball. Usually they’re covered by either Christensen or David Luiz, but now they’re both injured and that’s certainly a concern. Ethan Ampadu has played the central role for the youth and reserves, but as confident as he may appear, he is thoroughly untested at the top level yet.
David Luiz is not expected to be back from his ankle injury for at least another 7-10 days while Christensen’s hamstring injury hasn’t even been evaluated. Could Cahill improve with practice? Maybe, maybe not. Could Azpilicueta play there? Rudiger? Go with a back-four instead?
Good luck in finding a solution, Antonio.