Chelsea with the ball
Chelsea’s quick and aggressive start to the game ensured that Hull’s gameplan to stay in the game for as long as possible, cause frustration by defending deep, and potentially cause problems through counters and set pieces later on in the game, went to tatters within just a couple minutes.
Chelsea were also able to deal with any subsequent high press from Hull City thanks to composure on the ball from the backline as well as Caballero. Chelsea have not been able to do this consistently all season, but in this game they were able to play past pressure and maintain the ball. This composure also helped break Hull’s attempts to counter or play direct, as Chelsea were able to keep the ball under pressure, find the spare man (using Caballero if needed), and begin another attack.
When possession moved into midfield, Chelsea’s wing-backs moved high and up to the front line, pushing Hull’s wingers all the way back into their own, now six-man backline. By doing so, Chelsea had spaces on the sides for their wide central defenders to move into, where they could keep the ball, switch from side-to-side in order to find a free man on the ball to play forward passes, and draw pressure from Hull’s midfielders in order to open space behind them—leaving Ampadu 1v1 against Dicko in the event that they lost the ball and Hull countered quickly.
Hull’s midfield three had trouble pressuring Chelsea’s four (central midfielders and wide central defenders), getting stuck between pressing and remaining deep in moments, or simply getting beat by Chelsea’s numerical advantage when attempting to press. When one of Chelsea’s midfielders or wide central defenders broke free, their could play forward into the feet of the front three to combine, play over the top of Hull’s central defenders for one of the front three to run onto, or play wide to the wing-backs, both to feet and for runs behind.
When Chelsea won the ball high inside Hull’s half, they would find similar situations, with the space behind the midfielders already open as a consequence (the same objective as with the ball, where they drew them in to pressure forward) and could play off of Giroud to create extra space. Giroud receiving on the side would take one defender out of Hull’s backline to pressure him, leaving the rest of the backline exposed for Willian and Pedro to carry the ball forward on the inside or look to run behind.
On the wings, Zappacosta and Emerson could create through carrying and dribbling with the ball, as well as being found when making runs behind Hull’s wingers. Zappacosta attempted to use his mobility to carry the ball up the line past multiple opponents, as well as moving inside in the final third. Emerson carried the ball with closer control and looked to dribble past opponents more than using speed. Compared to Kenedy at wing-back, he is much smoother in the way he manages his energy and intensity during attacking and defending to maintain a consistent level, rather than bursts of high intensity.
When one of the wide central defenders or central midfielders broke pressure and played wide, the wing-backs would make well timed runs off the back of Hull’s wingers to great effect. These runs were made even more effective when the passer of the ball could draw the fullback towards him, which would open more space on the inside to play a cross into the box.
During counters, Giroud was the target to receive the ball before looking to switch wide, as well as making movements on the outside of the defence without the ball. Willian’s acceleration and close control allowed him to quickly carry the ball forward and beat multiple opponents, Pedro could both carry the ball and make movements behind the backline, and Fabregas was always available to play long passes behind.
Chelsea without the ball
With possession of the ball in their own half, Hull would have space and time on the ball initially. Chelsea would set up in a midfield block, before looking to gradually close down the space to the man and players on the ball towards the sides—pressing in an organised fashion. Chelsea could then force Hull to play forwards into pressure or behind the defence where Ampadu could read the play to cover.
In the final third, Hull had some moments where they could sustain high pressure and put a number of players inside the box to try to create from crosses. They created a number of good chances from set pieces and keeping the ball alive inside the box in the second half, but were unable to find a way past Caballero (including a penalty save), who continues to prove to be an excellent deputy to Courtois.
Chelsea’s quick start and early goal set them up for a game that they could dominate and not be frustrated by needing to score against Hull’s deep defending. The movements of the wing-backs caused Hull’s wingers problems consistently, the wide central defenders advancing into midfield provided Chelsea with a 4v3 against Hull’s midfielders in order to create chances, and the front three combined, made movements behind, dribbled with the ball, and scored all of Chelsea’s goals before halftime.