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How were Bournemouth able to so thoroughly outplay Chelsea on their home ground?

Chelsea 0-3 AFC Bournemouth, Premier League: Tactical Analysis

Bournemouth’s pressure

Bournemouth’s high pressure during the first half was constant, causing Chelsea problems in both building from the back and making forward passes into the front three.

Bournemouth’s formation and positioning on the pitch mirrored Chelsea’s in its setup, but in their movements to close down spaces, they sacrificed 1v1 cover of Chelsea’s players in order to become more compact and cut off options around the ball.

As Chelsea attempted to build from Courtois, the back three were always covered, and found few passes into the front three. Chelsea’s central midfielders could receive the ball, but would be under immediate pressure. They could pass forward into pressure and risk losing the ball, attempt to beat pressure with dribbling and turns, or play passes backwards which would result in Courtois playing long.

When the central midfielders found passes into Chelsea’s front three, there were be more problems. Since the passing distance was short, Bournemouth’s backline were always tight and aggressive in their pressure from behind and attempts to intercept the ball. Furthermore, neither Pedro or Barkley looped around to receive the ball from Hazard on the inside as Willian would in these moments.

With the pressure from behind, the forwards were required to either hold off the defenders or beat them with the ball. First time flicks inside from Barkley to Hazard were inconsistent in execution, but could provide the opportunity to progress when successful. When Pedro could turn quickly and find space he could then play forward passes, but he had few opportunities to do so.

Direct passes to Hazard saw him hold off Cook initially, but the pressure would require him to move back towards his own goal with the ball, where Bournemouth’s central midfielders would drop back to support the backline and force him to beat multiple opponents in order to maintain the ball. Playing in this way is why a strong striker to hold or push defenders back is important, since it creates space between the lines that allows the supporting players to make movements off the striker and prevents the opposition midfielders from dropping back and supporting the backline.

Chelsea did have a few different options to create with their forward passes, mostly through Hazard with his well-timed outside runs behind the wide central defenders to receive the ball, or by dropping deep and dribbling past multiple opponents to take the ball forward. But, again, the next issue would the be creation in the final third, where Bournemouth had their back five and two central midfielders dropping back and Chelsea were moving the ball into positions for crosses with few or no options in the box.

Bournemouth’s one-twos

Bournemouth made good use of one-twos in midfield and the final third throughout the whole game, but in the first half lacked the execution to create chances with the last pass into the box.

When building from their own half, on their right, they could draw Barkley to press Francis with the ball, triggering Alonso, Bakayoko, and Cahill to push up on the same side to support the pressure. Francis would then pass to Fraser on the wing, while both Cook and Ibe would drop on the same vertical line on the inside to support the wing-back receiving the ball, with Cook deeper than Fraser and Ibe on the same line. An inside pass to Ibe and run behind Alonso would see Ibe quickly find the pass behind Alonso and give Fraser the opportunity to attack the space left behind. Fraser also attempted 1-2 passes moving inside with the ball into the middle, with less success.

When playing on the left, they could again use the one-two passes on the inside, where Stanislas would play the pass and then run behind Azpilicueta for the return ball. And, as they entered the final third, the centre forward, Wilson would always receive, lay-off the ball and quickly spin behind for the return pass—but a lack of execution of the pass behind wasted these opportunities in the first-half.

On quick breaks, Ibe and Wilson would make runs on the outside of Chelsea’s back three and into the corners to receive the ball wide, which required Christensen to make a few intense sprints to both match them and win the ball, before he was forced off with an injury. Cahill moved into the middle and Rudiger went on to play the left side of the back three, which was probably an attempt to use Cahill’s physical characteristics to compete against Wilson’s speed (rather than putting Ampadu on).

Second half

Towards the end of the first half, Chelsea began to play long from Courtois to Alonso from the back, with some success. They continued to take this option with more regularity in the second half, forcing Bournemouth to make an adjustment in trying to deal with it. Fraser had a big disadvantage competing with Alonso in these situations, so instead of him competing for the ball, he’d remain deep and Francis would move up from the right-centre back position to provide competition for the ball in the air.

From one of these Alonso headers, Hazard dribbled forward and won a free kick from a dangerous position, but Alonso wasn’t able to hit the target as he normally does. Directly from the following goal kick, Bournemouth played long, won the ball from pressuring Bakayoko into a poor pass/touch, Wilson played the usual one-two with Ibe but this time got the quality return ball behind Cahill and finished.

Chelsea brought Fabregas on for Barkley, and had some periods of high pressure around Bournemouth’s box, but were quickly 2-0 down. Daniels played a long pass up the wing for Wilson to chase, where he held the ball and then quickly combined with Stanislas, with the latter advancing into the box and taking his shot early with the toe past Courtois.

Chelsea made their final change, switching to a 433 with Hudson-Odoi replacing Zappacosta. Hudson-Odoi had another good performance from the bench, where he could receive the ball between lines, find the first-time pass to the second player between lines to break pressure, dribble with the ball, and create shooting opportunities for himself.

Bournemouth’s third goal came quickly after the second, where they kept the ball alive inside the box from their corner, before Ake held his run to attack the ball with perfect timing to score—anticipating these balls in the box from attacking set pieces is a real strength of his game.

Chelsea created a number of opportunities to score later on in the match, but Bournemouth’s defence held their 3-0 lead.


Bournemouth’s pressing in the first half gave Chelsea a lot of problems with the ball, which they were largely unable to solve. Bournemouth also created a number of opportunities to score from one-twos, finally taking advantage in the second-half after producing poor final passes in the first. Two more goals in quick succession killed off most of Chelsea’s hopes of coming back, as their defence took care of the rest to finish with a clean sheet, even.

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