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Swansea City 0-1 Chelsea, Premier League: Tactical Analysis

The positive and negatives of Chelsea’s return to the 3-5-1-1

First half

Chelsea’s early goal allowed them to sit back and wait for counters, rather than trying to pressure high and open up more defensively. The early goal came through high pressure and winning the ball from a poor touch, taking advantage of Fabregas’s high early positioning and run behind with Hazard able to beat Ki before finding the goalscorer.

Chelsea’s defending in their deep block involved the wide central midfielders moving out to pressure the advancing wide central defenders of Swansea as they progressed, while Hazard and Giroud moved side-to-side to cover midfield and the backline.

In possession, Swansea would attempt to create through crosses, where they required time to break down Chelsea’s flanks to open up opportunities to cross. From the right they would use overloads, with Naughton and Ki joining Andre Ayew and Roberts to find a free man. On the left, Clucas could move deep to join the central midfielders or make runs behind Moses from deep with Olsson on the ball. Olsson would also attempt to take on Moses in 1v1s, where he fainted on his left foot before moving inside to his right—winning a free kick on one occasion.

Through the middle, Jordan Ayew could hold the ball up in the with strength and good body positioning to keep defenders away, but without combinations in the middle they couldn’t increase the speed of their play to open up opportunities for quick and early crosses into the box.

When Chelsea had the ball in their own half, Swansea pressed high. They pushed up and closed down spaces on the wings and forced Chelsea to play long, while holding their positions in the middle to attempt to block forward passes into the front two.

When Chelsea were able to move into the final third, they could use Giroud and Hazard to combine, with close support from Fabregas and Bakayoko if needed, and draw Swansea’s backline narrow with runs behind by the central midfielders to find the wing-backs (through switches) with space and time to play early crosses into the box, or to take on the defenders as they recovered. Chelsea created good crossing situations to extend their lead, but were unable to take any of the chances they created.

Chelsea also had the option in the final third to play more direct, with long and early balls behind Swansea’s backline for Giroud to win the first ball and knock it down back to the edge of the box for Hazard and the supporting midfielders for second balls.

Chelsea’s counters from deep provided a good platform to create, but they had several issues. Swansea reacted aggressively to losing the ball and would press high and in numbers in an attempt to recover it, which would could see them making fouls to stop Chelsea’s counters—Emerson drew fouls on multiple occasions, for example.

When Chelsea could break this initial pressure to counter, the second problem they had was the lack of speed to run behind Swansea’s backline centrally, as well as the central midfielders starting from deep positions that didn’t allow them to get forward quickly enough to run behind. Hazard could dribble and beat opponents, but when Chelsea attempted to get behind the defence with early passes they didn’t have the mobility or support required, which would see many of their dangerous attacks come to nothing. The first goal was an exception, thanks to winning ball higher up with the central midfielders in higher starting positions to get behind.

Second half

The second half followed a similar pattern, with Swansea attempting to create from crosses, and Chelsea waiting for counter attacks. Swansea did have a few more opportunities to attack from Chelsea’s failed counter attacks, wherein Chelsea would reach the final third with numbers and leave themselves open at the back for Swansea to recover the ball deep and counter.

Swansea were first to make changes with Dyer replacing King (Clucas moving back to central midfield, Andre Ayew moving to the left and Dyer on the right of the front three) to increase the amount of attacking players on the pitch, before becoming more attacking again through Carroll replacing Roberts and switching to a 4231. Swansea’s final change saw them become even more attacking with Routledge replacing Olsson. Clucas moved to left back, Routledge to the left wing, Carroll joined Ki as the two central midfielders, and both Ayews played in the middle of their frontline.

Chelsea’s changes increased the speed of the frontline for counters and switched to a 343, but they had few opportunities to counter from that point on (final 10 minutes). Instead, Swansea created a couple of chances simply by having more numbers forward in and around the box to keep the ball alive from their crosses, before Chelsea began to hold onto possession to see the game out.

Conclusion

Chelsea’s switch back to a 352 saw both positives and negatives. They had good combinations to create chances for crosses into the box, had the early option for Giroud, and allowed Hazard to have more freedom to move and create from the middle. Where Chelsea missed out compared to the 343 was in speed for counters, the lack of which was a major issue in their attempts to extend the early lead. Swansea became more and more attacking in the second half through their substitutions, and by staying in the game they had chances to equalise late, but were unable to beat Courtois.