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Chelsea 2-0 Bournemouth, Premier League: Tactical Analysis

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Chelsea get a bit lucky against an aggressive Cherries side before second-half changes prove crucial

First half

In a different scenario from what Chelsea faced against Newcastle last week, even with the switch by an opponent to a 3-4-3/5-4-1, Bournemouth started the half aggressively with high pressure to push Chelsea back into their own third, where they would attempt to recover the ball high or disturb Chelsea’s attempts to play forward passes.

During high pressing, Bournemouth would have tight marking on Chelsea’s two central midfielders on the side of the ball, put pressure on the ball itself, and cover Chelsea’s wingers and fullbacks. Both central midfielders would move up to prevent Chelsea from playing passes through the central midfielders, leaving the highest of the three in more space but unavailable to play the ball to, which saw Bournemouth recover the ball on a couple of occasions. However, this came with the risk of leaving a lot of space behind their midfielders, which Chelsea exploited through Kanté accelerating forward with the ball into space later in the half — breaking through pressure and having a clear route to Bournemouth’s box.

When Chelsea could maintain possession against the pressure and Bournemouth dropped back to midfield, but they initially held their backline too high without putting any pressure on the ball. This allowed Chelsea to easily force them back to their own box through long passes behind. Passes up the wings would also find first time passes behind Bournemouth’s backline to runners from the middle or early overlapping fullbacks to get into crossing positions.

In the moments when Bournemouth did attempt to push up and press from their midfield position, they would again be vulnerable to long passes behind their backline, particularly Kanté making runs behind on the right to provide an outlet and again force Bournemouth back to defend their own box.

Later, after deciding that the option of trying to maintain ball pressure from midfield would be too difficult against Chelsea’s superior numbers — Wilson would be 1-v-3 against the two central defenders and Jorginho, while Chelsea’s other two central midfielders occupied Bournemouth’s central midfielders and the Chelsea fullbacks took away the Cherries’ wingers — Bournemouth’s backline dropped back slightly more to not be so easily exposed through long passes.

Although there were some weaknesses, Bournemouth’s setup from midfield did bring them positives. They maintained excellent control of the space between their lines, which significantly reduced Hazard’s influence on the game in the first half, and when they won the ball they had opportunities to use the speed of their frontline and support from their wing-backs to counter and create opportunities ... but which opportunities they were unable to convert.

Second half

The second half began with Chelsea having a lot of final third possession and keeping Bournemouth pinned back. When Chelsea lost the ball their recovery pressing was in numbers, always quick to the ball and aggressive, which would prevent Bournemouth from being able to find an outlet to move forward — only when they were able to win free kicks would they be able to move up.

Chelsea’s creation also improved with Hazard spending more time on the wings, where he would get the ball more often than he had centrally in the first half. From the wing, he could take the ball down the line and beat defenders, draw multiple defenders towards him to open up space for others in and around the box, and he could find teammates with passes in positions to shoot.

With Bournemouth now restricted to set pieces to move forward and create, they had to take any opportunities to score, which they again were unable to take. Aké is excellent at attacking set pieces inside the box, with great timing to arrive where the ball lands consistently, but he missed the target from just a few yards out when left wide open on a corner.

Chelsea’s changes then went on to make an impact in the game. Giroud arrived with great desire to make a difference, gave Chelsea the direct option of playing crosses into the box more frequently, and allowed the midfielders to play 1-2s off him inside the box. Giroud usually generates a positive reaction from the crowd as well, adding increased support and belief, which can also make a tangible difference.

Pedro turned out to be the change which made the biggest difference by scoring, from an attack that started from Bournemouth playing long from a goal kick, trying to maintain a high position in midfield, and Chelsea managing to play through them centrally to create the goal. Hazard stayed wide (which drew Smith away from the middle) and with Alonso moving forward on the inside he could receive the ball facing play and without one of Bournemouth’s backline tight to him to him (unlike with Hazard receiving the ball there with back to play and tight marking). Alonso could then find the forward pass for Pedro and Giroud to combine and score.

Bournemouth had a good chance to score, once again, after conceding, before they switched to a 442 through changes to try to find an equaliser. However, the change opened them up much more on the wings and between lines, where Hazard and Loftus-Cheek could use their qualities to exploit the spaces, before Hazard scored Chelsea’s second (Alonso moving into a similar area as for the first goal) to secure the win.

Conclusion

Bournemouth’s defence maintained good control between their lines, reducing Hazard’s influence centrally in the first half, and their high pressing and counters provided them with good opportunities to score. The amount of chances they missed in both halves was crucial. Hazard became more influential from the wing in the second half, and the changes made by Chelsea had a positive impact on the game to score, before Bournemouth opened up by switching to a 442 and leaving space for Chelsea’s offensive talent to exploit to score the second.