Chelsea maintained the ball the majority of the half, created opportunities by playing through Southampton’s high pressing moments and counters, but converted few of these opportunities into chances to score, and none into goals.
Upon any opportunity to press high and force Chelsea to play backwards, finding isolated players on the ball or to push up early on the receiving player of square passes, Southampton would quickly change their mentality and become aggressive. The front three, wing-backs moving up on the side of the ball, one central midfielder marking Chelsea’s near-side advanced central midfielder, and the other central midfielder moving up to close down Jorginho would ensure there was pressure on the ball as it was moved and progressed.
Chelsea kept the ball calmly in these moments, used Arrizabalaga when needed to restart attacks or break pressure, and could then play through the pressure to find one of the front three in space after combinations and dribbling, or the far-side advanced midfielder would be behind Southampton’s deepest midfielder and have space to quickly carry the ball forward to start an attack in the final third. Often this would see the ball going to Alonso overlapping on the left as they moved into the final third, but the problem for Chelsea would then be creating from a crossing position since the delivery would need to be precise to find Hazard or Morata against the three Southampton central defenders and any other player that had tracked back.
From midfield, Chelsea would again play through pressure and try to combine between the front three between lines to create openings, but Southampton’s backline maintained defensive solidity in these moments with support from the wing-backs tucking inside and the two central midfielders ensuring they had numerical superiority around the ball to block the route through, before pushing out quickly on the wings when Chelsea tried to move the ball wide to the fullbacks — along with maintaining numbers in the box for any potential crosses.
When Chelsea did go on to create chances from their opportunities, they were often when Morata was on the left and Hazard was central, where his runs behind and across the front of defenders inside the box saw him having shooting opportunities. The best chance was Hazard’s 1v1 with Gunn, which came when Morata was wide on the left and Hazard could use his acceleration to get behind, but the chance wasn’t taken.
The second half continued in a similar way to the first, but with Southampton deciding to press aggressively when their starting position was high inside Chelsea’s half (goal kicks etc.) rather than trying to push forward from midfield as much as they had in the first half. There was more space between lines and opportunities to attack Southampton inside the box with fewer players back by playing forward quickly to the wings or early passes behind the backline, which Chelsea attempted to do, but Southampton’s backline continued to defend the subsequent efforts to create or shoot on goal.
Fàbregas brought a greater passing range when he dropped for the ball in a deep position — his pass to Loftus-Cheek setting up a chance for Morata — and his combinations with Hazard in the final third created good opportunities, but again few of the opportunities Chelsea created would lead to chances or shots on goal.
Southampton had a few more chances to counter in the second half from winning the ball high, or wide attacks with numbers when countering from midfield to use the space left behind Chelsea’s full backs when they had advanced in possession. More opportunities came from winning more set pieces to allow Ward-Prowse to utilise his quality dead-ball delivery, but they too had few opportunities to shoot on goal.
Chelsea continued to force the creation later on in the game to break the deadlock, with earlier crosses into the box by Azpilicueta, long shots and putting more numbers forward for attacks, but Southampton’s defence remained strong and Chelsea were unable to find the goal to make the difference.
xG map for Chelsea - Southampton. The Saints played for the draw and with a little bit of luck they got it. pic.twitter.com/AvbcPHdHJD— Caley Graphics (@Caley_graphics) January 2, 2019
In the first half, Chelsea maintained control of the game, prevented Southampton counter attacks and created opportunities and a couple of chances to score, but couldn’t make a difference in the scoreline. The second half continued in a similar pattern, and saw Fàbregas going on for Barkley to use his creative quality, but Chelsea didn’t create the same quality of chances as they had in the first half and failed to take advantage of the opportunities they had.