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Chelsea 2-0 Nottingham Forest, FA Cup: Tactical Analysis

Tactical breakdown of Chelsea’s straightforward FA Cup third round victory

First half

Chelsea had long spells of possession inside the final third after breaking Forest’s lines in midfield with ease in the first half, creating a number of chances to score without taking the lead.

Forest attempted to hold their defensive block from midfield with their front two and wingers narrowing in the middle to pressure Chelsea’s two central defenders and three central midfielders, before shifting to the side to pressure the fullbacks as the ball moved wide. However, Chelsea broke these lines fairly comfortably by drawing pressure in the middle or on one side before switching to advance into the final third. For example, after drawing pressure towards one of Chelsea’s fullbacks and then moving the ball inside to the central defenders and midfielders, they could always find the far-side fullback advancing (not covered by Forest’s winger) with a long diagonal to quickly start an attack in the final third — David Luiz or Fàbregas to Zappacosta, often an outlet, resulting in early crosses into the box and long shots by Zappacosta.

As Chelsea entered the final third, the attacks on the wings would allow them to create further chances. On the right they attacked more with numbers and combinations, with Loftus-Cheek taking on from the outside or moving inside to receive and open space for Zappacosta to overlap on the outside, Ampadu balancing through positioning or running behind to open spaces, and Fabregas moving over to support and play forward passes. From the left, Chelsea could attack more directly and with speed, where Hudson-Odoi maintained his width on the outside and waited for the ball to feet to then take on the defenders. In support, Barkley could make selective runs behind on the inside, while it was predominantly Emerson’s offensive runs both overlapping and underlapping that were used to play the ball to or open space to dribble with the ball into.

Chelsea’s recovery of the ball high up to sustain position was often good, although it often didn’t need to be. When Forest were able to counter and find space ahead of Chelsea’s backline, the quality of their attacking decisions were poor and saw them waste potential attacks without gaining anything from them — not even winning many fouls or throw-ins to advance up the field, have a platform to attack from, and relieve pressure.

With Loftus-Cheek going off at the end of the half, the introduction of Hazard altered the positioning of the attacks slightly, where Hazard would now be playing more freely from the inside and Hudson-Odoi would hold his position wide from the right. From the middle, Morata could now stay higher up as striker (option as runner behind the backline for Fàbregas passes) and allow Hazard to receive the ball at feet between lines, or let the ball run through to Morata when on the same passing line to then look for the layoff facing play with the ball.

Second half

With Hazard on for the second half, Chelsea’s attacks were now shifted from predominantly on the right right to the left, which allowed Fàbregas, Emerson and Barkley to be more involved, while Ampadu could hold a deeper and more defensive position for balance and Hudson-Odoi and Zappacosta were options to switch the play to and attack at speed. This paid off early on in the half, with Hudson-Odoi getting the ball on the wing after a switch, taking on the defender down the line and playing a low cross behind Forest’s backline for Morata to attack and score the first goal of the game.


Hudson-Odoi Morata! Hudson-Odoi Morata! Two goals and through to the FA Cup fourth round!

Posted by Chelsea Football Club on Saturday, January 5, 2019

Chelsea were a little more stretched during counters on their left with Hazard often in a central position and not there to cover the fullback, but again Forest’s quality in the final third let them down in a few promising positions. It was from one of these attacks where they put numbers where Chelsea would go on to score their second goal and kill the game. Morata received the ball from Fàbregas to start the counter attack, finding Hudson-Odoi on the outside, before Hudson-Odoi eventually worked a crossing position to find Morata in the air at the far post this time to score — Hudson-Odoi to Morata is almost becoming Azpilicueta to Morata this season.

Forest continued to press higher up as they had earlier on in the half, which would open spaces in their own half for Chelsea during the moments they broke though to create, as well as providing Forest with more opportunities to attack than they had in the first half, but two goals were enough for Chelsea to go through into the next round.


Chelsea broke Forest’s lines in midfield by drawing pressure and cross-field switches in the first half, with a number of attacks and chances created in the final third, but without scoring. In the second half, Chelsea could attack from the left and switch to the right with Hazard on before half-time, and this provided Hudson-Odoi the opportunity to take on defenders and put crosses into the box more often than he had on the left. Hudson-Odoi would go on to create both of Morata’s goals and see Chelsea through into the next round.

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