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Lille 1-2 Chelsea, Champions League: Tactical Analysis

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Breaking down Chelsea’s 2-1 win in the Champions League group stages

First half

Lille’s defensive block in midfield allowed Chelsea’s back three to have possession, playing side-to-side before closing the distances on the wings, while blocking Chelsea’s central midfielders and front three from receiving the ball easily. Without being able to play through Kante and Jorginho from the middle, aggressive play from Chelsea’s wide central defenders was necessary to advance up the wings and move into creation areas in the final third.

Chelsea advanced most frequencently on their right, where either Willian or Kante were able to make runs behind (inside to outside) and take Chelsea into the final third behind Lille’s backline. Azpilicueta carrying the ball forward and playing passes into the feet of Willian between lines was another route through, where Willian would turn on the ball and look to drive at Lille’s backline. When Chelsea could create situations like these (carrying the ball at Lille’s backline), the two wing-backs would always be freely overlapping on the outside, which allowed Chelsea to create opportunities to cross the ball into the box.

When playing with the ball in the final third, the aggressive passes forward from Chelsea’s wide central defenders would again have a big impact, where Tomori’s pass into Abraham inside the box found the striker in space to turn and finish to give Chelsea the lead.

Lille’s threat with the ball began to come later on during the first half through counters and set pieces. Osimhen was the major offensive threat in both of these areas, using his speed to run and carry the ball forward during counters, and win the ball in the air between Zouma and Tomori to equalise from a corner.

Second half

During the opening stages of the second half, Chelsea played more long diagonal switches to their wing-backs higher up the pitch in order to move forward from midfield and provide them with territory inside Lille’s half to cross the ball into the box.

Later in the half, Chelsea changed to a 4-2-3-1 by replacing James with Hudson-Odoi, which made a difference as Willian and Hudson-Odoi would stay wide (more than Mount and Willian had in 3-4-3), hold on to the ball, and create chances through their individual quality in the final third. As in the previous match, Hudson-Odoi finding Willian turned out to be the scoring combination again.

During the final stages, Chelsea’s individual errors almost cost them the result, but Lille did not take advantage.

Conclusion

In the first half, Chelsea’s forward passes from wide central defenders and advances on the wings allowed them to move into the final third to create and score against Lille’s compact midfield block; Lille waited for opportunities to counter-attack and took advantage of Chelsea’s defensive problems at set pieces to equalise. In the second half, Chelsea played more long diagonal switches to the wing-backs to advance, before changing formation and bringing Hudson-Odoi on, which gave Chelsea more individual quality to create from the wings and retake the lead. Chelsea’s individual errors almost cost them the victory during the final moments of the game, but they managed to recover and see out their first win of the Champions League group stage.