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Watford 1-2 Chelsea, Premier League: Tactical Analysis

Breaking down Chelsea’s largely straightforward win over the bottom side in the Premier League.

First half

Chelsea dominated the first half through possession, taking an early lead and creating a number of chances to extend their lead.

Building from the back had Chelsea’s back four and two deep central midfielders hold on to the ball and circulate it until they broke Watford’s pressure. Typically, Watford would push up high on the sides with the wing-back moving up to pressure, along with their central midfielders attempting to pressure Chelsea’s deep midfielders.

In the moments when Chelsea would break through this pressure, they could play passes behind Watford’s midfielders and run with the ball at Watford’s backline. Mount, playing higher up, would drop for the ball or move wide, which would allow Willian to leave the wing and move inside to receive and carry the ball in these situations, while Pulisic made diagonal runs behind Watford’s backline from the outside.

When not drawn to the ball, Watford held their lines tight inside their own half. Chelsea broke them down by running behind in the moments when Jorginho had time and space to receive the ball facing play, and hit a first time pass behind Watford’s backline — Tammy Abraham taking advantage of one of those to provide Chelsea with the early lead. Chelsea continued to create chances throughout the first half and sustained possession throughout, but were only able to take a one goal lead into the break after a number of saves made by Foster.

Second half

Watford switched from 3-4-3 to 3-5-2 for the second half, where Deulofeu remained forward for counters with Gray and Pereyra joining the midfielders. In response, Chelsea would begin to find spaces on the sides of Watford’s central midfielders — Kovacic finding Willian narrow on the outside of Watford’s midfield set up the chance for Chelsea to score their second of the game early on in the second half. Kovacic carrying the ball forward past Watford’s midfielders would set up multiple chances for him to pass into the box.

Chelsea’s comfort on the ball increased as the half went on. They were usually able to keep the ball deep inside their own half despite high pressure from Watford — Chelsea would draw Watford’s midfielders forward before playing through them and finding attacking players in spaces between lines to take the ball forward and create chances.

However, Watford won and scored a penalty that would set up a difficult end to the game for Chelsea, where they were required to defend many crosses into the box from Deulofeu — Watford with numbers inside the box attacking the ball — and where Watford were able to sustain a high position inside Chelsea’s half during the final stages of the game. Watford almost found an equaliser with the last act of the game, when Foster joined the box and won the header, but Kepa was able to save the shot and preserve all three points for Chelsea.

Conclusion

Chelsea dominated the majority of the game. They drew pressure onto them to open up Watford’s defensive lines, but were also able to create with passes behind Watford’s backline when playing against a deep block. Chelsea scored early in both halves and created a number of chances to extend their lead, but without finishing the game off and by conceding the penalty with time to go, they allowed Watford to come back into the game and had to defend deep inside their box to see out the game during the final moments.