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Chelsea 2-1 Aston Villa, Premier League: Tactical Analysis

Breaking down Chelsea’s win over Villa, wherein Tammy Abraham made all the difference

First half

Similar to the West Ham game, Chelsea faced a team that allowed the central defenders to have the ball — though Villa were slightly more aggressive than West Ham when pushing up, and looked to apply pressure to forward passes made to the fullbacks (wingers pressing from the outside in) or midfielders while waiting to capitalise on any mistakes.

Chelsea would again keep the ball and advance on the wings or play long diagonal switches. On the right Willian would drop for the ball and use Kanté’s runs from deep beyond him to play forward or dribble inside. On the left, Pulisic would move between lines to receive the ball and quickly turn to run at Villa’s backline (Azpilicueta high on overlap to pin fullback deep) and get into the final third. Mount receiving between lines or dropping for the ball (Kanté again running beyond into the vacated spaces) would also provide another route forward when there were difficulties to advance on the wings.

When Chelsea reached the final third, crosses were again their main form of creation, with both fullbacks joining the attacks. Chelsea would go on to take the lead from one of these crosses, where Willian held the ball on the wing to draw Grealish towards him (Willian vs. two Villa defenders) and away from James to free him up on the inside. Once the ball was then played to James he picked out Abraham inside the box to give Chelsea the lead.

Following the goal, Villa started to have periods of possession where they would advance the fullbacks when they moved into Chelsea’s half and allow McGinn to move forward from midfield, with the wingers both moving inside — Trezeguet joining Wesley in the middle, and Grealish moving into midfield to get on the ball. Villa would then go on to equalise during the final stages of the half, where yet another cross from the right caused Chelsea’s defence problems.

Second half

Chelsea took the lead again early in the second half in similar manner as in the first. Willian holding the ball wide this time would see him shift the ball onto his right foot and find the gap between the two defenders to play the ball into the box for Abraham, who’d lay the ball off for Mount to finish with a first-time volley.

Chelsea continued to create further chances during the second half, but they were unable to extend their lead to take the game away from Villa. With the result in the balance during the final stages of the match, Villa were able to put a number of balls into Chelsea’s box and would require Kepa to make crucial saves to secure three points from the game.

Chelsea vs. Aston Villa: xG timing chart


Chelsea faced a similar situation as in their previous match, against West Ham at home, where they had opportunities to move the ball forward into the final third and create from crosses. This time Abraham was there to both score and lay off the ball for the second goal to make the difference.

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