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Bournemouth 4-0 Chelsea, Premier League: Tactical Analysis

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Breaking down the fiasco of Chelsea’s second worst Premier League defeat of all time (i.e. since 1992)

First half

In the first half, Chelsea were able to push Bournemouth back, to have to defend around their own box in the final third, but again struggled to create many chances to take the lead. When Chelsea lost the ball their high pressure was often good and allowed them to recover the ball quickly (especially since both King and Brooks were back defending in deep positions), but when Bournemouth were able to beat the first line of pressure or win the ball higher up, they could launch dangerous counter attacks with speed and open spaces on the wings to create chances.

Bournemouth’s front two began by playing either side of Jorginho and then looking to shift to the side of the central defender on the ball, but without a great level of intensity. This would often leave them in a position where Chelsea had a 3v2 advantage in the middle and could make passes into Jorginho, or the spare player, to find progress.

Chelsea’s central defenders found good ground passes to Higuain and Hazard between lines from midfield, one which would lead to the chance for Pedro to cross the ball into the box, where he instead cut inside and shot with his left foot. Along with long diagonals behind and a few long passes behind centrally, this wing play was a slight variation on Chelsea’s normal patterns of play.

What wasn’t new was Chelsea’s inability to get behind Bournemouth’s backline in the final third. Chelsea tried to project the fullbacks to get to the byline and play early crosses into the box, but Bournemouth’s backline were always back (with numbers) in deep and organised positions to block and clear crosses into the box, often from the near post. To make matters worse, with the fullbacks playing high, the spaces on the wings were open for Bournemouth to use for counters, too, which brought them success during the half.

Chelsea attempted to create centrally as well by drawing pressure on the edge of the box, dribbling and combining to enter the box, but Bournemouth played deep and narrow in these moments. This left the wings open for switches, but Chelsea didn’t take advantage of these spaces in many situations. The receiving player for the switch was often too narrow to play the ball into the box early, or the fullbacks were too deep and couldn’t move forward quickly enough to be able to take advantage of the space ahead of them—instead they would often be high when there wasn’t space ahead of them to use.

Upon a wide player moving inside the area with the ball, Higuain continued making the same diagonal runs behind as he had against Sheffield Wednesday, to offer an additional option, but there was never an attempt to play the pass behind for him in these moments. Instead, Chelsea’s attacks relied on individual actions, mostly on Hazard dribbling through and shooting from the edge of the box.

Second half

Bournemouth switched the front two at the start of the half, where instead of staying square and either side of Jorginho, King moved up as a striker playing between Chelsea’s central defenders and Brooks played behind him off Jorginho. This helped create moments of pressure more effectively as it required less shifting from the far side striker (Brooks able to cover Jorginho earlier) and allowed King to pressure the central defender on the ball from the inside, blocking the pass across to the opposite central defender, forcing forward passes into pressure, or back to Arrizabalaga — Bournemouth didn’t do this all that consistently, but the moments of pressure were better than what they had been in the first half. Bournemouth were also able to show Chelsea onto their weaker right flank much more often, reducing the influence of Hazard.

As in the first half, with the ball Bournemouth continued to attack the channels into the corner. They could get behind Chelsea’s backline this way, draw the defenders out, and enter the box. And that is precisely what they did to take the early lead, with Brooks finding King through a pullback inside the box — Brooks played a number of disguised passes into space and behind Chelsea’s backline throughout the game.

Leaving King higher up during deep defending would also provide a long and direct outlet when Bournemouth recovered the ball, bypassing Chelsea’s high press. Even when King was unable to hold onto the ball, it provided an opportunity for Brooks and Bournemouth’s midfielders to push up and then attempt to pressure the ball in midfield.

Chelsea created a chance to equalise through Pedro’s pass over the top to Kante inside the box, but this time the midfielder was unable to control the ball to get his shot off on goal. Shortly after, Bournemouth scored their second with Brooks using Rudiger to hide himself from David Luiz’s vision before stepping up to intercept the pass — he would eventually get the ball back, turn inside (opening up for a far post shot) but instead shoot through the defender’s legs towards the near post, sending Arrizabalaga the wrong way.

After Brooks was forced off with an injury, Stanislas moved into the middle and from there he could offer runs behind David Luiz out wide, from where he would find King inside the box to score Bournemouth’s third, before Daniels capped off Bournemouth’s tremendous second half performance with a set piece goal.

Understat

Conclusion

Chelsea had control of most of the first half, but they didn’t take the lead and there was always a threat from Bournemouth’s counter attacks. Bournemouth switched the front two in the second half to cover Jorginho, leaving King higher up, while showing Chelsea down their right-hand side with the ball more often than the left. They took an early lead, then doubled it shortly after Chelsea had a chance to equalise. Chelsea were simply unable to change the game back in their favour from this point, and Bournemouth continued to push up and create chances, going on to score another two goals to round off a great performance.