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Chelsea 3-0 Malmo FF, Europa League: Tactical Analysis

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Breaking down Chelsea's solid if unspectacular win over Malmo to advance to the Round of 16

First half

The opening stages saw Chelsea put under an aggressive high press and often pushed back deep into their own half, where they had difficulties in keeping and progressing with the ball.

Malmo would hold their lines in midfield before looking to push up as a team and force Chelsea to play backwards, especially keying on the slow switching of the ball from one fullback to the other. Once Malmo had pushed up, they could then attempt to press Chelsea around their box with numbers during open play. They created a few opportunities by recovering the ball and through set pieces, but didn’t take advantage.

With Malmo pressing high and covering Chelsea’s short options from goal kicks, Chelsea instead started playing longer from Caballero. Direct to Giroud was a very successful strategy during these moments. He could win the first ball, find a teammate who could then exploit the space behind Malmo’s midfielders to drive forward with the ball and into the final third.

After the success of playing long Giroud, Chelsea were able to maintain possession in midfield much more often later on in the half, and by improving the speed of ball movement, they prevented Malmo from pushing them back (unlike early) — Chelsea now had a platform from which to move forward and into the the final third with the ball.

When Chelsea reached the final third, they could get behind Malmo’s backline on the left through Willian, Emerson, and Giroud making wide runs, but were unable to convert these opportunities into chances due to Malmo’s good cover of the low front post crosses, or Chelsea’s lack of options inside the box when Giroud moved wide. Switching to the right gave Hudson-Odoi opportunities to take on defenders with the ball, including dribbling past opponents to play through the high press, but Malmo often maintained numbers back to provide cover for these situations.

Second half

Chelsea found more success when playing through pressure in the second half by using more scooped and long passes over the top of Malmo’s midfield. This would again allow opportunities for Giroud to bring midfielders into the game and provided a platform for the midfielders to compete for the second ball. Kante especially took advantage, creating Chelsea’s first goal by driving forward with the ball, finding Willian in space with good timing, who played a low cross behind the back of Malmo’s backline for Giroud to finish into an open goal.

The goal didn’t change anything for Malmo (they still needed to score two goals), but as Chelsea continued to break through their pressure with the ball, they were often caught stretched and needed to use fouls to stop Chelsea’s creating chances. Space began to open up later in the half for Chelsea to find long ground passes into the front three between lines, where they could lay off the ball to runners on the inside, which would again cause more problems for Malmo defensively — continuing to allow Chelsea to carry the ball forward at speed would ultimately lead to Emerson winning a free kick on the edge of the box (which Barkley scored) and Malmo going down to ten men.

With one less man in their backline, Malmo weren’t able to continue doubling up on the wings to prevent 1v1s, which would be exploited by Willian holding and drawing in defenders on the left and switching to Hudson-Odoi in space on the right, who beat his defender 1v1 inside the box and scored Chelsea’s third.

Conclusion

In the opening stages of the match, Malmo pushed Chelsea back from midfield and caused problems through pressing. Chelsea found a solution by switching to a more direct style (to Giroud and over Malmo’s midfield), and then later in the first half, also began to move the ball with more speed to prevent Malmo from pushing them back. Chelsea continued to play over Malmo’s midfield in the second half and would go on to score from doing so, before spaces began to open for forward passes to feet into the front three, where they would combine and create opportunities in the final third. With the game stretched, Malmo down to ten men, and lots of space to exploit, Chelsea extended their lead and progressed easily into the next round.