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Chelsea 2-0 West Ham, Premier League: Tactical Analysis

Eden Hazard makes the difference.

First half

West Ham, like Cardiff, setup with Hernandez staying on David Luiz and allowing Rudiger time and space on the ball to start Chelsea’s attacks from midfield. However, Chelsea had Hazard on the pitch for the full 90 minutes this time, and that made a big difference.

As in the 0-0 earlier this season, West Ham maintained good control of the wings, kept their defensive line high on the edge of their box, and made it difficult to get behind their backline. But with Chelsea’s fullbacks moving up and both Hazard and Hudson-Odoi remaining wide on the outside of the fullbacks, Chelsea could create opportunities in central areas to play through West Ham’s midfield three, isolate the two deep central midfielders, have Hazard arrive in the middle with good timing to create overloads, and use the mobility of the attackers to expose West Ham’s lack of mobility in these areas.

From midfield, Chelsea would create an number of good situations through Jorginho playing off the back of Lanzini (to be in a position to receive the ball facing play from a lay-off), and both Kante and Loftus-Cheek splitting wide to draw Noble and Rice out wide. In doing so, when Chelsea played forward passes to Hudson-Odoi high on the wing or Higuain dropping to receive the ball to feet, they could then find Kante losing Noble and running behind West Ham’s backline to cause problems — Kante would also get behind when Hudson-Odoi moved inside and Azpilicueta moved up high on the wing.

Drawing the central midfielders wide and remaining on the outside of them also allowed Hazard to create an overload when he timed his movement to join the middle, since Emerson moving up on the left would keep Fredericks occupied out wide. With space ahead and between of West Ham’s central midfielders, Hazard could either combine with Higuain to run behind (resulting in winning a free kick early on in the game), or collect the ball and take on the midfielders.

West Ham struggled to find a solution to Chelsea constantly playing with the ball in midfield during the first half. They didn’t have opportunities to press high and would drop back to defend deep with spaces in midfield. Furthermore, even when they did win the ball, their outlets were their wingers, and only Felipe Anderson was able to receive the ball and hold onto it to allow them to move up, and on a few occasions even but get behind Chelsea’s backline and cause problems. Otherwise, they did not lose much danger.

Second half

For the second half, West Ham made a change with Hernandez being replaced by Snodgrass. Arnautovic moved inside to play as striker, and provided a much better outlet to receive the ball with back to goal, hold onto the ball and make runs behind Chelsea’s backline. Lanzini was pushed out onto the right.

West Ham also began to press Chelsea high in a 4-3-3 with Snodgrass and Noble (moving up), to not allow Rudiger the same space and time on the ball, and created several chances from counters after winning the ball higher up than they had in the first half. They had much more success during the opening stages offensively and prevented Chelsea from dominating the game in the same way as they had during the first half. But when Chelsea were able to play through their press they were stretched at the back and gave away opportunities for Chelsea to extend their lead — taking more of a risk to get back level.

The rest of the game was this open and end-to-end, with chances for both sides. West Ham remained in the game until late, where Chelsea and Hazard extended the lead to two to secure the win.


A similar strategy to Cardiff was undone by Hazard’s individual quality to score in the first half, while Chelsea then continued to dominate the rest of the half. West Ham’s change at half gave them a better outlet from the middle, more energy centrally in midfield and they played with much more aggression to press high and not allow Rudiger time and space on the ball. This provided them with more chances to create by winning the ball higher up, but would also leave them open and stretched at the back when Chelsea broke through their pressure. After chances for both to score during the second half, Chelsea finished the game off late on with Hazard’s second goal of the match.

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