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Chelsea 2-2 Burnley, Premier League: Tactical Analysis

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Another tale of two halves as Chelsea fail to break down Burnley for a winning goal

First half

Burnley defended deep in numbers, pushed up to press higher in moments, and won set pieces inside Chelsea’s half to provide them with a platform to create chances. Chelsea would take the ball up to Burnley’s box consistently, prevent most counters when they lost the ball, and created good opportunities from open play.

Chelsea made a good start to the match with — creating with Hazard, predominantly on the left flank — but Burnley were clinical to take the lead with their first corner of the match. On the corner, Burnley put all their attackers inside the six-yard box, drawing Chelsea’s defenders (blockers and runners) in and leaving more space on the edge of the box. Chelsea were unable to close down quickly enough when the ball thus went out to Hendrick, and he took full advantage of the chance.

Burnley’s corner setup for first goal

Chelsea’s reaction to going behind was aggressive, and they created chances from both sides to equalise and take the lead, finding success through passes-to-feet inside the box rather than crosses in the air — difficult to find a Chelsea player against multiple Burnley defenders, let alone win the header. Chelsea had a couple more opportunities to extend their lead, before Burnley equalised.

Burnley’s long play from the back was very difficult for Chelsea to deal with. Burnley’s front two are both very strong in the air, had a physical advantage against Chelsea’s defenders, and they would use good movements to get the run on the defenders, before backing into them to draw fouls.

By winning free kicks inside Chelsea’s half, Burnley could attack with numbers inside the box to provide them with chances, and, with a similar free kick routine to what Chelsea have both scored from and conceded from this season (screening a far post looping run), they levelled the game before halftime.

Second half

With Hudson-Odoi injured during the first half and Kante replaced at halftime, Chelsea would be left with just one option to change the game from the bench in the second half, and would suffer in midfield without Kante.

Chelsea were unable to press as well as they had in the first half in order to sustain a high position with the ball and make continuous attacks. This allowed Burnley more time on the ball to push Chelsea back and play long into Chelsea’s half, which provided them with opportunities to press high, play with intensity and recover the ball in midfield to counter.

While the play inside Chelsea half was intense from Burnley’s high pressing, when the game moved into Burnley’s half, they dropped back to defend deep, control space and slow the game down — midfielders and defenders inside the box, and strikers on the edge of the box.

Since Burnley were defending deep in such great numbers, it was difficult for Chelsea to find ground passes inside the box for shots as they had in the first half, and would need to rely more on crosses for headers. Loftus-Cheek joining the box and attacking the back post provided an option that had been successful for Chelsea in the past, along with Giroud replacing Higuain to offer another option in the air. However, Burnley’s defence remained strong, making a number of blocks and clearances (especially clearances up the channels to keep the ball in play and waste time) to see the game out with a draw.

Conclusion

Chelsea made a good start to the game and reacted well to going behind with two quick goals to take the lead. Chelsea had more opportunities to extend their lead following this, but failed to do so, leaving the opportunity for Burnley to stay in the game and draw level from another set piece. In the second half Burnley created a good game state where the match was intense inside Chelsea’s half (pressing high or counters) and slow in their own half (deep deep defending and Chelsea unable to press high), while being able to manage the game and run down the clock when possible. Chelsea continued attacking the box with crosses in the air during the final stages of the match, but Burnley’s defending in numbers, clearances, and blocks kept Chelsea out.