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Chelsea 1-1 Eintracht Frankfurt, Europa League: Tactical Analysis

Chelsea advance the Europa League final via a penalty shootout

First half

Frankfurt started the match by holding their defensive block from midfield, pushing up on the sides (wing-backs and wide midfielders moving forward) and shifting the front two to the sides between positions and to pressure the ball (blocking passing lines inside).

Chelsea had a difficult time playing passes through their central midfielders to break through pressure during this time, making errors and losing the ball to provide Frankfurt with opportunities to counter.

However, as the half progressed, Chelsea were able to begin to move forward with the ball, particularly on the wings. When Chelsea could then get behind Frankfurt’s backline, they could create opportunities to cross, and were also able to maintain a high block for the majority of the remainder of the half — recovering the ball high and conceding few counters.

From this high position, Chelsea would continue to use the wings to create and got Hazard into the game in positions where he can make the difference. By receiving the ball wide and drawing multiple opponents towards him (or just taking Abraham a long way from the defensive line for the goal), he would open spaces and create opportunities for others, which would see Chelsea make the breakthrough. By pulling Abraham out to pressure Hazard on the ball, space was opened up in Frankfurt’s backline — especially with Emerson wide to keep Da Costa out a QWLL. Loftus-Cheek waited behind Frankfurt’s midfielders (out of sight) before picking the right time to make the run behind and into the box in order to receive the ball before composing himself to finish.

Chelsea would go on to have opportunities to extend their lead and continued to play high up and aggressively, but were unable to take any further advantage from this moment of the match.

Second half

As it’s happened so often in Chelsea’s games this season, they made a bad start to the second half and conceded early on.

Frankfurt were again pressing high in numbers, and Chelsea were losing the ball during the building stages at the back and in their attempts to combine off Giroud when playing directly. This left Chelsea stretched defensively, especially when the fullbacks moved forward for counters, leaving spaces at the back for Frankfurt to exploit when the ball was turned over.

Frankfurt’s goal came from a strange situation after the appeal for a penalty, and Chelsea from that point maintained high midfield and defensive lines without ball pressure, which would go on to see the lines stretched and exposed by the great combination and finishing of Jovic.

The game continued in a similar pattern with Chelsea losing the ball and Frankfurt remaining high in Chelsea’s half, but they would again make a number of errors in the final third to waste opportunities.

Chelsea made changes to try to keep the ball by bringing Pedro on and again have a fresh player to attack the wings as they had in the first half, along with Zappacosta later on. Towards the final stages of the second half Chelsea did find more success, where they could play in the final third and create crossing opportunities, while Frankfurt would now rely upon Chelsea mistakes with the ball to launch counters. However, with the score level, the game would go into extra time.

Extra-time

Extra time continued to be very stretched and open. Zappacosta and Barkley showed their freshness during this period to create good opportunities going forward, and Chelsea had numerous other opportunities from counters and crosses, but were unable to turn them into clear chances. Frankfurt, on the other hand, had fewer opportunities but failed to convert the best chances of extra time, with David Luiz and Zappacosta both making clearances off the line.

Conclusion

Frankfurt started both halves with a high defensive block and pressing to the sides. In the first half Chelsea managed to overcome this with attacks on the wings to get behind the backline, where they could establish high possession and go on to take the lead. In the second half, with Frankfurt equalising early, Chelsea made many more mistakes with possession and tried to play through the middle more with combinations from Giroud, and only towards the end of the half did they manage to create opportunities for long shots and crosses. Extra time was stretched and open, with the fresh players from the bench beginning to have an impact. Chelsea created many opportunities, but Frankfurt had the two best chances to score, before the game was decided on penalties.