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Chelsea 4-1 Arsenal, Europa League Final: Tactical Analysis

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One more tale of two halves as Chelsea win a European cup

First half

Chelsea started the game with possession in midfield, finding spaces in wide areas for the fullbacks to advance (Arsenal’s wing-backs slow to adjust in passing over their man and closing the distances to press high), but had problems when trying to play passes forward to the front three between lines to get them into the game. Chelsea would thus keep possession in midfield but without becoming the aggressors in the final third to create chances.

By losing the ball from forward passes, Chelsea would provide Arsenal with a platform to come into the game and make use of their front players through quick and short counters. Their front two would make runs on the outside of Chelsea’s central defenders (stretching them wide and drawing the fullbacks narrow) and open space on the outside for the wing-backs to advance into crossing positions. With a much more aggressive and direct approach on the ball, Arsenal would advance quickly, win set pieces, and create opportunities for crosses into the box — missing some good chances to score.

During the final stages of the half, Chelsea began to find the front three between lines, advance into the final third, and bring Hazard into the game in creative areas. In doing so, Chelsea would begin to create chances and sustain attacks in the final third — especially causing problems with Hazard and Emerson on the left.

Second half

Chelsea began the second half as they ended the first, by aggressively attacking the final third and creating chances, and would go on to take the lead. As in the first half, there was space for the fullbacks to move forward, and with Pedro pinning Maitland-Niles back on the outside, Emerson found space on the inside to play an early ball into the box for Giroud to get ahead of Koscielny to finish.

Arsenal attempted to push up and press high after going behind, but Chelsea would play through it and go on to create more chances from the left, using the overlaps of Emerson, Hazard’s dribbling and Kovačić carrying the ball forward past defenders and into space.

Chelsea would go on to extend their lead to three goals before Arsenal made a change, with Iwobi going on to switch to a 4-2-3-1 (and later 4-4-2) and have more attacking options. Iwobi made an instant impact with his goal, but Chelsea would react quickly to re-establish their three goal advantage by recovering the ball high before a combination between Hazard and Giroud would see the former score his second goal of the game.

Conclusion

Chelsea couldn’t hold possession or find the front line in the opening stages, leading to turnovers and opportunities for Arsenal to counter and win set pieces high up. Chelsea improved later in the first half and were able to start creating chances through Hazard dribbling and combining, Emerson overlapping on the wing (causing Arsenal’s wing-backs and wide central defenders problems in marking), and playing with much more aggression in the final third. Chelsea continued the second half as they ended their first, and quickly built a three goal lead, before restoring their three-goal lead after Iwobi’s long shot.