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Chelsea 3-0 Watford, Premier League: Tactical Analysis

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Breaking down Chelsea’s crucial win at Stamford Bridge to guarantee a top four finish

First half

Chelsea made a bad start to the match, where they had difficulties pressing to recover the ball, lost the ball too quickly when they regained it, and suffered the injury of Kante early on as well.

Watford were able to hold the ball to draw pressure first (stretch Chelsea’s midfield) and then play early to Deeney to create opportunities from the second ball. With midfielders pushing up to support, and wingers moving inside to look for the second ball, Chelsea faced difficulties not only in their attempts to deal with the first ball in the air but also in preventing the quick opportunities to shoot from distance from the second ball.

Watford matched Chelsea’s numbers during short building from the back to stop them playing out short. As a result, Chelsea would instead elect to play long to Higuain and the fullbacks, with little success and the ball being lost or going out of play. This would again provide Watford with opportunities to compete for the second ball or win the ball in midfield to launch dangerous counters.

Chelsea had some good moments later on in the half, where they played through pressure in their own half to take the ball forward to the final third, and a really strong moment of high pressure, recovering the ball and creating chances in the final third. Pedro created opportunities through combinations to shoot from distance, playing passes for Higuain’s runs around the back of defenders, and crossing from the right to find Higuain getting across the front of defenders ... but Watford’s defence managed to recover quickly enough in order to prevent or block the shots from these situations — which would see the game go into the break level.

Second half

Chelsea made a much better start to the second half, where they would go on to score two early goals and maintain intensity in their game throughout the half.

Building up and playing through Watford’s high press allowed Chelsea to create opportunities against a stretched Watford defence — fast attacks with the ball in midfield. Hazard used his individual quality to create shooting opportunities for himself, before Chelsea’s first two corners of the match would yield two goals in quick succession.

Chelsea’s reaction to losing the ball and high pressing (by the entire team) improved from the first half as well. They pushed high aggressively with much more consistency, winning the ball in midfield or the final third to then go on and create more chances to score. Watford couldn’t find opportunities to hold onto the ball or play forward passes to play off Deeney as easily as they had in the first half, which took away their main attacking threat. Instead they tried to use counters with Deulofeu carrying the ball at speed and moving to the wings to create chances to cross the ball into the box, but were unable to take any of the chances thus created.

Instead, Higuain’s continued runs off the back of Watford’s defenders inside the box would eventually see him score Chelsea’s third goal to finish off the game.

Conclusion

Chelsea made a slow start to the game, playing without intensity. Watford were able to keep the ball and create chances from their direct play to Deeney (requiring Kepa to make a good save), but didn’t take advantage of Chelsea’s poor start. Chelsea started the second half with much more intensity, pressing high and aggressively, and also breaking through Watford’s high press to create chances. Chelsea capitalised on their good start to the second half with two goals from two corners, and would continue to dominate the match in the second half — reducing Watford to counters. Watford created a few good opportunities from their counters later on in the second half, but it would be Chelsea and Higuain finishing off the scoring to secure the win and Champions League football next season.