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Wolverhampton Wanderers 2-5 Chelsea, Premier League: Tactical Analysis

Big win for Frank Lampard’s 3-4-3

First half

Chelsea changed to a 3-4-3 for this fixture, matching the hosts who had made a habit of taking points of bigger teams, including against Chelsea last season.

With the ball, Chelsea tried to play through high and tight pressure when building up from the back (which often required drawing a foul to break pressure). Once into midfield with the ball, Wolves would begin to drop off from Chelsea’s back three and maintained compact numbers centrally in midfield before pushing up to close the distances.

When pressing in the final third, Wolves would match Chelsea’s back three by Jota moving to the left to cover Rüdiger, Dendoncker moving up to close down Tomori, and Moutinho and Neves covering Chelsea’s central midfielders. Wolves maintained good pressure on the ball and short distances around the ball for the majority of the half until the moment leading up to Chelsea’s first goal, where Kovačić found Mount between lines with space to turn and run at the backline.

From midfield, Wolves’ front two held a deeper position to close the distances to the midfield line behind them and prevent Chelsea from playing through the middle, while the wing-backs pushed up on the sides to provide Chelsea with a great deal of difficulty moving the ball up to the attackers. Willian received and dribbled inside on a few occasions to break through, but otherwise the only other occasions when Chelsea managed to break through the defensive block were for the other two goals in the half — Tomori carrying the ball forward behind Wolves’ midfielders for Abraham’s first, and Willian carrying the ball forward on the wing leading up to Abraham’s second.

Wolves’ possession would see Dendoncker again making the most movements, both to drop for the ball as Traore moved forward, and to move into the box for crosses. They would draw pressure onto the ball from the backline and the central midfielders, before looking for switches to the wings, and try to create situations for Traore to take on Alonso 1-v-1 and put the ball into the box.

Second half

Wolves switched the frontline for the second half, with Jota playing behind Jimenez and Cutrone, and had a much more aggressive approach to the game in general. These changes made a difference. Jota, between lines, would be able to hold on to the ball and bring Jonny into the game (overlapping into crossing positions), while Jimenez had freedom to make early runs behind in wide positions to get behind Chelsea earlier when they recovered the ball (not waiting for advancing wing-backs).

During the opening stages of the half Wolves maintained the ball high up, recovered the ball high from Chelsea, and sustained attacks from set pieces to have numbers inside the box to attack the ball. However, Chelsea would go on to extend their lead and have another chance to score (Jorginho creating for Abraham and Mount) before Wolves were able to pull a goal back.

The final stages saw the game become very open, wherein Chelsea had a lot of chances from counters (Willian often creating the opportunity by finding Azpilicueta with the right timing on the overlap), and both sides would go on to score another goal.


On the few occasions that Chelsea were able to break through Wolves’ compact block during the first half, they were clinical and scored the chances they had. Wolves made a much more aggressive start to the second half, but Chelsea and Abraham were clinical again to further extend their lead. Wolves’ countless set pieces eventually brought them a goal of their own. With the game open during the final stages of the game, both teams found the back of the net one of more time.

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