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Chelsea 1-2 Liverpool, Premier League: Tactical Analysis

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Breaking down Chelsea’s disappointing loss to the Premier League leaders

First half

The opening stages of the game saw a number of turnovers of possession and neither team being able to maintain the ball for any sustained amount of time. Both Chelsea and Liverpool were able to play through pressure from the back and into midfield, but when attempting forward passes to the frontlines (both to feet and over the top) the ball would be lost and the pattern would continue.

However, when Liverpool played over the top from midfield, they would have closer distances to push up and pressure the ball. Also, giving away throw-ins and goal kicks provided them with opportunities to press up and sustain a high position. Chelsea would instead lose the ball in open play and have to drop back in order to regain their defensive block (larger distances between front and back).

When Chelsea won the ball in deep positions, they still needed to build up possession from their own half or counter from deep. When Liverpool won the ball, they would do so higher up and were able to either counter with short distances to Chelsea’s goal or start their possession from midfield. Case in point: Liverpool were able to recover the ball in midfield with a high press on Chelsea’s attempt to play through, and then won a free kick, which resulted in them taking the lead.

After conceding, Chelsea would advance up the field with possession in moments where the frontline were able to hold on to the ball, to allow support to join them and bring the fullbacks into the game, who had space to lose Liverpool’s wingers as they overlapped. Chelsea would also deal with Liverpool’s speed to counter from deep much better with a closer block when playing higher up, while having some opportunities of their own from set pieces and Abraham’s 1-v-1. However, Chelsea didn’t find an equaliser and Liverpool were clinical at the other end to extend their lead through another set piece.

Second half

Liverpool sustained high pressure in the final third on Chelsea during the opening stages of the second half, pushing them back to defend in a deep block, and continuing to create opportunities from set pieces as well. Chelsea continued to have the same problem in getting out as in the first half, where long balls were either lost or the team was split and unable to pressure the second ball on Liverpool’s backline. Forward passes to the under-pressure frontline (receiving with back to goal) couldn’t be held onto, to allow for support to arrive or be found — in these situations, winning free kicks or throw-ins are important to allow the team to move forward and break pressure.

As the half wore on, Liverpool stopped pressing aggressively from the front and conceded the ball, instead dropping back to defend their own half and look for counters. After this, Chelsea were able to progress into the final third with possession, finding the fullbacks high and wide, with Alonso especially creating a number of chances by picking out players inside the box from early crosses.

With the fullbacks high, Chelsea’s central defenders had a lot of space to control when the ball was lost, and against the speed of Liverpool’s wingers this was always going to be a dangerous situation. But as Liverpool tried to break predominantly on their right through Salah, Tomori was able to match his speed, keep him running on the outside, and show him down the line. By staying on his feet, Tomori would have the opportunity to tackle and take the ball from Salah cleanly on multiple occasions.

Despite the number of chances Chelsea created from crosses, they were only able to take advantage of their high positions in the final third through Kante’s brilliant individual goal. Liverpool continued to defend deep and brought on Gomez on as an extra defender during the final moments of the match to see out the win.

Understat

Conclusion

Liverpool managed to close the distances during the first half, where they would gain territory and play high up in the final third, before scoring from two set pieces. Chelsea Improved after going behind when they could hold onto the ball and move into their final third, but had great difficulty holding onto the ball with consistently as they attempted to play through pressure in midfield. Chelsea sustained their high position with possession as Liverpool dropped back during the second half, controlling the threat of Liverpool’s counters well, and created a number of opportunities from crosses, but couldn’t take advantage of their chances during the second half to gain any points from the game.