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Chelsea 2-0 Nottingham Forest, FA Cup: Tactical Analysis

Breaking down Chelsea’s Hudson-Odoi-inspired win the third round of the FA Cup

First half

Chelsea created most of their chances from the right wing during the first half, through isolating Hudson-Odoi 1v1 with the ball or drawing multiple defenders towards him to open up spaces for James to play early crosses from the corner of the box.

Forest dropped off Chelsea and couldn’t close the distances to forward passes on the wings, while also not attempting to push up from the front. Chelsea’s midfielders would stay higher up for the most part, leaving the back four to circulate the ball and look to play passes up to the wingers to move up the field.

Forest also had problems with the ball. Their attempts to play short saw them lose the ball against Chelsea’s pressing, while their main outlets were Mighten to hold the ball and draw fouls and Adomah carrying the ball forward into space. Carvalho was able to find spaces to receive the ball (after switching from the wing to form a front two with Johnson) when they reached the final third, but he was too inconsistent with what he did with the ball — losing it far too often.

Chelsea took an early lead by Pedro combining inside from the left (often leaving the wing and moving inside), before finding a switch to Hudson-Odoi 1v1 against Ribeiro, who did not have any cover on the inside of him. Pedro would again combine like this to create another situation, but the pass to the right was misplaced. Hudson-Odoi then found himself in a similar situation from Barkley’s pass, cutting inside and shooting, before Barkley himself followed up for the rebound to provide Chelsea with a two-goal lead before halftime.

Second half

Forest started the second half more aggressively, pushing up on Chelsea’s backline when the ball was in midfield, while their backline dropped off to stay close to the box and prevent the problems they had in the first half with leaving big gaps on the wings. But this came at the cost of allowing Chelsea to reach the final third more easily.

However, by dropping back early, they would be more organised inside and around the box when Chelsea reached the final third with the ball, and did not leave spaces open on the inside of the fullbacks for Chelsea to take advantage with 1v1’s.

Chelsea responded by moving Hudson-Odoi to the left wing, to begin to play crosses into the box from his right foot, while James continued to cross from the right through overlaps. Barkley and Pedro would join the box to attack the crosses (the former notably missing a chance at the far post), but they were unable to break Forest’s deep defending to go on to further extend their lead.


Forest struggled to control Chelsea in midfield during the first half, failing to close down distances on the wings and the fullbacks becoming isolated against Hudson-Odoi, and conceding two goals. Forest closed down the distances better in midfield at the start of the second half, while their backline dropped deep to defend the edge of their box, but Chelsea were still able to create chances to score from crosses while maintaining control defensively to see out the result.

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