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Krasnodar 0-4 Chelsea, Champions League: Tactical Analysis

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Breaking down Chelsea’s win in Southern Russia

First half

Chelsea found success by recovering the second ball from long balls and by finding Ziyech facing play with the ball to open the game up during the first half.

Kransnodar were set up defensively in a 4-4-2, with the front two sitting on Chelsea’s two deep central midfielders, and leaving Chelsea’s central defenders on the ball. In some moments, they pushed up to press high, with the front two pushing up onto Chelsea’s central defenders, supported by the midfielders behind them. They won the ball in a few of these situations early on, going on to have shots on goal.

Chelsea moved the ball from side to side as they looked to progress, with Kovačić and Jorginho always playing as deep midfielders and moving to the fullback positions to look for the ball, without much success. Havertz also dropped deep, but this would often make it easier for Krasnodar to press aggressively (4v3 against Chelsea’s midfielders when leaving the central defenders free to make forward passes), and Havertz can be overly calm when receiving the ball in these situations, which can result in losing possession or giving careless passes to teammates — not considering the pressure they’ll receive it under.

Chelsea were much more effective when they could find Ziyech facing play with the ball on the right, and thus have Havertz playing higher up the field. When Ziyech could hold the ball and face play, the game opened up for Chelsea’s runners up top (Havertz running wide to the right or Werner running from the middle) and Azpilicueta overlapping on the right, which would get them behind Krasnodar’s backline and into the final third. Finding Azpilicueta overlapping would create a number of opportunities to cross the ball into the box, with Werner winning a penalty from one of them.

Chelsea’s other successful route was to play more direct and up the middle, where Krasnodar’s midfield would be stretched and the backline dropping deep would leave spaces to both recover the second ball and have strong situations to attack from — Ziyech having the first shot on goal from one of them. Even without winning the first ball (again going back to the end of last season where Giroud gave Chelsea this option with greater qualities), Chelsea are good at winning the second ball and at creating in the final third when they arrive there, more so than being able to break lines consistently from possession.

When in the final third, Chelsea could create from crosses and Ziyech leaving the wing to combine inside, to both continue finding forward passes and having shots on goal. From these positions Chelsea would go on to create and take the lead, as well as having a strong recovery from pressing when they lost the ball.

Second half

Krasnodar played much more aggressively in the second half, pushing up to press from the front (front two onto Chelsea’s central defenders on the ball). They exerted pressure with the ball through counters and a number of set pieces, putting balls into the box. Chelsea endured this pressure well, and have continued to look solid in this respect since the arrival of Mendy into the team.

With the ball, Chelsea were more of a 4-3-3 now. This seemed to suit Havertz more as he no longer was dropping into areas around the ball where both Kovačić and Jorginho were close to him and easy to press (Kovačić and Havertz spread wider in 4-3-3), while when receiving the ball higher up on the half turn, he could show his quality to get past players easily, ,quickly carry the ball into space and launch attacks in the final third, all from just one turn. And even from the midfield position he would still be used as an option to play long to both from goal kicks and the kick off to start the second half.

This change in shape was reinforced by Chelsea’s triple sub, with Mount and Kanté replacing Kovačić and Jorginho in midfield, and Pulisic going on for Hudson-Odoi. Krasnodar’s pressure dropped off as the half went on, and with Chelsea now getting on the ball more in the final third, as well as recovering the ball high from pressing, they would go on to add to their lead to take the game away from Krasnodar. Pulisic brought a new speed and intensity to Chelsea’s play on the ball in the final third, and he would both win the penalty and find Werner to set up the goal for Ziyech, before going on to round off Chelsea’s scoring himself.

Conclusion

Krasnodar were solid defensively in the first half, leaving Chelsea’s central defenders on the ball and breaking with a few counters to cause problems. Chelsea opened the game up from direct play and when they could get Ziyech facing play on the ball to play forward passes, and would go on to win a penalty and score later on in the half as well. Chelsea had to endure much more aggression and high pressure from Krasnodar in the second half, but they dealt well with all the attacks and balls into the box, before going on to kill the game with three more goals later in the half as Krasnodar dropped off.