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Chelsea 1-1 Krasnodar, Champions League: Tactical Analysis

Breaking down Chelsea’a dead rubber draw to finish out the group stage

First half

Chelsea played the first half with a lot of possession, good high pressing to recover the ball high up, but were very open to counters and made it very easy to get at the backline in deep defending.

From the right Chelsea had combinations going, dribbling, switches and crossing to create chances in the final third. From the left they were usually limited to just crosses by Emerson after switches, but he would generally have more options to aim for in the box with Havertz joining from the far side.

Although the game itself didn’t carry any consequences, with both teams assured of their spots in the group, the intensity was there. But Chelsea were lacking any real goalscorers in this one: the backline may get rare goals from set pieces, but the midfielders were possession players with Jorginho the penalty taker, and we are still waiting for Havertz, which left Abraham as the only reliable goalscorer on the pitch.

To add to the situation, Krasnodar scored first after a few promising counters and attacks in the final third. The reaction to going behind was strong, to win the penalty and equalise within minutes of conceding, and after that point there were a number of moments where chances were almost created for Abraham after combinations from the right (with Gilmour and Anjorin both moving over to overload), but Chelsea couldn’t create another chance to take the lead.

Chelsea FC v FC Krasnodar: Group E - UEFA Champions League Photo by Chris Lee - Chelsea FC/Chelsea FC via Getty Images

Second half

The long ball from the kick-off to start the half showed good potential for playing on the second ball and looking to create from broken play — a strategy that’s easier and more possible to work out on the fly and in the given moment than repeated patterns of play (given the amount of changes to the team).

Chelsea again had to cope with a number of counter-attacks, and coped with them well, where intensity continued onto the ball in broken play even while dropping back. But the issues when holding a deep shape are still present, where the spaces either side of the defensive midfielder are open to be exploited from simple combinations or low crosses into the box — this allows the opposition to get at the backline far too easily, even inside the box. Such a style is more suitable for players who want to engage directly in direct defensive actions, but that will always run the risk of giving away penalties or chances if they are unsuccessful in winning their individual battles.

The best chances came mostly through Abraham’s own doing, by recovering the ball high and beating defenders to get shots on goal. Werner brought an intensity to the frontline which made Chelsea much more threatening during broken play in the final moments of the game, while Kanté’s intensity with and without the ball from a higher position again showed his quality to make a difference from the bench. But Chelsea were unable to find the goal to finish off the game.

Conclusion

A game without any purpose served as a good opportunity for those that haven’t been involved to get some game time and push for a place in the starting lineup. The intensity of the pressing high up was good, the creation from the combinations on the right showed promise, and the reaction to going behind was good, but even with different individuals, the same spaces to be exploited when defending deep were still apparent.