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Wolverhampton Wanderers 2-1 Chelsea, Premier League: Tactical Analysis

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Breaking down Chelsea’s second consecutive defeat

First half

Wolves set up to prioritize defensive organization first and foremost, and then attack both in possession and in broken play. Defending from midfield with the front two to the sides of Kanté gave them close enough access to Chelsea’s fullbacks, wide central midfielders, and Kanté himself. They also pushed up to close down the central defenders to maintain control, while Podence pushed up through the middle from midfield.

This forced Chelsea into the familiar recurring problems in organised play with the ball, where possession consists of passes always in front of the opponents’ block (not threatening) and having trouble creating in the final third.

Where Chelsea have consistently threatened have been set pieces, and they were again most dangerous from them in front of goal. Just like Manchester United, keeping hold of the ball until the team can win set pieces or penalties can be a good strategy — a goal then opens the game up to create from broken play, where both Chelsea and Manchester United excel.

Alternatively, a different approach with the ball could potentially bring better results with the same players. Chelsea’s best period under Lampard was the second half of last season, where they had a much more direct approach to the games and went earlier to Giroud, allowing for the wingers to come inside, run behind, and get close to Giroud for the second ball to be able to play in broken play rather than against an organised defensive block.

Chelsea had some improvement towards the end of the half after Pulisic moved to the right, where he could find balls into the box with more ease going on the outside rather than his efforts cutting inside from the left, but the game would go into the break goalless.

Second half

Chelsea took the lead early on in the second half, with Werner finding Chilwell’s perfectly timed overlapping run, before GIroud got across the front of the defenders at the near post to score. Werner, after swapping wings with Pulisic, found himself in a good situation with Wolves’ defensive line dropping back — playing switches has been another strength under Lampard. Following the goal Chelsea had their best period of the game for attacks in broken play, but were unable to extend their lead.

Wolves came back into the game playing high up with the ball, and Chelsea struggled to recover the ball from them in their deep block. Unlike the physical wingers James has come up successful against, Podence provided a different challenge from a technical level, which can really cause problems. Continuing to find Podence to either find pases behind or dribble allowed Wolves to create against a deep block. Podence himself would go on to score to draw the game level.

Chelsea continued to struggle recovering the ball from deep, and when they did get the ball back, their attacks in broken play, or when Pulisic was starting to accelerate with the ball in a dangerous position, were stopped well by fouls. The final moments of the game saw Wolves break quickly from deep to score a late winner.

Wolves vs. Chelsea xG timing chart
Understat

Conclusion

Wolves played to their strengths in organised defending, possession with creative attackers, and fast counters. They were able to stop Chelsea quickly in broken play, while allowing Chelsea to have a lot of the ball in front of their defensive block without threatening. Chelsea spent most of the game playing in ways that didn’t suit the qualities of the attackers and didn’t find solutions (other than some fast switches early in the second half) to take control of the game.