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Arsenal 3-1 Chelsea, Premier League: Tactical Analysis

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Breaking down Chelsea’s embarrassing trip to the Emirates

First half

Despite a number of enforced changes for Arsenal, and despite having been on a bad run of results, they made the better start to the game, easily getting crosses into the box with spaces to find for shots on goal.

Chelsea have the same problems every game, including in this one. When they cannot press, they really struggle to recover the ball from midfield, and they are very open at the back behind the wingers and the advanced central midfielders. Not only does this allow opponents to keep the ball and move into creation areas, it also takes away the possibility of Chelsea being able to use the qualities of their frontline from counter-attacks. Chelsea defend the box (for the most part) with the back four and Kanté.

The second problem Chelsea have had is with the ball, and again it was apparent. Chelsea under Lampard have looked best with more direct play, especially since using Kanté as the defensive midfielder and Zouma at the back. When playing forward early and recovering the ball high, they can use the qualities of Werner and Pulisic to carry the ball forward into spaces, dribble with the ball and create chances. When they try to build with ground passes, they end up keeping the ball until they manage to work a cross against a team already set up to defend the cross and often few options inside the box to attack the ball.

Although Arsenal had opportunities from their crosses, they didn’t take advantage of these situations. However, with Chelsea’s defenders and Kanté constantly being stretched (defending big spaces 1-v-1) and trying to rush the player on the ball to get a foot in quickly, fouls happen and Arsenal would take a two-goal lead into the second half from a penalty and a free kick.

Second half

Chelsea made two changes at half-time, with Hudson-Odoi replacing Werner (Pulisic moving to the left) and Jorginho replacing Kovačić (Kanté moving higher up).

These changes helped Chelsea continue in the way they were already trying to play, in that Jorginho helps build from the back as the sitting midfielder, Kanté can use his energy much more from a higher position, and Hudson-Odoi gives another creative option to break down an organised deep defence. With this lineup, the defending of the team also improved as Kanté could be more active from the side while Jorginho sits in the middle (rather than Kanté having to cover all the space from the middle himself), and Hudson-Odoi is the best defensive winger at Chelsea.

With Pulisic and Mount on the left, they could combine and rotate positions much more easily when trying to create, while Kanté can get behind, move into scoring positions inside the box, and provide defensive balance to the wing when James and Hudson-Odoi are both high up.

However, despite Chelsea’s much improved start to the second half, the back four were still there to be gotten at with the ball, and Saka finding space before scoring really killed Chelsea’s momentum. Arsenal would go on to have more chances to extend their lead, and even with the chance of a late Chelsea comeback after the Abraham goal and the missed penalty, the same problems for Chelsea continue to be present.

Arsenal vs. Chelsea xG timing chart
Understat

Conclusion

The same problems Chelsea have had consistently were again apparent and Arsenal threatened to take advantage of them from the very beginning. Chelsea again had difficulties when trying to create from possession against an organised block, while problems recovering the ball defending deep reduced the possibilities of counters, gave away a penalty and free kick, which gave Arsenal a two-goal lead at halftime. Chelsea’s changes improved them for the second half, but Saka’s goal killed their momentum and left a late comeback as their only hope to get something from the game.