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Chelsea 1-1 Aston Villa, Premier League: Tactical Analysis

Breaking down Chelsea home draw against in-form Villa

First half

Given six changes from the previous match, Chelsea’s lineup possessed characteristics much more suitable for the formation and style of play they have been trying to achieve over recent weeks. With more technical and creative players in the team, they could hold on to the ball, draw pressure and break through it, and then create from the wings against not just a stretched but an organised defensive block as well.

To advance through the wings Chelsea used rotations well, with the wingers dropping on the inside and fullbacks advancing wide. In deep areas the wingers could keep the ball and find teammates in space facing play, such as the dropping wide central midfielders, which would then present the opportunity to play forward through Villa’s pressure by using switches or finding the advancing fullbacks on the wings. Chelsea could also get behind with the fullbacks staying back and playing long passes, where the wingers would stay wide and drop for the ball to open the space behind for the wide central midfielders to make outside runs behind. Giroud provided a further reliable option to play through the middle, where he could hold the ball before finding short layoffs to midfielders facing play, or switch the ball to the wings.

As Chelsea advanced with the ball into the final third, they arrived with much more speed to their attacks since they had already drawn pressure inside their own half before breaking through. The wingers moving inside provided creativity by carrying the ball forward and drawing a defender before releasing the ball at the right time to the overlapping fullbacks, while Chelsea’s wide central midfielders could again drop to provide defensive balance, support on the ball, and play passes behind for the fullbacks on the wings.

From such attacks Chelsea created a number of chances and took the lead. Recovering the ball high from pressing gave further chances to Chelsea to score and extend their lead in the half, but despite their excellent play with the ball they would have to settle for a one-goal lead going into halftime.

Second half

Within the first five minutes of the second half, Chelsea let all of the good work of the first go to waste by conceding, after Christensen stayed down in the hope of the referee stopping the game to leave Chelsea with one less at the back, which was quickly exploited by Villa.

Following the goal, Chelsea began to make a number of unforced errors with the ball, and were unable to find the quality of possession to advance quickly to the final third as they had enjoyed in the first half.

Villa began to drop back and defend deeper from midfield as the half progressed, and this changed where the opportunities were coming for Chelsea. Now they didn’t need to build through pressure, and the higher midfielders were finding spaces on the edge of the box for shots on goal. Bringing on Havertz for Jorginho and moving Kanté back (to recover the ball from counters) was a good move. However, with the spaces on the edge of the box and other opportunities coming from crosses and set pieces, Werner going on for Giroud took away Chelsea’s threat in the air from crosses.

Werner did have opportunities to move to the sides of the box to combine and look to work shots on goal from overloads. And Chelsea did create a few opportunities on goal as the game progressed, from long shots and crosses to the far post, but were unable to retake the lead and had to settle for the draw.

Chelsea vs. Aston Villa xG timing chart
Understat

Conclusion

Chelsea played well with the ball in the first half, moving forward quickly through pressure and creating opportunities from the wings. The performance of the first half deserved more than a single goal lead, but without extending it before halftime, the bad start to the second half saw the lead get taken away. Chelsea kept going, and later on in the half as Villa dropped back, they began to find spaces on the edge of the box for long shots, and controlled Villa’s counters well to sustain attacks in the final third, but Villa were able to hold on for a draw.