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Chelsea 3-1 Leeds United, Premier League: Tactical Analysis

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Breaking down Chelsea’s excellent win against traditional rivals

First Half

Chelsea faced a Leeds defence featuring strong man-marking, always keeping close distances, and a wide shape to control forward passes to feet in the final third. Adding to that, Leeds took an early lead from Bamford taking advantage of Zouma conceding too much depth to get onto the pass by Phillips and score.

Forward passes and direct routes up the wings from switches are difficult to use against such a setup, but Chelsea’s central defenders did have space and time on the ball to carry it forward at their own risk — leaving space for dangerous counters with few behind ball. These provided them the opportunity to play passes behind the opposition backline for wide runners coming inside. Silva found Ziyech making these runs on a few occasions.

When Leeds broke forward and entered the final third with the ball, they found spaces to the sides of Kanté, especially as Chelsea dropped back into the box. Leeds managed to find their man inside the box on a few occasions, but were unable to take advantage and double their lead.

From building deep, Leeds had problems keeping the ball against Chelsea’s pressing, with the Blues anticipating and intercepting passes, and winning the ball high. These high recoveries often led to direct chances for Chelsea to score, but they were unable to find their composure.

Chelsea’s equaliser came from Ziyech’s last action of the match, using his technical qualities to the ball and open space on the outside for James to overlap and get behind Leeds’ backline, where his first time cross was finished by Giroud at the front post.

Second half

The second half saw Werner always coming inside from the right and looking to be on the back shoulder of the last man to get behind anytime there was broken play, a second ball flick on, or Giroud the ball under pressure before finding him quickly on the turn. From here, Werner could quickly shoot with his right foot on the outside, rather than having to cut inside to shoot as he does from the left, and leaving the wing for James to run into.

Chelsea were again threatening to score all throughout the game from corners, and it would be Zouma again finding the net to make up for his mistake in the first half. Zouma’s qualities in defending are in direct actions onto the ball (tackles, blocks and headers all up against an opponent), and it’s in his decisions to cut out the danger indirectly where he can become a complete defender.

Kovačić for Havertz was the change made after taking the lead, with his qualities needed for Chelsea dropping off to defend and open up spaces to counter. Not only does Kovačić add this as the midfielder in a 4-3-3, but he is more present in all actions of the game than Havertz in this role — the latter’s qualities all in the final third and behind the opposition’s midfielders.

With spaces opened up for counters, it was not only the speed Chelsea could use from both wings, but the occupation of both central defenders by Giroud in the middle to draw them in or pull them forward to leave the spaces behind. Werner and Pulisic showed their qualities (speed and movement) to get behind and to get into shooting positions inside the box, but it wouldn’t be until late on — keeping Leeds in the game with opportunities to equalise — where they extended Chelsea’s lead and killed the game.

Chelsea vs. Leeds United xG timing chart
Understat

Conclusion

Leeds took an early lead and continued to have opportunities to extend it when they were finding passes into the box from the wings. Chelsea created chances from longer passes behind Leeds’ backline, winning the ball high, and from corners, but it would be from the wing where they’d create the opening goal. After taking the lead, Chelsea were prepared to defend deeper (with changes) and look to kill the game with counters, but leaving the door open for Leeds to come back up until the dying moments of the game.