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AFC Bournemouth 2-2 Chelsea, Premier League: Tactical Analysis

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Breaking down Chelsea’s dramatic draw

Aggressive start

Bournemouth made an aggressive start to the game, with high pressing and looking to advance on the wings.

With the ball, Bournemouth looked to get behind on the wings, with the fullbacks moving forward to join the attacks. From the left, Smith would attempt to carry the ball and look to combine with King, who would make runs on the outside of Azpilicueta or dribble inside between the lines. From the right, they would look to find Fraser early to hold the ball, and then play from him, allowing Stacey the time to overlap. Fraser would find the overlap with a perfectly timed pass behind Alonso, with Stacey then playing a first-time ball into Billing inside the box for a shot on goal very early on.

Without the ball, Bournemouth pushed up aggressively on the left with King on Azpilicueta’s first touch, with Smith joining in to press James receiving with back to play. James would have to use his strength to shield the ball while carrying it inside before looking to play backwards, which would continue pressure on the ball and force Chelsea into playing long — usually after going back to Caballero and having to play long first-time while under pressure from Wilson.

On the right, Bournemouth had Fraser dropping to cover Alonso, leaving Tomori free to receive the ball at first — Fraser on Tomori and Billing on Alonso during goal kicks — but they would then push up and pressure Tomori when he turned on the ball. Billing closed down the space ahead of him, leaving Kovačić (but blocking the direct pass to Kovačić) while Lerma could push up and take over the covering of Kovačić. Wilson also contributed to the pressing of Tomori to squeeze him as a team, while also being ready to chase down back passes to Caballero. Pressing Tomori when he attempted to clear the ball inside the box would see Billing win the ball and have a second opportunity to score early on in the half.

In the past, Chelsea have had a couple different solutions for the above situation. One used to be Kovačić dropping back on the inside of Tomori (giving Billing problems) and Alonso pushing up high on the outside (pushing Fraser deep), giving Tomori the space to drive forward with the ball. Another used to be a pass to the back foot of Alonso moving towards the ball to play a first time diagonal pass into the frontline (either to feet or in the air over pressure). This time, Chelsea found a different solution.

Chelsea play through pressure

Chelsea came into the game when they began to break through Bournemouth’s high pressing to take control and start advancing consistently with the ball into the opponent’s half. They would play through the central midfielders under pressure and look to either keep the ball while moving it quickly at the back (until Bournemouth drop off) or play through the pressure to the frontline. The following situation is an example of the latter.

In this case, Jorginho moves over to collect the ball from Tomori and play into Kovačić behind Billing (Lerma closing from behind). This give just enough time for Kovačić to find Mount to break pressure and force Bournemouth’s backline into having to drop back quickly — Chelsea creating a 5-v-4 attack with Fraser not tracking Alonso’s run.

Chelsea had difficulties getting behind Bournemouth’s backline when they dropped back to defend in a deep and compact block, with Chelsea often resorting to early balls into the box from deep positions. However, when Chelsea could draw pressure onto the ball in midfield, they could open up Bournemouth’s defensive shape and play through it.

It was one of plays that resulted in the game’s opening goal. Azpilicueta drew in King with the ball in midfield before finding Jorginho in the space opened behind. He would quickly combine with James to get the wing-back in behind Bournemouth’s backline for a ball into the box, where Chelsea would take the lead.

Second half

Chelsea continued with possession and had opportunities to extend their lead in the second half, but it would be Bournemouth with a quick double to take the lead in the match.

The first goal came from a corner while the second was a collection of errors from Chelsea that allowed Bournemouth to break through and take advantage — good turn by Billing and Stacey arching his underlap well to remain onside before finding King at the far post to tap the ball into an empty net.

Chelsea’s reaction was to switch to a 4-3-3 by bringing on Barkley and Willian on for Tomori and Jorginho — two players to attack in the final third. Bournemouth continued to press high, using up a lot of energy without any success. Chelsea would keep the ball and move through pressure, which would ultimately see Bournemouth dropping back to defend deep for the remainder of the half.

Chelsea worked the ball with numbers in and around the box, maintaining constant pressure on Bournemouth’s goal and winning a number of corners to sustain attacks from as well. This continued pressure would prove to be successful for Chelsea eventually — Alonso equalising with his second goal of the game and going on to have another chance to score his third.

Bournemouth vs. Chelsea xG Timing Chart
Understat

Conclusion

Bournemouth made a good start to the game with high pressing and a couple of chances to score. Chelsea found solutions through Bournemouth’s pressure to push back, which allowed them to dominate possession for the remainder of the half and take the lead. Chelsea continued with possession and had chances to extend their lead in the second half, before Bournemouth’s quick double saw them take the lead. Chelsea reacted well with the switch to 4-3-3 and pushing Bournemouth back to defend deep inside their own box, which would see them go on to get an equaliser.