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Leicester City 0-1 Chelsea, FA Cup: Tactical Analysis

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Breaking down Chelsea’s quarterfinal win

First half

Chelsea made a number of mistakes when trying to build from the back during the first half, and Leicester’s pressing would recover the ball from careless passes made without a clear picture—blind passes. This gave Leicester a number of opportunities to create during the first half, however Chelsea’s recovery at the back was good to react quickly, get tight to the man on the ball and force the attackers into errors — most counter opportunities did not end in a Leicester shot.

Long play would suffer when Abraham didn’t win free kicks, since he was unable to stay on his feet when trying to hold onto the ball with pressure from behind. When the second ball bounced back into midfield, Nidi was dominant at recovering and quickly passing or driving forward with the ball to launch attacks.

Despite Chelsea’s bad start, Leicester didn’t capitalise upon countless opportunities to create chances from counters. They also had their own problems building from deep, which became apparent as the half went on.

Using both high pressing and looking to setup from midfield before pressing, Chelsea could recover the ball and launch counters with Leicester open. There weren’t the same direct opportunities to get behind the opposition backline and into the box as Leicester had, but they allowed Chelsea to build attacks with the ball from midfield without high pressure on the ball.

When approaching the final third, Chelsea got behind Leicester’s backline from the wings, through the midfield runners going behind on the inside of Leicester’s fullbacks. Meanwhile Pulisic’s dribbling, combinations and movements inside would create the best chance of the half for Chelsea to score.


Second half

A triple change at halftime saw Azpilicueta, Kovačić and Barkley going on to make an impact. As had been happening during the later stages of the first half already, Chelsea pushed up to press Leicester even higher up and continued to find success in doing so. The game would be played at a much higher tempo than the first half, the action would take place in midfield or Leicester’s half predominantly, and Chelsea were playing on the front foot.

Barkley continued to make the runs behind Chilwell that Mount had used towards the end of the first half, which saw Chelsea getting behind and putting balls into the box or winning corners. Azpilicueta was aggressive and found himself in situations to cross the ball into the box, and Kovačić both won the ball high up with good anticipation to press and was able to hold on to the ball under pressure before finding teammates to sustain attacks.

Since both sides still had difficulties building from deep against pressure, and long goal kicks were often quickly countered from the second ball, the best approach was to try to play as high up as often as possible. Chelsea found this a few times from more direct play behind Leicester’s backline. This was not always intentional (overhit goal kicks) but it was effective at creating opportunities to press and recover the ball high, ensuring more time spent in Leicester’s half.

Unlike Leicester, Chelsea took advantage of their opportunity in the final third to take the lead in the game. Azpilicueta and Willian created an overload on the wing, before Willian’s cross into the box found Barkley running into the open space to score.


Conclusion

Leicester had a number of opportunities to create chances from recovering the ball high during the first half, but couldn’t turn these opportunities into shots on goal against Chelsea’s defensive reaction. Chelsea improved as the half went on where they would also take advantage of pressing from midfield to recover the ball and play higher up. Chelsea continued to play high up in the second half and were boosted by the improved performances of their three half time substitutes, which would once again make the difference in the game.