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Chelsea 2-0 Wolves, Premier League: Tactical Analysis

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Breaking down Chelsea’s crucial final-day victory

First half

The game was tense at the beginning, with both teams having something to play for in the final league game of the season.

Wolves held back to defend from a midfield block, leaving Chelsea with the ball ahead of them, waiting for the wide central defenders to isolate themselves on the ball (squeeze on the sides) or to push up and pressure forward passes in order to win the ball and counter.

Chelsea built with Azpilicueta playing very wide early on, while James and Mount ahead him could occupy the wing or one of them could move inside. Jorginho kept the ball moving with short passes and looked to play his first-time passes behind the backline (which assisted Abraham against Wolves earlier on in the season), while Kovačić could dribble forward with the ball and look to play switches to the wings.

Wolves are a very physical team so playing through or up the wings against their midfield block was very difficult for Chelsea to do. Physically strong wingers that can resist pressure can help push the opposition back (Willian missed in this regard), while technical players need to find spaces and play quickly with few touches. For the latter, Mount and Pulisic found spaces hard to come by in the opening stages of the half, with Pulisic getting pushed off the ball multiple times, while not being able to get support close enough to Giroud to play off him successfully.

Chelsea FC v Wolverhampton Wanderers - Premier League Photo by Matthew Childs/Pool via Getty Images

Wolves, on the other hand, had to play with aggressive pressure from the front. They played a number of long diagonals from Coady up to Doherty, which provided them a platform to win the first or second ball in the corner and look to get behind Chelsea’s backline from there. However, despite the promising situations they created in the corners during the first half, they were unable to turn these opportunities into chances to score — a cross from the left causing the only trouble for Caballero during the first half. Chelsea made a number of blocks and clearances at the back to clear the danger.

As the half progressed, more direct play behind Wolves’ backline stretched them on a few occasions, while Mount and Pulisic finding spaces allowed them to start creating problems with the ball. Jorginho finding Mount turning quickly on the wing would see him put a quick cross into the box for Giroud to head over, while Pulisic driving at Wolves’ backline with the ball would see him find Alonso on the outside for a blocked shot on goal.

Chelsea scored two goals during injury time to give them a comfortable lead going into the break. Mount’s freekick put Chelsea ahead, before Jorginho recovered a second ball and played it first time through to Pulisic, which would lead to Mount finding Giroud to creatively finish Chelsea’s second. Pulisic and Mount being on the inside and close to Giroud allowed them to create a lot of problems for Wolves’ backline that was exposed in 1-v-1’s against Chelsea’s attackers in both games this season.

Second half

Wolves made a change at halftime, bringing on Adama Traoré, a player who can be very difficult to control when carrying the ball, but Chelsea would maintain good control of the game with the ball and pushed Wolves back to defend around their own box much more often than in the first half.

Wolves had more counter-attacking opportunities with Traoré carrying the ball and Jota getting the better of Azpilicueta on a few occasions (as well as in the first half when Kovačić made a brilliant recovery run) but even when Wolves broke through, Chelsea were composed and managed the situations well.

Mount (running behind) and Pulisic (between lines) were continuing to find spaces and getting closer to Giroud to combine in and around the box, which would see them create, but not take, a few chances to extend the lead.

Wolves became more aggressive with their pressing as time began to run out, but Chelsea both played through and cleared the ball when they needed to in order to avoid Wolves causing them problems from counters. Instead, Chelsea (especially Mount) would recover the ball higher up on a few occasions and go on to have a number of opportunities to extend their lead, but in the end the two goal lead would be enough to win the game.

Chelsea vs. Wolves xG timing chart
Understat

Conclusion

A tense start to the game saw Wolves stay strong defensively and look to counter-attack Chelsea and get behind them on the right wing. Chelsea managed contain these opportunities however, in both the opening stages as well as during the remainder of the game. Mount and Pulisic began to find spaces to create problems as the half went on and continued to do so in the second half, with Mount both scoring and setting up the chance for Giroud to give Chelsea a two goal lead and the win to finish the season in the top four.