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Chelsea 3-0 Watford, Premier League: Tactical Analysis

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Breaking down Chelsea’s win over struggling Watford

First half

Similar to the West Ham game, Chelsea found an opponent willing to play for moments in attack and spend the majority of the game defending deep.

Watford made some attempts to press higher up from their zonal block in midfield when Chelsea had the ball close to their own goal. Doucouré and Deeney, with support from the deep central midfielders and wingers, shifted to the sides to press Chelsea’s central defenders and Kanté, which caused some concern but Chelsea were able to overcome these situations.

As Watford dropped deeper in midfield and into their own half, they continued to play zonal and tight lines, with Doucouré dropping to make a flat midfield line of five ahead of the backline, while Deeney was typically goalside of Kante (until Chelsea reached the final third). On forward passes into their block or to the sides, the reaction of Watford was very aggressive, getting tight and physical upon the first touch of the attackers.

To get out with the ball, Watford found it difficult to pass their way through Chelsea’s pressing, and would instead rely upon winning free kicks or throw-ins to move up the field. Free kicks deep inside their own half would allow the team to push up and play long from Foster, where they would look to play quickly from the second ball to create or win set pieces closer to Chelsea’s goal.

Chelsea would have the fullbacks moving up, the wingers dribbling inside, and the two wide central midfielders both dropping for the ball and playing between lines to create chances. Giroud provided a reliable target man to receive the ball under pressure as he was able to keep the ball and find teammates. Chelsea were also able to win a number of free kicks around the box due to Watford’s aggressive pressure of forward passes.

Barkley and Mount dropping and playing between lines would see them find each other to set up Giroud to score Chelsea’s first goal of the match (Barkley receiving the ball in space and facing Watford’s backline) and Willian dribbling inside to find Pulisic driving and turning quickly inside the box would draw the foul for Chelsea to score a second goal before half time.

Chelsea vs Watford xG timing chart
Understat

Second half

With the lead firmly established, Chelsea maintained possession in the second half, and with neither side posing much of a threat to their opposition, the game was in control.

Watford’s changes made a difference to their style, with Welbeck as striker capable of using his mobility to run behind on the wings and carry the ball proving difficult for Chelsea to control — they had much more control of Deeney as target man. Welbeck would go on to be involved in both of Watford’s chances to score during the second half.

Watford would play much higher up defensively during the second half as well, using longer balls into the corner (finding Welbeck) as opportunities to push up and create zones of pressure around the ball.

However, Chelsea were able to both prevent Watford from finding a goal to bring themselves back into the game (conceding one goal would have created a difficult situation to manage during the final stages) and would go on to extend the lead to three goals through Barkley’s finish.

Conclusion

Chelsea managed much better against an opponent playing in a similar style to West Ham. They didn’t have the same troubles during set pieces, controlled counters, and managed to build a two-goal lead during the first half. Watford’s changes made a difference in the second half and they had two opportunities to score, but Chelsea kept them out before going on to extend their lead and finish the match.