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Chelsea 6-0 Barnsley, League Cup: Tactical Analysis

Breaking down Chelsea fun night in the League Cup third round against second division opposition

First half

Barnsley made an aggressive start to the match, pressing through the middle and attacking in numbers to create opportunities around the edge of Chelsea’s box. Chelsea needed the qualities of the two deep midfielders to dribble and find passes past the pressure, which would then set up opportunities to attack quickly.

With Barnsley’s front three and one of their central midfielders matching Chelsea’s two central defenders and deep central midfielders during buildup, being able to use Caballero in possession and under pressure was helpful in maintaining the ball before breaking forward. The fullbacks would find themselves spare usually from quick switches, since the initial fullback on the ball would be closed down by Barnsley’s wing-back high up — although Chelsea didn’t find this option often, and instead looked to play back up through pressure.

Barkley and Kovačić both kept the ball well and progressed past the pressure regularly, with a few errors quickly recovered by them or the central defenders on the front foot. Mount and Havertz dropping to collect the ball provided another route through pressure, and the opportunity to get at Barnsley’s backline with the ball, or to maintain the ball under pressure and find a spare man to break said pressure.

With the ball, Barnsley reached the final third quickly and attacked with the wing-backs, the front three and the central midfielders pushing on. Chelsea were often left with only the back four and two deep midfielders to delay these attacks, which meant that they would have to drop back to their own box regularly. Barnsley managed to create a number of shooting opportunities around the box, but very few of these shots had both power and precision to trouble Caballero too much.

From midfield and higher up, Chelsea’s attacking players were much more alert to recover the ball and start quick counters. Abraham recovering the ball off the back of the defender would see him give Chelsea the lead, while further chances later in the half would see Chelsea extending their lead.

Having gone behind, Barnsley switched to a 4-4-2 diamond with Styles moving into midfield, which gave them closer access to press Chelsea’s fullbacks from the wide players in the diamond (starting higher up than wing-backs would), but sacrificing the extra man along their backline to defend and having a more difficult time defending Chelsea’s full backs when they were higher up the field.

Emerson overlapping and Mount moving inside with the ball would see Chelsea extend their lead, with Mount playing a pass into Abraham who let the ball run through him to Havertz running into the box behind him. The front pair would continue to link up well for Chelsea for the remainder of the game.

Second half

Chelsea were quick to extend their lead in the second half, through Havertz recovering the ball high and finding Barkley to finish into the bottom corner on his left foot — Barkley continuing to show how useful a squad member he is both from the bench and in cup competitions.

Abraham continued his good linkup with Havertz in the second half, finding him twice to score two more goals and complete his hat-trick just before being subbed off. Later on, Chilwell found Giroud inside the box to head in Chelsea’s sixth and finish off the scoring. Chelsea had a number of other chances to go on and score more, but it was a convincing win nonetheless.

Conclusion

Chelsea created a number of chances throughout the game, while also conceding a number of weak shots on their own goal. Barnsley’s high pressing from the start required quality from the central midfielders to break through and quick combinations from the frontline to face Barnsley’s backline with the ball. Barnsley’s switch to a diamond allowed them to get closer to Chelsea’s fullbacks when pressing high, but would leave them with one less at the back and problems defending against Chelsea’s fullback’s moving forward. Recovering the ball higher up would provide Chelsea with chances and goals from counters, with the front two contributing directly to five of Chelsea’s six goals.

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