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West Brom 3-3 Chelsea, Premier League: Tactical Analysis

Breaking down a game of two halves

First half

An early goal gave West Brom a good start to the game, and they could then play with a lead to defend. They pressured to the sides with their frontline high up in moments, but would drop off to hold tight lines and defend from midfield for the most part.

Circulating the ball along the backline and deep midfielders was enough for Chelsea to push West Brom back with the ball from midfield, and this would then see them arriving to the final third to create chances.

With Werner on the left wing, Chelsea had to look to the right flank to be creative against the deep block. Werner playing wide to include Abraham was an obvious choice after the previous game, but not the most balanced. Playing fast strikers wide is useful when looking to get behind the defence from broken play and counters, where there are spaces to attack. Werner was able to join the box for crosses from the right, which did give him a chance to score in the first half. Otherwise, fast strikers playing on the wings aren’t very creative, except for winning penalties (see: Manchester United).

From the right, Havertz, Mount and James found spaces between lines and got behind West Brom’s backline to create chances with crosses. Chelsea created a number of good chances this way at 1-0, but were unable to take advantage of them. Then, a mistake by Silva at the back gave West Brom the ball and saw them clinically extend their lead, quickly followed by another goal from a corner to make it 3-0 in less than 30 minutes.

Chelsea would continue to create from the right for the remainder of the half, but without being able to score they would go into the break 3-0 behind.

Second half

Chelsea made a double change at halftime. Alonso was replaced replaced by Azpilicueta at left back, which made sense in that both of Chelsea’s fullback’s were on yellow cards (threat from counters), and Alonso was only keeping possession and dealing with defensive actions in the first half, not going forward and getting into the box to play to his strengths — Azpilicueta much more suited to this. The second change was to bring on Hudson-Odoi for Kovačić and move Mount into the midfield. Without having to play against a high press (and needing Kovačić to break said high press with his dribbling), moving Mount inside gave Chelsea his energy, and gave the team more creativity in the final third from Hudson-Odoi.

As in the first half, Chelsea continued to attack from the right but would now have different options. Havertz and Mount would remain between lines more, while Hudson-Odoi could hold or dribble with the ball on the right. The space behind would now be attacked by Abraham making diagonal runs outside, and he’d be replaced in the box by Werner — looking to get the ball behind West Brom’s backline and play it into the box quickly.

Within ten minutes of the restart, Mount’s long shot brought Chelsea back into the game at 3-1. Werner and Hudson-Odoi then switched wings, which gave Chelsea more balance and variation to attack from both sides of the field. Werner would leave the right wing to join the box or overload on the left, which would leave James a little isolated and unable to cross the ball as freely in the first half, but when Havertz or Mount moved over to support James he would continue to put crosses into the box — a good understanding by the attackers to become accustomed to from such situations.

Shortly after the switch of wings, Hudson-Odoi combined with Havertz inside the box to score Chelsea’s second, with 20 minutes plus injury time still to go to overcome what was now just a one-goal deficit.

However, after coming back into the game and finding solutions from the halftime change, with attacks from both wings creating chances, Chelsea decided to shoot themselves in the foot with the final change. Giroud replaced Silva, with Chelsea switching to a 3-5-2 that took away everything they were doing well in the game. James was taken away from the wing and put back into the back three to defend counters on a yellow card (Azpilicueta and Christensen rounding off the backline), Werner and Hudson-Odoi were on the wings, and Giroud with Abraham up front.

West Brom made changes to personnel in their frontline to have fresh legs on the field, but after Chelsea’s final change they would find a lot of time and space on the ball to counter or hold on to the ball, with Kanté having to leave midfield to cover the wings and Chelsea left defending with just four players and whichever other attacker could get back quickly enough.

Now West Brom began to not only have more of the ball, play higher up and have opportunities to create and shoot, but Chelsea didn’t have the same creativity from the wings as they had earlier in the game. Werner on the right on his own isn’t going to create much, and so all of Chelsea’s creation had to come from Hudson-Odoi on the left — woh now also had the additional duty of having to get back to defend counters.

Eventually, Chelsea’s players on the field managed to secure a late equaliser by keeping the ball alive in the final third, but we’re left to ponder what could have been.

West Brom vs. Chelsea xG Timing Chart


West Brom were clinical to take all three chances in the first 30 minutes of the game, giving them a significant lead to defend. Chelsea were creating all their chances from the right, but were unable to take advantage of them in the first half. The halftime changes made a difference and Chelsea managed to draw the game back to 3-2 with 20 minutes plus injury time to go, but the final change in formation was awful, and only the character shown by the players on the field pushed them through to get the equaliser in the final moments.

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