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Leicester City 2-0 Chelsea, Premier League: Tactical Analysis

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Breaking down Chelsea’s defeat the King Power

First half

When Chelsea had the ball, the game was compact and the distances were close. A couple of direct balls for Pulisic running behind caused Leicester’s backline some problems, but, as in Chelsea’s last possession before conceding (image below), when he wasn’t making a run behind, the ball would go long anyway without any ideas to progress or use the open spaces on the wings.

When Chelsea didn’t have the ball the game was open and Leicester found the open spaces to advance with the ball. Maddison constantly found spaces with short movements behind Chelsea’s midfield, both on the outside and in the middle, which allowed Leicester to constantly get at Chelsea’s backline with the ball and advance to the final third, draw fouls, or have opportunities to create chances.

Even with a different formation (4-2-3-1) than Chelsea have been using this season (4-3-3), the spaces were still apparent when the block was not compact. This is even more of a problem when missing Kanté to cover the defence, which left Mount and Kovačić in this instance to try to deal with the situations as best as they could — given that they were constantly exposed.

Leicester would go on to score from a corner following these situations to take an early lead in the game and give Chelsea an uphill battle to recover — Leicester having won every game in which they have taken the lead this season.

In the final third, Chelsea saw familiar situations with the ball. They had good generation of crosses from the right with Hudson-Odoi and James creating and finding spaces to play the ball into the box, and the winger missed the only chance Chelsea really created to score in the first half. The left was a case of Pulisic taking on the entire defense with the ball or Chilwell finding a ball into the box. Havertz would make runs into the box, but there was no passer on the field to find him. Mount would make forward runs from deep and finds spaces, but was constantly having to cover a ton of ground to recover when Chelsea would lose the ball.

Leicester extended their lead to two goals as they played long and won the ball in midfield, before looking for an early ball behind Chelsea’s backline from the broken play. Maddison’s movement was again the danger here, with his run off James’ back shoulder to find the space inside the box (Rüdiger blocking Vardy rather than attacking the ball in the air) and calmly finish first-time. (James had already had a difficult half, frequently up 1-v-1 against Barnes, who is powerful physically, strong technically and aggressive in his approach with the ball.)

Second half

Chelsea had a few opportunities from corners in the second half and continued to be really dangerous from them — but, again, you can’t rely upon corners to score goals every game.

Maddison was left higher up for counters, with Leicester dropping back to defend deep, and they created a number of dangerous situations this way, though without being able to extend their lead.

Last season, Chelsea had good success in being able to change the game from the bench through different characteristics — Barkley adding runs into the box to cause more problems from crosses, for example — and the changes in this game provided a positive change with the ball, but left them more open without it.

Werner showed his qualities to carry the ball and attack spaces from the second striker position, while Ziyech will always look for the killer passes and shots on goal even if it isn’t always on. However, finding the right balance for the team with and without the ball is still a major issue for Chelsea.

Conclusion

Leicester were compact without the ball and found spaces to advance through possession or counters when they had it. They took a two-goal lead into halftime, and continued to have opportunities to create chances, while remaining compact defensively. Chelsea found it difficult to open the game up with the ball and to close distances without the ball, leaving them only with broken play and corners for any potential opportunities. Without being strong at creating and scoring chances, or at being able to defend well for prolonged periods, Chelsea have yet to find the right balance to solve their current run of form.