In the first half, Chelsea created good opportunities when they broke through Southampton’s high pressing, or recovered loose balls to prevent counters, but struggled to create when Southampton dropped back to defend their own half.
When Chelsea built up from deep, they kept the ball along the backline until there was pressure from Southampton. Upon this, the question would become the success of the forward pass.
When successful, Chelsea relied on individual actions in these situations, such as Kovačić dribbling through pressure to open up the game and play forward, or Werner turning to move past his man and set up the chance for Alonso’s shot on goal — there were also a couple of opportunities for James to play passes behind for Werner’s runs, but without the striker being able to get on the end of them. These were the best opportunities for Chelsea to create chances in the first half where Southampton were stretched and Chelsea were arriving to the box quickly.
When unsuccessful, it was usually a case of Chelseas not executing properly, such as having passes intercepted (where Kanté then showed his quality to dominate and recover the ball in open moments), hitting balls too long and out of bounds, or holding the ball too long giving time for Southampton to drop back.
When defending from midfield and deeper inside their own half, Southampton were strong. They were both compact in central areas and were out quickly every time to wide areas to be on the first touch of Chelsea’s attempts to move up the wings. Only a few switches in moments where Chelsea’s wing-backs were high on the last line and overloading Southampton’s fullbacks would offer routes forward, and these were again quickly recovered and closed down by Southampton to stop the crosses getting into the box. This left Chelsea with having to break through the middle, where they lacked creation.
Although Southampton had very little of the ball and couldn’t find a way to hold onto it or build attacks of their own, it only took one moment of Chelsea switching off when defending in midfield for Southampton to take advantage of the situation.
Love how early in the move Minamino saw that Chelsea's CBs were gonna be in Narnia. Goal didn't go in until 7 seconds later. pic.twitter.com/fpAcrAcIV0— Kim McCauley (@lgbtqfc) February 20, 2021
Chelsea made a change for the second half with Hudson-Odoi replacing Abraham and the team switching to a 3-4-1-2 and moving Mount into the middle. The half started similarly to the first, with Southampton pressing high and Chelsea creating good opportunities to break through the pressure from individual rather than collective actions.
Although Chelsea were creating opportunities again, they still weren’t turning them into good chances to score as they reached the box. However, just like the Southampton goal, a defensive mistake would lead to Mount winning and scoring a penalty to bring the game level.
There were a lot of turnovers in midfield in the second half, but from this broken play neither team really went on to trouble the opposition goal directly from them.
Chelsea’s final changes were Ziyech and Jorginho for Hudson-Odoi and Kovačić, with Werner moving to play as the middle striker in a 3-4-3. It was a strange change since it didn’t increase the number of creative players on the field, especially when Hudson-Odoi has already been moved to left wing-back in previous games. Mount did compensate by showing a lot of quality when dribbling from the left (Alonso leaving the wing to join the box) to create chances, but there were other options to have an extra attacker on the field without sacrificing too much for counters.
Despite Mount’s best efforts, Chelsea were unable to break Southampton’s defence to find a winning goal.
Chelsea created good situations by breaking through Southampton’s high press and recovering loose balls in the first half, but were unable to create any good chances to score from these situations. Southampton defended well in deeper areas, quickly closed down the wings, and took advantage of Chelsea switching off to take the lead.
The second half was more of the same, with another mistake this time seeing Chelsea equalise. However, Chelsea continued to struggle in creating chances against Southampton’s deep block, especially without increasing the offensive options on the pitch from the bench.