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Leeds United 0-0 Chelsea, Premier League: Tactical Analysis

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Breaking down a disappointing scoreless draw at Elland Road

First half

Chelsea had a good opening to the game, reaching the final third and creating opportunities from Ziyech’s passes behind and Pulisic beating his defender to put crosses into the box, but began to lose their rhythm and aggression in the final third as the half went on.

Leeds pressed in a similar structure to Everton but with more aggression to close from wide and press Christensen on the ball. Bamford moved out to the right to cover Rüdiger and Harrison moved inside to cover Azpilicueta, with both of them pushing inside to press Christensen and blocking the pass out to their man. Behind them Roberts and Dallas marked Chelsea’s deep midfielders, Raphinha dropped back to follow Chilwell, Phillips followed Ziyech when he dropped for the ball in midfield, Ayling marked Mount, Alioski pushed onto Pulisic, and Havertz was picked up by one of the central defenders — leaving the other spare at the back.

Chelsea’s solutions to break the press came through going back to Mendy (after pressure inside onto Christensen) and switching to the opposite side back of the back three, where Leeds sometimes continued to push up and press from midfield, but holding onto the ball from these situations would often see Leeds dropping back to midfield. The other route was to play through to one of the front three dropping for the ball, and then the game would become about the second ball from this situation. If Leeds won it, they would have a dangerous counter attacking position (Roberts forcing Mendy into a difficult save, for example), but if Chelsea kept the ball they could break the pressure and advance into the final third — fouls would also see Leeds drop back, but disturb the speed of Chelsea’s attacks.

The trouble Chelsea had in moving forward from these positions boiled down to choice of personnel. In the previous game, Hudson-Odoi caused a lot of problems turning at speed and moving past the defenders and then being able to face the backline with the ball. But while Mount normally turns well in these situations, a lot of the balls he received were only where he could hold it and not move into space with it. Ziyech isn’t a quick turner on the ball and needs spaces to face play and look for passes — at the same time, is also less of a threat in running behind. Without Alonso, Chelsea didn’t possess the possibility to rotate on the left and find surprise situations for the defenders, leaving only the speed of Chilwell to get behind as the main way of creating crosses. Kovačić alone would’ve also brought the possibility to breaking through pressure using his dribbling or combinations.

As Leeds dropped back, Dallas would drop next to Phillips to have two sitting midfielders to protect the backline of five (Raphinha all the way back), Roberts would continue pressure on Chelsea’s central midfielders, and Bamford would move to the middle from the right. Leeds often pushed up really well to press Chelsea back or maintain close distances from these positions. Chelsea were only able to create problems from situations where Ziyech or Mount had the ball with space ahead of them to pick out passes behind, or when Pulisic could take on Alioski at the side of the box.

FBL-ENG-PR-LEEDS-CHELSEA Photo by LINDSEY PARNABY/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Second half

Chelsea again started the half by breaking Leeds’ high pressing and going up to the final third to create the chance for Havertz on his right foot, but were unable to take an early lead once again.

The second half was much more open and broken in midfield, where it would still be a case of Chelsea taking the ball into the final third, moving quickly (past the pressure) but then slowing down as they reached the areas to create — the Everton game was the opposite, where the frontline accelerated the speed of possession. With the game more broken, Kanté’s impact increased with recoveries higher up and launching counters from Leeds attempts to play out from the back, but Chelsea would again fail to convert these opportunities into goals.

Mendy had to make a few crucial saves after not having much to do since Chelsea’s switch to a back three. Chelsea’s substitutions were made largely to maintain the same positions rather than opening up slightly to go for the win more aggressively (leaving the risk of counters at the back) and by not taking the chances they already had, Chelsea came away with another 0-0.

Leeds United v Chelsea xG timing chart
Understat

Conclusion

Chelsea broke through a very aggressive press from Leeds to create good opportunities early on in the game, but lacked the solutions to break through unlike in the previous game. Mendy had to make a few saves to maintain another clean sheet. However, without being able to take our chances (or find solutions to create more) the 0-0 is becoming a recurring result for Chelsea.