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Chelsea 0-0 Brighton & Hove Albion, Premier League: Tactical Analysis

Breaking down Chelsea’s scoreless draw on a night of distractions

First half

Chelsea were fairly stable in their possession from the back during the first half, against strong and aggressive pressing by Brighton. Despite the lineup changes, Chelsea were still able to maintain the ball without losing it and brake pressure to move forward as a team (Brighton dropping back) — more so than playing through it to find spaces to exploit in midfield.

When reaching the final third Chelsea would win fouls and set pieces, and have opportunities to put the ball into the box from the wings. However, those balls into the box caused very little problem for Brighton to defend and not concede any chances.

Where Chelsea had better success was in recovering the ball high up with aggressive pressing of Brighton’s buildup and after losing the ball. Chelsea won the ball on a number of occasions in positions where they would quickly counter and have chances inside the box.

Chelsea pressed with Ziyech covering Bissouma in midfield (leaving the spare man of Brighton along their backline rather than giving them an advantage in midfield) while Mount pushed up aggressively to follow one of the dropping midfielders or pushing out to press one of the wingbacks when Chelsea pressed to the side.

With such success from Chelsea’s pressing, Brighton had very little to offer when they had the ball to build their game. More direct play with numbers around Chelsea’s box for the second ball were their most effective moments of the half, where they could get the ball into Chelsea’s box from the second ball and look to take advantage of these opportunities, but the game would go into halftime goalless.

Second half

The second half continued like the first, with Brighton pressing high up, Chelsea playing more aggressive passes into the frontline to break pressure early on, and then looking to create in the final third. Along with the passes behind Brighton’s backline to create the opportunities to put the ball into the box (Ziyech passing for James running behind or far post passes into the box) there were also a couple of successful take-ons before playing the ball into the box that gave Chelsea another means of creation.

Chelsea’s changes in the game saw them increase the possibilities of that latter approach (Hudson-Odoi going on), and switching formation with Werner as striker (4-1-4-1, James left back and Christensen right back). Although this change gave Chelsea more offensive options and players to move into the final third, their stability at the base of their shape that's fundamental for their possession to play as a team was lost.

With problems pushing Brighton back into their own half from the possession at the back, and more time with the ball being held uncomfortably at the back, mistakes began to occur and the ball was given away in dangerous positions. Brighton were quick to look to take advantage of this with Maupay replacing Mac Allister, switching to a 3-4-3. Given Brighton’s change (front three giving more immediate access to press high) and Giroud replacing Ziyech (Werner playing as one of the midfielders) Chelsea found themselves in trouble building from the back and Brighton would go on to have a few chances to score after recovering the ball high up.

Given the circumstances a more direct game for Chelsea may have been more suitable at this point, which would open the game up, allow them to use Giroud’s qualities as a target man, and compete for the second ball with the numbers they had in high positions to keep the game inside Brighton’s half—the cost being increasing the risk of being open to counters and having to drop back to defend deep too often.

In the final moments of the game when Chelsea’s possession held the ball for Brighton to drop back to defend deep, creating from the wings saw Hudson-Odoi found Giroud attacking the near post for a chance, but that was the only chance which Chelsea managed to create in the final third following the changes—Whites second yellow stopping another opportunity from a Hudson-Odoi counter later on. With both sides having missed their chances from winning the ball high up the game would finish goalless.

Chelsea v Brighton & Hove Albion xG timing chart
Understat

Conclusion

Chelsea had good control of the first half from their possession at the back, but finding the aggression consistently in the final third is still lacking — although with so many clean sheets they only need to score a goal a game. There were opportunities from winning the ball high up in the first half, but these were again not taken. The changes in the second half gave Chelsea more attacking options at the cost of the stability of the base of their possession, which would see them losing the ball and Brighton having the best of the chances to score in the second half. With neither side taking their chances from recovering the ball high up the draw was a fair result.