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Chelsea 2-1 Leicester City, Premier League: Tactical Analysis

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Breaking down Chelsea’s revenge for the FA Cup final

First half

Chelsea dominated the first half by breaking pressure with the ball, speeding up their attacks as they found spaces between lines, and recovering the ball quickly.

Chelsea’s building from the back was met with aggressive and high pressing by Leicester, but the passing by Chelsea was excellent. Mendy found passes beyond Leicester’s front line while under pressure, not only to keep the ball but break their shape, while Chelsea worked to find passes to the front two or the advanced midfielders behind Leicester’s midfield line. Jorginho, as the spare man between Leicester’s frontline and midfielders, would find spaces to collect the ball and draw pressure from one of Leicester’s two deep midfielders. This way Mount and Kante could move up on the outsides to collect the ball with diagonal passes, or there would be a gap left in the middle for them to move into (or for one of the front two to drop for the ball).

When finding the spaces between lines, Chelsea could turn and run with the ball at Leicester’s backline and speed up the attack to create opportunities with combinations or turning to beat defenders. When going up to the wing-backs from the back, Chelsea had some variation in their game — playing more aggressively to the frontline, higher up or balls behind for runners — to consistently put pressure on Leicester in the final third.

Unlike in the FA Cup final three days prior, Chelsea’s possession was very aggressive. This resulted in a number of actions and pressures in the final third — avoiding the case where the opposition can drop back behind the ball and possession becomes passive. However, the key problem for Chelsea has been in converting these chances into goals. So despite the creation in the final third (and threatening from a few corners) and all the positives from their play, Chelsea would go into the break without an advantage.

FBL-ENG-PR-CHELSEA-LEICESTER Photo by PETER CZIBORRA/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Second half

Kovacic, on before half time for Kante, would drop back to combine with Jorginho and draw pressure from Leicester’s midfielders, leaving Mount more freedom to move to find space behind the midfield line. The start of the second half saw Kovacic’s quality in building through pressure find Mount in space, which would lead to Chelsea winning the corner from which they would take the lead.

Mount finding space before playing the ball for Werner (to win the penalty) would again come from Chelsea keeping the ball under pressure before quickly moving it forward. Although the goals didn’t come from open play, Chelsea took advantage of the chances they did have to build a two-goal lead.

When the game seemed comfortable, the negative side of the inherent risk factor in building with the ball under pressure came into the fore, where Kovacic losing the ball left Chelsea completely open — highlighting just how frequently they rely on their quality to hold the ball or draw a foul if in trouble throughout each match, normally without conceding such chances or goals — and Iheanacho was there to calmly finish into the bottom corner.

On top of Leicester pulling a goal back, they were in their best moment of the game with possession of the ball and moving up to Chelsea’s box to create opportunities to shoot from outside the box. The intensity of Chelsea’s pressing from the front had diminished by this point (after having pressed with one less man and making countless runs behind with the ball) and so Chelsea were dropping back to defend deep and looking to attack the spaces from counters when they won the ball.

Leicester had one final chance to score an equaliser late on in the game, but Perez missed the shot in what was the visitors’ biggest chance outside of the Iheanacho gift.

Chelsea v Leicester City xG timing chart
Understat

Conclusion

Chelsea dominated the first half and showed an aggression and intensity with the ball that caused Leicester all sorts of problems defensively. The Blues broke through Leicester’s pressure and in turn maintained a lot of pressure on Leicester in the final third, but were unable to take advantage of this start through finishing their chances.

Chelsea’s continued play through pressure eventually saw them score twice in the second half, with both of the goals a result of drawing pressure from the central midfielders to find Mount in the spaces opened up. As the half went on, Chelsea’s intensity weakened and they dropped back to defend more, while losing the ball while building against pressure would see Leicester scoring. However, the one big chance Leicester had to steal the point late on in the game was missed, leaving Chelsea to see the game out and take third place in the table with one game to go.