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Chelsea 3-0 Luton Town, Premier League: Tactical Analysis

The right side remains relentless, regardless of Reece’s recurring injury

Chelsea FC v Luton Town - Premier League
We could get used to this bromance
Photo by Sebastian Frej/MB Media/Getty Images

Correct me if I am wrong, but I believe we have a positive goal differential for the first time in the 2023 calendar year, and it feels good. Especially after the walloping we received from West Ham, a clean sheet and 3 goals is a marked improvement, and Mauricio Pochettino continues to thump newly promoted sides.

Last article I wrote that, with the way our fullbacks are going to play in a back 4 under Pochettino, mobility and positional/spatial awareness are absolutely critical for his centre backs. However, we are seeing a transformative back line that shifts and rotates tremendously, so while it is a back three on paper, especially with Thiago Silva as the anchor, there is much more flexibility to it than that. The coverage we now have in front of them is also critical, with Moisés Caicedo and Conor Gallagher staying a bit deeper than Enzo Fernández while Ben Chilwell was extremely high up on the left side, almost like that side’s winger.

Enzo wasn’t entirely attached to that left side and was certainly not a winger

The good news is that while it petered off at times even during Luton, the offense is finding its footing, having scored in all three matches this season (and all preseason matches, too!) Raheem Sterling is currently the main reason for that, and it seems as though all his off-season efforts in nutrition and speed training have paid off. He was a bright spot against West Ham while driving at players and getting into the box, and apparently that was both discussed with Pochettino in the previous weeks and entrusted to him to engage defenders as he has done.

His 40 carries included 5 that were progressive and 5 take-ons as well is a fantastic stat, but to look at his 104 progressive yards carried from 196 total is even more so, and he had 13 touches in the opposition box, which are 5 more than any other Chelsea player. Now, if we can just reduce the number of dispossessions (6, which is over half of the teams total of 11 and 3x more than anyone else) we will truly have a dynamic threat on our hands.

Take the shot!

It would also be truly more helpful and threatening if we could involve the left-sided attack a bit more. Ignoring the fact that Ben Chilwell somehow, amazingly, passed on the opportunity to shoot on the instance pictured above, he remains one of the greatest potential offensive threats that we have and has repeatedly demonstrated his clinical finishing abilities. His isolation on the left side has been evident in the last two matches, and even more noticable against Luton because, although we attacked down our right 42% of the time, Luton also attacked down their left 47% of the time. The ball was effectively on the other side of the pitch for half of the game, and it very rarely ventured deep down that left flank where he was located.

First half pass map

The first half, while we had 70% of the possession and 94% pass accuracy (348/370), we had only had 2 shots on target (from 7, with Enzo hitting the crossbar) and .51xG. Malo Gusto continues to fill in for Reece James, and is doing remarkably well replicating his productivity, something, admittedly, I was not sure he would be able to do.

There was a definite uptick in the second half, whereas although the possession and passing stats dropped (64% possession, 90% accuracy, 255/283), we had 6 shots on target (from 12, with Enzo hitting the post this time) and 1.77xG. The pass map is quite different from above, too, and more clearly depicts the isolation of Ben Chilwell on the left side.

Second half passing matrix

Consistency is another thing that is shaping up to be a part of this Chelsea squad that it did not have in previous seasons. Pochettino has established a pecking order, and we will likely only see rotations due to injury, exhaustion, or intentionally getting a look at another player (including any potential yet to arrive transfers.) If the starting players keep performing as they are, waiting in the wings and being ready when called upon is all that is left for those hoping to break through, such as in the League Cup against cannon fodder competition. Let’s hope we see intentional rotation without injury, another clean sheet, and an offense that continues to fire on all cylinders. At the bare minimum, there should be no drop off from the weekend’s performance.


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