Chelsea FC: Team observations | Tactical Analysis

Chelsea FC: Team observations | Tactical Analysis

Martin Lewis looks at Chelsea’s recent displays tactically for with the use of his own chalkboard type diagrams.

Team dynamics 

Attacking organisation 

Chelsea are on an ok run of results, inconsistent displays, but looking to get back to winning ways in the league after poor games vs QPR and Swansea. They play with a 4-2-3-1 formation with options to play short or direct. They look to start games with a high, direct and aggressive play, they will then become more patient as the game goes on. Their game is very narrow without Moses (at the African Cup of Nations) as the play with 3 10’s behind the striker and fullbacks attack one at a time for balance, so rely on short passing combinations, rotation of positions and surprise width from the wider players in the three.

This interchanging of players often results in a lot of overloads of players (especially in the middle). With Moses out,they will struggle for direct runs into depth, with Ramires the only one running from deep.

Short build up involves horizontal passes along the defence, with the 2 pivots higher than the fullbacks. When there is space for a centre back to bring the ball out this will trigger the full back on his side will make a quick run up the wing. There are then 3 options: the winger will always come deep for the ball to feet, he will either lay it off for a central midfielder for a diagonal pass to the overlapping fullback or try and play a first time ball to the fullback himself. The third option is the centre back playing an early diagonal ball himself for the fullback. If the ball is lost when it’s played to the winger coming deep, the team is incredibly imbalanced and broken.

Long build up involves a long ball from the goalkeeper to Ba/Torres’ head, with the middle player in the three looking to run in-behind for the flick on. The wider players will tuck in and the two central midfielders will push up to look for a second ball. The two pivot midfields look to hold position during the build up (barrin Luiz dropping to bring ball out of defence), but one will support the attack.

Luiz has an exceptional passing range, capable of all forms of passes. Ramires relies more on energy and is more of a ball winning player, but can cause problems around the box with his runs. Lampard is a more intelligent player and leader. His timing of runs into the box are exceptional and he has the scoring record of a world-class striker. He also has an exceptional passing range and looks to organise the team in attack. Be aware of his long shots too, hit with a lot of precision, power and bounce just in front of goalkeeper.

Front three movements, ability to play quick 1-2s and 1-on-1 ability to beat players (especially Hazard) around the box is exceptional, so don’t dive in, and be aware of the space around you as well as the movements of the three can cause problems. Oscar and Hazard are very good with both feet, but Mata is poor with his left foot and tries to avoid using it in vital moments.

The strikers have different ways of playing. Torres will look to come deep, go wide to get involved in build up play or look to dribble though with the ball. He also tries to use his mobility with quick 1-2s to get in behind defence. Ba will look to keep his position, use his strength and link play with back to goal with quality lay offs. The in-box movement is also different. Torres looks to stay on the edge of the box and wait for the ball to be played to attack it. Ba will look to be behind the fullback or in between fullback and centre back in order to attack the second post, using his ability with his head to dominate the defenders in the box.

[quote]Stat: Eden Hazard has won two penalties this season, joint top in the league with Shane Long. This shows his ability in the box to beat a player. He will often go one way then quickly cut back the other direction in the box, so it’s important not to leave your foot in when he changes direction.[/quote]

Defensive organisation 

Chelsea defend with a high defensive line, using the offside trap and zonal pressure on the ball with different formational behaviours. They can defend in a 4-4-2, with a tight medium block, a 4-2-4, with the wide players in a high block, or Ramires can come forward to make a wide middle three in a 4-3-3 to press the opposition’s central defenders on the ball.

With pressing, the front line will start the match with a full press. There will then be a change of attitude, with the front two players looking to creep towards the centre backs on the ball to get close enough to them to take it if there is a bad touch or if they turn their back to play ball to the ‘keeper. This is where Ramires will join the front line of pressing if any of the midfield players drop deep to bring ball out of defence. When pressing the ‘keeper, they will look to block the short build up first then edge closer to him till he plays it long. If not, they will look to be compact and start pressing on the halfway line. Pressing is far more aggressive in midfield and defensive areas. Luiz is the most aggressive & continues to press, leaving space behind him that can be exposed. The defenders are also very aggressive and look to get tight to nick the ball, especially the fullbacks.

[quote]Stat: Ramires has the best minutes-per-ground-tackle-won figure (14.65), minutes-per-tackle-won (27.6) and minutes-per-challenge-won (8.19) in the Chelsea team this season, showing his ability to use his mobility in midfield to regain possession.[/quote]

Next Page: Behaviours in Pressing

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Behaviours in pressing

Attacking Transitions

In transition, Mata is used as the main reference point of attack. The ball will be played to him early, where he has amazing vision and ability to find runners. The two wingers (Hazard and Oscar) in transition have a lot of pace. They will look to get around the outside of fullbacks to get the diagonal pass in between the centre back and fullback. Also be aware of Ramires’ mobility in transitions, with runs through the middle of the pitch, especially in transition from a corner. Ivanovic also makes good runs to get into the box from defensive corners. Ba/Torres will look for an initial ball into depth, or will look to get into the box to finish off counter attack. Lampard is also a threat with well timed runs in the box or joining the box. If there is an option to quickly go direct into depth, they will with a quick ball over the top.


[quote]Stat: Eden Hazard is the 6th most fouled player in the league this season, having being fouled 45 times. This, in general, shows that he needs to be watch with 1-on-1s in attacking transitions, as he can easily draw fouls which result in dangerous free kicks and cards being shown.[/quote]

Defensive Transitions

Chelsea use quick, aggressive pressing from the front line while the rest of the team regain their position. They are very fragile if the ball gets past the initial line of pressure.Often the only midfielder to get back quickly is Ramires.  Mostly one fullback will be deeper than the other to give more numerical numbers to balance the team, but often both fullbacks can be caught too high up the field or Azpilicueta can’t recover quickly enough. In this case, Ramires will look to cover, but there will be only 3/4 players back to balance the team.  There is space to exploit in between lines and behind both fullbacks in transition and also ways of moving the centre backs out and exploiting the space that they have left. Both wide players are not determined to recover position, leaving both sides of the field exposed too. If they can pressure the opposition long enough to recover positions, the front line will drop to the halfway line to wait for a trigger to resume pressing again.


[quote]Stat: David Luiz has got 5 yellow cards this season and is very aggressive in the tackling and pressing when the team is in defensive transitions, so be aware that you could target him in transition if he has a card. Luiz especially is prone to mistakes.[/quote]

Next Page: Set Plays

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Set plays


*Attacking corners

Corners are often first post, from both Mata and Hazard. If the ball isn’t cleared properly, be aware of Ivanovic and Cahill staying in box.

*Short corner

*Defensive corners

*Attacking frontal free kicks

*Defensive frontal free kicks

*Attacking side free kicks

Pattern and combination play

*Short build up 

Second option is to go for the diagonal ball to Cole on the overlap from Ivanovic, rather than giving it to the player coming deep.

*Long build up

Ba’s movement

Also be aware of Lampard on second balls!

Torres’ movement

Kick off combination

Next Page: Other Observations and Team Stats

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Team Dynamics | Behaviours in Pressing | Set Plays | Other Observations and Team Stats

Other observations

Petr Cech is out injured, while Moses and Mikel are both at the African Cup of Nations. John Terry may be back, probably on the bench. Ramires has incredible mobility and ability to win nearly all 50/50’s and second balls in midfield. Substitutions don’t have an effect on shape or dynamics, mostly like for like.

Lampard/Ramires coming on would either be a swap for each other or Luiz going back to centre back and a centre back (usually Ivanovic) coming off. The difference is that Lampard’s runs are more well timed. He is a leader and can help his team keep the ball and see the game out. Ramires is more mobile, energetic, dynmaic and a better ball winner, but he is far less technically gifted.

Marin and Ba/Torres will be the other subs that are used. Marin is a pure winger, hugs the touchline and always looks to cross with his right foot (predicatlably coming inside all the time when on the left). Torres and Ba will come on for one another. Ba often has more of an impact on the game as the team will start playing far more long (high) vertical balls and get crosses in earlier. Be careful of him in the box because he is very good at turning defenders and is dominant in the air. Bertrand can be brought on the left wing to see games out, he and Cole will then dominate defensive transitions and space on that side of the pitch.

Player sketches

Turnbull – right foot – Struggles to deal with corners/crosses [doesn’t get very good punches on the ball] but is extremely positive and quick at putting pressure on the player on the ball. He can also make mistakes with the weight on his short passes to Luiz coming deep or his centre backs & also makes kicking mistakes under pressure. Often goes long with his kicking.

Azpilicueta – right foot – Starting to adapt to the premier league, nice amount of pace, gets forward with inconsistent but early crosses [1st or 2nd touch]  & has ability to come inside and cross with left foot [2nd post]. He can also take long and quick throw-ins, but they don’t get players forward for long throw-ins, so probably only Ba and the second ball is the problem with these. Doesn’t recover as quickly as Cole & may dive into tackles at times.

Cahill – right foot – Technically good centre back, with pace, strength, dominant in the air and a threat in attacking corners. He can bring the ball out of defence and has the ability to hit extremely good long shots at goal when given the opportunity. Very good at getting blocks in but is often the deepest of the back line and can play players onside at times.

Ivanovic – right foot – Shorter than Cahill but has an extremely good jump and is dominant in the air. He too can bring the ball out of defence and is often the trigger for Coles overlapping runs on the outside. *Extremely strong, powerful, consistent performer, threat in attacking set plays and can also play right back. Often slow on the turn and not quick enough off mark to cover space.

Cole – left foot – Extremely consistent performer. He is a world class left back with a lot of mobility and energy. Dominates left side  on his own at times and very rarely gets beat. The only way is to take advantage of him is airily,  but be aware that he will always jump early against taller players than him & gets close to them to put them off. Crosses will often be pulled back to feet on the edge of box [Lampard!].

Ramires – right foot – Box to box player with incredible mobility and energy levels. Not the best technical player, but makes up for it with lung busting runs though the middle, ability to control the space around him and his ability to win nearly all 50/50 balls on the floor. His passing range and technical abilities mean that he can be pressed to make him pass sideways/backwards or a poor touch.

Lampard – right foot – With Terry out, he is the leader of the team. Extreme motivation to become Chelsea’s all time top goalscorer this season, which shows how much of a goal threat he is, with his clever movement, precise timing of runs in box [second balls!], long shots, finishing ability and being in the right place at the right time. He is also a very good passer of the ball and knows how to cover in defence. Hie can still get box to box, but his mobility can sometimes be exploited in transition.

Luiz – right foot -Technical player with physical capabilities and an immense passing range. Very aggressive in pressing and is eager to win every ball back as quickly as possible. He has ability and vision to see and exploit depth and has a very good long shot, although he has been wasteful with them of late. Can sometimes make mistakes & you can exploit the space behind him, but be aware that he will always look to loft his arm and get his body in the way to block players that are trying to pay 1/2’s around him. Can also take very good free kicks [using Drogba’s technique].

Mata – left foot – The teams key player in attacking organisation, creativity and goals. Plays in between lines and looks to overload positions of the field with the other 2 players playing off the striker. He takes nearly all set plays, with quality delivery and shots on goal. He will often come deep to help bring ball up the field and has excellent timing in his runs into the box. He has vision to see and exploit depth, often deploying precise dink balls over the top of the defenders into depth. He lacks real pace, but is quick enough and is a finisher, but often opts to go low and to the 1st post with shots. Very left footed.

Hazard – right foot – Quality attacking player. Is good with both feet, beats players easily in 1 on 1’s, has vision and ability to exploit depth and can use his pace and direct dribbling to cause problems. He knows when to play the ball simple and rarely loses the ball. He can hold the ball out wide & draw players towards him, then pick the right time to give the ball to the free player. Can come inside and hit quality shots towards corners of the goal and can interchange and rotate with the other 2 player in the 3. Doesn’t always get back defensively and can be exploited on his side. Be careful in and around box, as he is a player that can change direction very quickly, so don’t leave your foot in or he will win a free kick or penalty.

Oscar – right foot – Quality technical player with a good tactical knowledge of what he needs to do defensively. Another 10, but for more a link player rather than a direct assister or goalscorer. He works very hard for the team off the ball in his pressing, often nicking the ball from opponents and can also do a job defensively on player when he needs to [Vs Pirlo at home in the champions league]. Capable of playing with both feet, beating players, using his mobility and is ability to quickly turn on the ball from facing one way to the opposite.

Marin – right foot – Marin is more a pure wing player, with good pace and dribbling ability. Hasn’t had enough football this season due to injury, he is struggling to adapt to the premier league due to the lack of games. When he gets the ball on the left, it will nearly always result in him coming inside on his right foot, even when he goes down the line he will want to come back to his right foot. When he does get the cross in, they can be of great quality. He can also pick a pass and play 1/2’s around fullbacks to make use of his mobility. On the right he will go down the line and get the cross in.

Bertrand – Left foot – Has a very good understanding with Cole when he plays on the left [as he is a natural left back] one will cover the other if he comes on the left. Can put in quality crosses and is also a very good deputy for Cole at left back. He has a lot of mobility and knows how to defend.

Ba – right foot -Extremely motivated to do well for his new club and prove himself at the highest level, Ba is a target man with great physical attributes. His movement in the box is very good and can poach any balls that the ‘keeper doesn’t deal with properly. Massive arial threat in the box and is a defensive asset to them when defending set plays. He is quicker than he looks and can turn players and make defenders come to short for long balls to head, allowing him to turn and get to ball in depth [other centre back need to be aware to anticipate]. Quality hold up play and lay offs, but he doesn’t look to do anything fancy with the ball, instead he give and get into the box. Big goal threat.

Torres – right foot – Torres is suffering from not performing at the levels he knows that he is capable of. He often gets very frustrated and isolated upfront, so choses to come deep and contribute in build up play. He looks to come deep, turn and run at players to try and get past them, but is often inconsistent with his dribbling. He is also inconsistent with his hold up play and his lay offs, often losing control of the ball. When there is space for him to exploit in depth though, he is extremely dangerous. He will also work hard in his pressing. In the box, he will hold his run around the ‘d’ of the box until the ball is played, then he will attack the ball.

Goals [top 5]:

  1. Ba [for Newcastle] – 13
  2. Torres – 7
  3. = Mata – 7
  4. Lampard – 6
  5. Hazard – 4
  6. = Ivanovic – 4

Assists [top 5]:

  1. Mata – 7
  2. Hazard – 6
  3. Oscar – 4
  4. Azpilicueta – 2
  5. 7 other players – 1

Cards [top 5]:

  1. Luiz – 5 yellow
  2. =Ivanovic – 3 yellow, 1 red
  3. Ramires – 4 yellow
  4. Cole – 3 yellow
  5. Torres – 1 yellow, 1 red
  6. Oscar 2 yellow

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Team Dynamics | Behaviours in Pressing | Set Plays | Other Observations and Team Stats