This article originally featured on totalfootballanalysis.com, our dedicated analysis site covering players, managers and matches from around the globe.
With Chelsea securing a win against then-league leaders Manchester City, who are now behind Liverpool, Maurizio Sarri is ready to set the fixture as a catalyst to climb the Premier League table. The upcoming trip to Brighton will prove Sarri’s hope in Chelsea stepping up the performance curve.
In this piece, an analysis of tactical preview is presented for Brighton vs Chelsea fixture. The tactical analysis preview highlights the strengths and weaknesses of Chelsea against Brighton. The preview analysis also explains the expected strategy to be played by each team and the ever-important role of Eden Hazard in counter-pressing Brighton’s defence in a pure tactical fashion.
Brighton to sit back
Brighton & Hove Albion are among the teams which like to sit back and defend. The team plays with defensive formations ranging from 4-1-4-1 to 4-4-1-1. Brighton may use the 4-1-4-1 formation against Chelsea to have three midfielders pressing Jorginho including Propper who would play as a buffer in front of the backline. Brighton’s defensive formations in their own half as shown in the pictures below may serve as a tight barrier to Chelsea’s attacking plays.
Not only do Brighton play defensively flat to block all the potential passing lanes, but the defensive stats of the team is also strong. The team won 72.4% of the defensive duels this season on average. Comparing to Chelsea, the stats are better in relative terms too as the Blues won only 59% of the defensive duels on average this season.
Chelsea to play direct
Given Chelsea’s recent success in playing on transitions, Sarri’s men seem ready to confidently play and convert direct attacks into scoring opportunities. Specifically, Luiz’s long passing and distribution skills can play a key role in thread-passing the wide defence line of Brighton. The same approach helped the Blues against Manchester City last weekend.
Another area to exploit by Sarri men is the space behind Brighton’s fullback Saltor, as shown in Brighton’s pass map below, who moves up and wide in the initial stages of build-up. This would leave a large gap behind the fullback to be exploited by Chelsea, especially Alonso who is more of an attacking fullback and play at the counter side of Saltor.
Chelsea also has better passing and offensive stats than Brighton, which ultimately makes the attacking outlook of the team better than Brighton. Chelsea’s passing accuracy is as good as 89% on average this season while that of Brighton is 79.4%. However, Chelsea performed the worst in the last few matches dropping its expected goal (xG) stats to as low as 1.3 in the last three fixtures compared to Brighton’s 1.45 in the last three fixtures, which is something to be concerned. Yet still, overall Chelsea have better attacking credentials with an overall xG stats of 2 on average this season compared to Brighton’s overall average of mere 1.12 Chelsea’s recovery-to-loss ratio, 0.85, is also better than that of Brighton’s 0.77 which reflects Chelsea being better to win back the possession to retain its dominated passing game.
Hazard to be given a free role
Another key aspect Sarri can use to exploit Brighton’s low block defence is giving a free roam role to Hazard. The Belgian with his back and forth wide and advanced moves can tactically occupy the opponents even off the ball, thus giving space for the attack-minded players at the behind – the likes of Marcos Alonso and N’Golo Kante.
There is no denying that Chelsea are still lacking a clinical striker despite being almost halfway into the season. This can cost the team a better goal difference in the long run. Yet, Chelsea’s front line is better in creating offensive patterns than that of Brighton. The latter has wide wingers and wide fullbacks thus only leaving the central midfielders to fill the half space gap and be available as passing options for the striker who is centrally located. But given Brighton’s priority to execute flat defence in their own half, the central midfielders might not always be available to play their attacking role and join the striker thus resulting in the isolation of the striker. On the other hand, Chelsea being tactically better at the front can capitalise Hazard’s free mover role.
Chelsea’s front players’ ability to compose offensive patterns and convert them into scoring chances can take an edge over Brighton’s possibly disconnected attacking combinations. Chelsea have been predictable in the last few matches but their recent game-changing performance against City again, especially changing Hazard’s role to false nine, brought a hope towards their ability to come back and stay resilient. We cannot expect Hazard again taking the false-nine role in the upcoming trip to Brighton but we can expect tactical changes in Chelsea’s Sarriball being more reliant on direct attacks, following the usual vertical passing game in each phase of possession, as an attempt to conclude build-up from the back.
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