This post originally featured on our comprehensive world football analysis sister site, totalfootballanalysis.com.
Following their 11th win of the Premier League season against Brighton & Hove Albion, Chelsea are set to host Leicester City. The Blues’ boss Maurizio Sarri must be buoyant with his team’s recovery having secured two wins in the last three matches and three wins in the last five matches in all competitions. Comparing this to their upcoming opponent, Leicester City won none of the last three matches while and only two of their last five matches. The home team currently ranks fourth in the league table compared to their opponents who are 12th. Talking about the head-to-head records, Chelsea have won four of their last five matches against Leicester with the remaining one ending in a draw.
This tactical preview explains, with the help of statistics and tactical information, how Chelsea’s overall better offensive positioning could be the main contributor in tackling a team like Leicester who work well from counterattacking opportunities. The statistics are averaged out for the current season for each team and include Premier League and Carabao Cup only as the competitions are common between the two teams.
Chelsea to dominate as usual
Looking back at Leicester’s approach in the season so far, boss Claude Puel has wanted to dominate the possession except against the big teams like Arsenal and Manchester City where the Foxes only maintained 36-37% of possession on average. On the other hand, Chelsea who also like to play with possession and control are expected to deploy the same approach at the Stamford Bridge this Saturday. This would lead to Chelsea dominating possession while Leicester assume their defensive shape like against Manchester City in their last Carabao Cup fixture.
The following pictures show the likely tactical shape of both teams in the upcoming picture as they deployed in their last fixtures.
Leicester to play long
Leicester City would play better with their long ball approach as they have done in the other fixtures. Talking about the stats, the Foxes have played as many as 11% of long passes out of total passes on average this season, compared to the Blues who play a mere 6.17% of long passes. This also supplements the fact the average shot distance of Leicester City is18.92 feet. Chelsea’s is 17.69 feet.
Leicester’s approach against Chelsea would be playing long to come short in order to retain the possession in the final third at least until the attack concludes. The attacking midfielder Maddison has a contributory role to play to come short for the long ball played to have it retain in the final third. The following match-shot of Leicester against Crystal Palace shows how Maddison is keeping the ball in circulation among the advanced players in the respective region after he or his teammate came short for the long pass.
The following picture shows Maddison’s distribution role against Manchester City.
The pass map of Maddison also shows how interconnected his role is in Leicester’s attacking region.
Chelsea better in offensive play
Regardless of the approach used by either team, Chelsea still remains on top offensively. The xG goal stats of Chelsea is 1.94 on average compared to Leicester’s 1.27, as per Wyscout. Considering the last three fixtures of each, the xG stats of Chelsea is 1.09 while that of Leicester is 0.9 – the difference appears to be shrinking. Although Sarri’s men displayed a questionable performance in a few fixtures sometimes back, they seem to be back on track given the recent adjusting in their playing approach which embraces counterattacking and transitional opportunities more than before.
Chelsea’s passing stats are also significantly better than Leicester. Chelsea played as many as 7.98 passes per possession while Leicester played 5.29. The passing accuracy of Chelsea, 89.3% is also better than that of Leicester, 80.9%. Heck, Chelsea’s long pass accuracy, 63.5% is also better than that of Leicester’s 56.2% even though the latter is more reliant on long passes. Lastly, the recovery to loss ratio of Chelsea, 0.84 recoveries per ball lost, is also slightly better than Leicester City who average 0.79 recoveries per ball lost.
Another aspect which makes Chelsea’s offensive position better than Leicester’s is the interconnected front line. Chelsea’s frontline has a more intense offensive presence in the final third compared to Leicester’s presence in its respective final third which is due to Chelsea’s vertical tiki-taka passing style which tends to create a number of offensive patterns in the region.
Chelsea played 0.91 passes into the final third on each possession compared to Leicester’s 0.70 final third passes per possession, on average. Not only is Chelsea’s front line interconnected but also, the wingers are fairly connected with the midfield and the striker, contrary to Leicester where the lone striker mostly remains isolated. This is also shown in the formation pictures shown above for each team. The following pass maps of Chelsea and Leicester display the same.
It is also very prominent in the pass maps that Chelsea’s frontline is closer to the goal area than Leicester City’s frontline indicating the stronger offensive existence of the prior.
Hazard (10) being more advanced than Giroud (18) in Chelsea’s pass map explains the recent adjustment in Sarri’s attacking tactic which assigns more of a free reign and tactical freedom to Hazard than he has been given so far in this season.
Chelsea are expected to sustain their offensive presence and capitalise against Leicester. Even though many of the stats are comparable between the two teams, Chelsea are stronger in what they do best – dominate the opponent via offensive passing patterns.
During the current season, the sides have made the same amount of interceptions per pass conceded (0.11), nearly the same amount of clearances per pass conceded in their defensive third (Leicester’s 0.33 which is slightly better than Chelsea’s 0.31), gained nearly the equal number of possessions on average in the 90 minutes played (82.5) and allowed nearly equal number of passes to their opponent per defensive action (Chelsea’s pass per defensive action allowed, PPDA, is 10.18 vs Leicester’s 10.23). Both also won a nearly equal proportion of the defensive duels on average this season (Leicester’s 24.7% vs Chelsea’s 24.2%). Yet, all in all, Chelsea are in good position tactically and statistically to secure another three points as detailed in the above analysis.
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