Chelsea vs Liverpool Premier League Tactical Analysis

What a game that Chelsea and Liverpool played on Saturday night. Despite it is just a draw, they showed an exciting game. After Chelsea’s late victory in midweek in the Carabao Cup, the two teams faced each other, but this time in the Premier League. In this crucial game, both teams came with a good streak. Liverpool had won all their last 6 games in the Premier League, and Chelsea had won their 5 out of 6 games.

The clash looked a great victory for the home side, but this time Klopp’s side was able to score a late goal which was not a winning goal, but an equalising goal. However, neither manager should be sad. Analysis. 

 Liverpool shut down Chelsea’s build-up 

Chelsea vs Liverpool Premier League Tactical Analysis

Klopp’s side knows for their high pressing and his trademark of counter-pressing. So generally the intense defending that they do has a major role in their tactics. Liverpool’s ability to prevent Chelsea building attacks from deep appeared effective and had a large effect on the flow of the game. Chelsea could not deal with the pressure that Liverpool put on them early on the build-up. 

When Chelsea tried to progress from Kepa, Liverpool often moved high up and slightly marked the centre-backs and the deepest midfielder, which means Liverpool did not mark the opponent tightly this time, rather let the goalkeeper to made the pass to the centrebacks. After the receiving, they started the intense pressing movement. 

Chelsea vs Liverpool Premier League Tactical Analysis

The two fullbacks moved in a higher position while Rüdiger and D. Luiz dropped deeper and in a wider position, therefore theoretically they could stretch the shape and gain space. Notice that Jorginho provided the connection between the centre-backs. 

Firmino had another role just marking Jorginho, when Chelsea was forced to backwards pass to the goalkeeper, Firmino was tasked with pressing Kepa which forced a pass to the right wing. An important detail of Firmino’s pressing run is his body positioning which blocks the other direction and made Kepa to chose the right side. Therefore the right wing became a frequently used space in Chelsea’s build-up during the first half. However, with tight marking Liverpool managed to cut off these attempt to progress. Except for one. In the 15th minute, Chelsea build attacks on that side. 

Chelsea vs Liverpool Premier League Tactical Analysis
Firmino pressing the goalkeeper and forcing to the right wing.
Chelsea vs Liverpool Premier League Tactical Analysis
Liverpool force Chelsea to a back pass, but then Chelsea was able to bypass the high press.

Chelsea vs Liverpool Premier League Tactical Analysis

Chelsea vs Liverpool Premier League Tactical Analysis

Furthermore, when Liverpool moved into a deeper position another trademark of them appeared in the game. Usually, Liverpool emphasises on protecting the central area which means the front two line of the pressing become narrow and close to each other, completely blocking the centre. Nevertheless, I have to mention Firmino again whose most important task was always to keep Jorginho in his cover shadow. 

Chelsea vs Liverpool Premier League Tactical Analysis

Despite the evidence of the effective press from Liverpool, only a few times were when they could steal the ball in Chelsea’s half. Normally, this is a major tool for Klopp’s side to create chances and score goals, but against Chelsea they could not do the number of chances as they usually did. The biggest opportunity was when Salah could turn into the goal, but the chance was not ideal, because Rüdiger and Luiz quickly close the way, therefore ended up with a wrong shot. 

Chelsea’s defensive structure

Sarri ordered his team to form a 4-5-1 shape when they defending. As you see, Hazard and Willian dropped to the midfield whilst Giroud stayed up to press the ball-carrier. 

Chelsea vs Liverpool Premier League Tactical Analysis

Moreover, as a part of Chelsea’s defensive tactics, they applied a ball-oriented manner while they were against the ball. Thus often seen Kante or Kovacic made a vertical pressing run in order to pressure the ball-carrier while using cover shadow to protect the space behind him. 

With this defensive scheme, they could reduce a lot of threat that Liverpool would expose. One of the patterns that the guests tried to use was a diagonal pass to the wing, usually for the fullbacks or sometimes for Salah. However, as the pass map is shown below, Liverpool lack connectivity. They could not reach Mane or Firmino with balls, which is not usual for Klopp and his team. 

Chelsea vs Liverpool Premier League Tactical Analysis
Special thanks to 11tegen11 to this pass map.

Here is an example for the pattern from above. After the pass to Robertson, he aimed to create a 2v1 situation with Mane and bypassing the respective fullback. However, the quick shifting from Kante and Willian meant Chelsea could close down the wing and force the opponent to backwards. 

Chelsea vs Liverpool Premier League Tactical Analysis

Chelsea vs Liverpool Premier League Tactical Analysis

Liverpool’s defensive structure

Without reliable build-up, Chelsea’s attacking ability reduced by a lot due to the fact that Sarri’s tactic has a big role for quick vertical progression with short passes, but this time they could not use that tool as they usually do. 

So, when they reach the opponent’s half, Liverpool moved into a 4-4-2 formation where all the lines placed close to each other. Against this, Chelsea struggled to find a breakthrough and create chances. The biggest chances from the first half came from one pattern. When D. Luiz had the ball he made a long ball towards the Liverpool’s defence for creating a chance for Willian. They could create two opportunities with this method, but Allison great saves helped his team. 

Chelsea vs Liverpool Premier League Tactical Analysis

Chelsea vs Liverpool Premier League Tactical Analysis

However, in the 25th minutes, Chelsea scored from out of blue. Before the goal, Liverpool had the ball, but Kante was able to steal the ball and pass to D. Luiz.

Chelsea vs Liverpool Premier League Tactical Analysis

As you may see, Liverpool positioned in the left side of the pitch, which allowed a huge space in the far side. Before the guests could shift to the ball-side, Luiz found Hazard with a pass. The Belgian had the task to drop around the halfway line while Giroud and Willian stay in position. Hazard was the connection between them and the midfield/rest of the team. 

Chelsea vs Liverpool Premier League Tactical Analysis

Chelsea vs Liverpool Premier League Tactical Analysis

When he received the ball, he quickly laid it off due to Alexander-Arnold who followed him. Then Hazard turned into his position, but at some point, Alexander-Arnold had a decision-making crisis where he had to decide to follow Hazard or step up against the ball-carrier. He had to make the decision at high speed, therefore it was a tough choice. He chose to pressure the ball-carrier, which allowed Hazard to run to space without any marker and receiving the ball. Then he scored. That shot was the 8th shot on target and he scored in 6 out of 8.

Chelsea vs Liverpool Premier League Tactical Analysis

Chelsea vs Liverpool Premier League Tactical Analysis

Eliminating each other 

I already spoke about the way Liverpool prevent Chelsea’s progression and the struggle that Liverpool had to deal with, but there was a style that both teams applied for this match. Both sides made a huge effort into defence and not letting the opponent to use their strengths. Therefore this manner was the biggest cause of both sides struggles. 

This awareness appeared in Chelsea’s defence, therefore when the opponent stole the ball and tried to counter-attack they paid attention to quickly drop back. At least four players were always there, thus Liverpool had not had those type of chances from counter-attacks as they usually do. 

Chelsea vs Liverpool Premier League Tactical Analysis
Chelsea running back to defend against Liverpool. Alonso, Luiz, Rudiger and Azpilicueta against Mane, Firmino and Salah.

There were some occasions when Salah got a long ball from deep, for example after Chelsea lost the ball in Liverpool’s half. Usually, this is a really good opportunity for Salah, but not really this time. Chelsea carefully paid attention to these situations, therefore as you see below, the whole defence followed the situation and only Alonso was behind the ball, but close to Salah. 

Chelsea vs Liverpool Premier League Tactical Analysis

In other occasions when Liverpool was able to bypass the opponent’s press, they could not counter-attack Chelsea due to their quick reaction and transition into defence. 

Chelsea vs Liverpool Premier League Tactical Analysis

Chelsea vs Liverpool Premier League Tactical Analysis
Despite Liverpool beat the opponent’s press, Wijnaldum had to slow down due to lack of passing option.

However, this also appeared in Liverpool’s game, for example when Chelsea tried to counter-attack them, Salah could prevent this. The forward also tasked with preventing Chelsea from quick progression. 

Chelsea vs Liverpool Premier League Tactical Analysis
Salah forced Alonso back.

In other occasions, this manner applied during the defence. Liverpool sometimes formed into a 4-5-1 shape because Mane and Salah followed their mark – the fullbacks – and dropped deep. 

Chelsea vs Liverpool Premier League Tactical Analysis

Second half

After the break the game changed, Chelsea got more defensive minded which is kind of reasonable due to the fact that the lead was there. Consequently, the main target besides the massive defence was to create chances through counter-attacks. However, Liverpool showed great ability to prevent these attempts. 

In the 64th minute, Chelsea made a clever move with a quick free-kick which allowed them to counter-attack while Liverpool did not pay attention. This attack led to their biggest opportunity in the second half. However, Hazard could not score this time. Or another perspective, Allison made a huge save which also saved his team. 

Most parts of the second 45 minutes Liverpool dominated the game, but this was ideal for the home side due to the fact that Liverpool’s biggest weakness is positional play against a fully set-up defence, in spite, they improved a lot. 

So, most of the time they had to face with Chelsea’s 4-5-1 defensive structure. 

Chelsea vs Liverpool Premier League Tactical Analysis

Sometimes with better ball control, they could break through the opponent’s defence, but for example, Wijnaldum in the 58th minutes failed to receive the ball correctly. Just a slight mistake, just a bit slower movement allowed the opponent to reach Wijnaldum and force back. 

Chelsea vs Liverpool Premier League Tactical Analysis

Of course, Liverpool struggled in the second half, however, they created a few major scoring chances, but failed to score. Until the 89th minutes. Interestingly, this was not a team’s created chance, not even a chance. Chelsea dropped into a 6-3-1 shape, but Kante left a small space for Sturridge who used that for a superb shot. 1-1. 

Chelsea vs Liverpool Premier League Tactical Analysis

Conclusion

Both sides put huge energy into this battle, which is obvious due to the fact that they are those team who will battle the title of the Premier League. 

Therefore, in the long-term, this draw will be useful. It seemed to me that both managers looked happy after the final whistle, which is reasonable because neither teams deserved to lose, so fair result.