The Chelsea v Manchester United match gave us an opportunity to further assess Chelsea’s title credentials against another member of the so called top six. This was the second fixture in three matches against a top six side at home (the other being against Liverpool) and in both matches Chelsea have lost the lead and ended up drawing the game.
In this particular game Morata started upfront instead of Giroud, who played a full ninety minutes in the midweek international. Both of these strikers provide different options for Sarri. Morata has scored two goals this season in comparison to Giroud who has yet to find the net.
Against Manchester United, Morata struggled to make much of an impact within the match, especially during the build-up play. Manchester United changed their tactical approach at half time which resulted in it becoming much more difficult for Chelsea to build up their attacks and create chances.
Morata made just twenty successful passes in the 79 minutes he played of the match and only had two attempts at goal during this period. This was often caused by the poor positions that he was in when Chelsea were trying to build attacks.
This was a constant theme throughout the match which often led to Chelsea having to play backwards or into more congested central areas and in turn allowed Manchester United to regain their shape behind the ball. Due to the horizontal nature of the ball circulation, the Manchester United players didn’t have far to move in relation to the ball. This type of ball circulation is played in front of the opposition without breaking any lines which makes it easier for them to shift horizontally and maintain their shape.
Vertical and Diagonal Passes
When building up in a more vertical or a diagonal manner the ball will be travelling through two of the opposition’s lines which in turn causes them to adjust their positioning more drastically. The obvious advantage of diagonal passes is that it not only requires the opponents to shift horizontally but vertically as well. In order to create goal scoring chances with diagonal passes the forward needs to position themselves so that they can receive a flat pass into feet. Due to Chelsea’s narrow structure in attack, this is an ideal tactic as they will have sufficient support around the striker in the form of Hazard, Willian/Pedro and the two number 8’s.
With better shifting, Morata would be able to play a lay off pass into Hazard who will receive the ball with a forward facing view of the pitch in a dangerous central area. If he was positioned in the highlighted area this would allow Chelsea to continue their forward progression instead of needing to circulate the ball to find a new space to attack.
Not only did Morata contribute little to the build-up play but he also failed to get into positions to have a shot at goal. He managed just two efforts in his time on the pitch, which made Chelsea overly reliant on Hazard and Willian to carry the goal scoring threat. This will continue to be a problem for Chelsea against the bigger sides as they will create fewer chances in these games.
Chelsea will need to invest in a higher quality striker if they have ambitions to win major trophies in the next few seasons. Going forward for this season I would expect to see Sarri use Giroud in the bigger matches as he is more effective in his hold up play which in turn creates more chances for the likes of Hazard to take advantage of. Neither striker are the type that Sarri has used during his period as Napoli manager and it would be foolish to assume this isn’t an area he will look to address in the summer if not before.