This post originally featured on our world football analysis sister site, totalfootballanalysis.com.
Chelsea hosted Bournemouth in the English League Cup quarter-final at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday evening. The quality of this match was high with both sides fielding particularly strong sides in an attempt to reach the semi-finals.
Bournemouth pushed onto Chelsea looking to prevent them from playing out from the back. Bournemouth looked to prevent Chelsea from progressing in central areas and force the ball into wide areas.
The ball circulation in this match was much improved from recent fixtures (Man City apart) due to the speed at which the ball was moved across the pitch. When the ball entered the final third the quick combinations Sarri is known for were executed well. Most times passes were made they were completed in two touches or less. By doing this it required the defensive block to continuously need to orientate themselves.
Occupation of space
Chelsea showed better spacing in possession during the game which enabled them to penetrate advanced areas more efficiently. Chelsea were able to push Bournemouth’s wingbacks into a flat defensive line of five by positioning themselves higher and wider than they would do normally. By occupying five opponents with three attackers Chelsea were able to easily maintain possession of the ball due to the numerical superiority in the middle third of the pitch.
Once again Chelsea are able to switch the point of attack due to the positioning of the ball far wide player, fullback and number 8. This was particularly effective as it allowed Chelsea to play around the pressure that Bournemouth were trying to create around the ball. One advantage of playing around the block was that it created spaces back into the centre as Bournemouth attempted to shift across the pitch. Chelsea were then able to play passes back towards Giroud who could play lay off passes into onrushing midfielders. This diagonal passing has the advantage of requiring the defensive block to shift both horizontally and vertically.
Bournemouth’s narrow shape
Bournemouth were very narrow and compact when out of possession. They were happy to allow Chelsea to switch the ball into wide areas in the build-up play. This was a pressing trigger for them to aggressively attempt to win back possession. When the ball was transferred to a wide player providing there was sufficient access to the player in possession, Bournemouth would look to close the space around the ball. The wingback and ball-side centre midfielder would apply immediate pressure to the player in possession whilst the rest of the side provided depth to the pressing structure in order to prevent an easy escape from the press.
On a few occasions, Chelsea were able to escape the press due to several of their players dribbling skills. Loftus-Cheek, in particular, showed good press resistance, receiving the ball in tight spaces before turning and dribbling. This was an effective skill to possess in this game due to Bournemouth’s man orientated pressing.
Chelsea out of possession
Chelsea dropped back into a 4-5-1 shape out of possession when Bournemouth had rare moments of controlled possession. Bournemouth’s game plan was to sit back in their defensive shape and look to exploit the spaces left when Chelsea attacked. The 5-3-2 allowed them to have an extra forward to pass to when they won possession. Both Callum Wilson and Lys Mousset possess great pace which they can use to exploit the spaces behind a higher defensive line.
This was a match in which Chelsea dominated possession and created far more chances than Bournemouth. The slight tactical adjustment Sarri made in playing Loftus-Cheek and Willian higher and wider enabled them to create a more stable structure in possession. This structure affected Bournemouth’s shape as their 3-5-2 formation turned into a 5-3-2 with both wingbacks pushed back into a back five. This took away one aspect of Bournemouth’s attacking plan as the pacey Jordan Ibe and Diego Rico were too far back to be much of an attacking threat.
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