Chelsea Sarri Tactical Analysis

Chelsea inflicted a first league defeat upon Manchester City as Maurizio Sarri masterminded a 2-0 win over counterpart Pep Guardiola. Stamford Bridge saw a changed Chelsea gameplan on Saturday, as the Blues adopted a different approach to get the better of City. Sarri ditched his flowing and attacking ‘Sarriball‘, but still managed to get the win. The statistics also tell a similar tale. Let’s take a look.

Possession and passing numbers take a beating

Throughout the season, Chelsea have dominated possession in their games, keeping the ball 61.8% of the time. Against City, their possession dropped to a measly 38.7%, which is a drastic change. Sarri’s men had just 54 passes in the final third. To put that into perspective, they had 170 of those against Tottenham at Wembley, which was arguably their worst performance of the season.

Chelsea took just eight shots against City, which is less than half of their season average of 16.9. Their front three of Eden Hazard, Willian, and Pedro did not have much to work with due to the conservative approach. Together, they completed just 75 passes in the whole game, while City’s centre-backs Aymeric Laporte and John Stones both crossed a century by themselves.

No pressing from Sarri

Another feature of Chelsea’s game this season has been their pressing, which was almost non-existent against City. Here is the average position of the players in the game courtesy of SofaScore.

Maurizio Sarri Chelsea Manchester City Analysis Statistics
Here are the average positions for the City players.

The City players enjoyed a lot of time in the opposition half and only three of their outfield players were in their own half on average. The likes of David Silva and Bernardo Silva forayed deep into the Chelsea half, almost as far as their respective wingers. For Chelsea, the picture changes dramatically.

Maurizio Sarri Chelsea Manchester City Analysis Statistics
Here is how the Chelsea players were positioned, and the difference is obvious compared to their opponents.

Except for Hazard and Willian, all the Chelsea players camped out in their own half. The three midfielders and the full-backs usually instigate the press for Sarri, but their average positions tell a different story. For comparison, take a look at Mateo Kovacic and David Silva’s positions. These are two players who play on the left of the midfield three, but two players whose roles differed vastly in the game.

Defensive numbers were naturally enhanced

Due to City’s possession dominance, Chelsea were on the back foot for large periods of time. Their defensive stats back up the same. Their 44 attempted tackles on the day eclipsed their average of 22.2 for the season by a long margin. Similarly, the interceptions went from 8.8 to 19, clearances went from 17.8 to 31, and the shots blocked doubled from 1.9 to four. A heroic block from Cesar Azpilicueta deserves a special mention. If you haven’t watched it, do take a look.

The Blues completed 410 passes in the game, which is some way short of their season average of 691.8. Their pass success rate also dropped from 88.3% to 81%. Now one of the reasons for the drop-off in all those numbers is that City are really good, but more importantly, Sarri knew it would happen and embraced it.

Sarri takes a step down to get the win

Coaches of the ilk of Sarri and Guardiola believe in their footballing ideologies strongly. Abandoning them, even for 90 minutes, is a really tough ask. But Sarri prioritised the three points over his philosophy for one game, and it paid off for the Italian. That being said, City were rolling in the first half, and it looked as though they would score sooner than later. But Chelsea held their own defensively, and N’Golo Kante’s goal changed the hue of the game.

As the statistics tell, a different Chelsea took to the field on Saturday, but it was in no way a less effective one. Sarri’s changes and adjustments reaped their rewards, as he claimed his first win over Guardiola. We have a title race now, fellas!


If you love tactical analysis, then you’ll love the digital magazines from totalfootballanalysis.com – a guaranteed 100+ pages of pure tactical analysis covering topics from the Premier League, Serie A, La Liga, Bundesliga and many, many more. Get your copy of November’s issue for just £4.99 here or preorder the first of TWO December issues right here.