With Chelsea looking to bring their fantastic form in the league over to their indifferent Champions League form this season, Maribor at home was the best possible game they could of hoped for in their group. Although Maribor had gained two points in their first two champions League games, Chelsea’s individual and collective quality made the difference in their biggest Champions League win.
Chelsea began with their usual asymmetric 4231 with Willian starting inside in the right halfspace and Luis in for Azpilicueta. Very fluid movement and rotations of positions from Cesc and the 3 behind Remy, with mostly horizontal movement from Remy and quick turns when receiving the ball to feet to evade pressure - as he's not super pressure resistant, he uses his turning speed well to compensate.
In building up Chelsea had control of the game, but mostly because Maribor allowed them. The only times they moved out of their 4420 with the strikers sitting on the deep Chelsea midfielders was with initial build up from Cech, where they would sometimes look to press and either try to force Chelsea to go long or make a mistake.
A lot of dropping movement to deep areas situationally wasn't needed so much in this game, but in a few instances we still saw movements between the centre backs from Matić or Cesc and: Oscar, Matić and Cesc moving between Terry and Luis - with the latter moving higher up the pitch.
As they moved into creation areas, we would see the super fluidity of movements from Hazard, Cesc, Willian and Oscar become far more influential and create superiority in different areas of the pitch situationally. Oscar was key, as usual, in balancing the team during their rotations and fluid movements. On the left, Luis would always make his movements in relation to the position of the player ahead of him - be it Hazard, Willian or Oscar. If his teammate was in the halfspace and the wing was free, he would overlap, if it was the other way around he would underlap and if the players ahead where in both positions he would delay his run until one moved from the wing or halfspace. On the other side, Ivanovic would nearly always have free space on the right to overlap due to the inside positioning of Willian (sometimes Hazard, sometimes Oscar). This also allowed the strikers to make outside runs to the right, as mentioned earlier with Remys goal. With these movements Chelsea created some nice combinations on both flanks, leading to quite a few crossing situations from both sides - although they wasted these situations with bad crossing or poor decisions by the player that received the ball in the box.
Drogba for Remy
After Remy went off, Drogba was only a little different in movements compared to Remy. With Drogba, he also moved horizontally and sometimes in the first half outside of the Maribor left back to play on the right wing and allow Hazard and Oscar to play in the middle. Unlike with Remy, who would receive with back to goal and make a quick turn into a channel or make outside diagonal runs between the Maribor left centre back and left back (the latter he did 3 times before scoring with his 4th run like this, space to run into due to Willians positioning inside leaving the right free), Drogba would look to receive the ball on the half-turn in the channels inside the fullbacks. Had he been more consistent in his control he could of found himself in 1v1 situations on goal on a couple of occasions. Other than this, there wasn't much change to the way Chelsea played with different strikers - they even still used long diagonals to Ivanovic on the right in their long build up with Drogba on the pitch, rather than always using Drogba or orientating their play much more around Drogba.
When building play Maribor would still start off 442 then move between 4141 and 4411, with Mertely moving up and Ibraimi dropping deeper on the left hand side to create a 1-2 triangle in the middle. Although Chelsea were not as compact vertically and horizontally as they could be, their 4411/442 zonal marking with man orientated aspects killed Maribor's build up.
Their best chances came in transition moments, where on a couple of occasions they counter attacked wide areas to make use of the space left by the high positioning of the Chelsea fullbacks, but Chelsea could compensate well, with Matic covering Luis on the left (and sometimes Terry) and Willians fantastic work rate up and down the line on the right to help out Ivanovic. Not often would Zouma be covering Ivanovic so much on the right, as he would sometimes be forced to step out of the line and press with Cesc a little slow to recover position. Another movement they created in transition were also attacking the right hand side of Chelsea, with inside movements from Bohar and outside diagonals by Ibraimi into the vacated space by Bohar.
Maribor were often 4420 defensively, allowing Terry and Zouma time a space on the ball in the chelsea build up. This, however, is not without purpose from the beginning of the game. In the first half, we see an example of Maribor allowing passes out to wide areas from the centre backs (Terry in this case) by blocking off any short central passes to Matić or Fabregas. Upon the ball being passed to Oscar by Terry, we see Ibraimi moving across to block off a return pass to Terry; Tavares becoming man to man with Matić and Mejac pressing Oscar and also blocking the passing lane to Luis, so Oscar's options become very limited and forces Chelsea to increase the speed of their rhythm. The plan almost works, except for the vertical compactness of their block isn't as tight as it could be, so upon the ball being played to Hazard he has time and space to receive the ball in the left halfspace and turn. Now Maribor have missed the chance to take the initiative and be the team controlling the situation. With their defensive and midfield lines relatively close and no ball pressure, they can be exposed with balls into depth. On this occasion Hazard plays a diagonal to Ivanovic moving high on the right and Maribor have to retreat back to their own box to try and prevent an easy chance being created.
|Mertelj, concerned about Remy, loses his position to press,|
leaving the press unconnected and allowing Hazard to turn
and face play with no pressure, subsequently finding
Ivanovic overlapping on the right.
A minute later, the same situation appears - this times with Luis on the ball - but Mejac is too far away to press effectively, but manages to block the pass in-between the lines to Hazard. If the pass wasn't blocked, Chelsea had a 4v4 situation with the Maribor back 4 and Hazard facing play with the ball. Not the best position to be in. In the second half, they were more effective with their pressing on the other side, with Filipović positioning himself in a better position to press effectively to force Chelsea back.
Throughout the game, there wasn't really much change from the initial formations. In the latter stages of the second half the game become more transitional with Chelsea not always bringing back all of their players as they looked to continue to create scoring opportunities, rather than defending collectively. Hazard, although brilliant with his creation and dribbling all game, was inconsistent with his finishing in the second half, making the wrong decisions when he had the chance to shoot during the game, until his fantastic, as usual, penalty and his goal at the end. Hazard is starting to increase his influence in games and making the difference more often in his last few games, but Mourinho will want him to be performing like this more consistently and for longer periods of time this season, and has spoken publicly about him, and the rest of the squad, to have a killer instinct in games.
A perfect result for Chelsea who are top of their group and should progress to the knockout stages. The game was killed off pretty early, which is something that Chelsea really struggled to do last season and have been improving on this season with the additions of Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa, mainly. Only negative was the injury of Remy, which means they may not have a lot of striker options for their next game against Manchester United on Sunday.
After two draws in their first two games, Maribor could potentially sneak a 3rd place finish in the group if they can improve on some of their problems in their pressing in the next match against Chelsea and avoid defeat, although it will be difficult with the quality of the other 3 teams in their group to not finish 4th.