The possession of the team was slightly different in this game, with fewer long diagonal passes to the far side wing and more progression along the floor. There were also less opportunities for passes to the strikers from the central defenders, like in the first game. They also played long from Begovic on a couple of occasions.
They used the fullbacks deep, central midfielders in deep central positions, two high and wide wingers, and two strikers. Progression in this game was through pulling the opposition towards them in deep possession, especially to the fullbacks. The pressure on the ball on the central midfielders open space and passing lanes through to the wingers and strikers, either up the outside of the block (fullback to winger) or through the line of pressure into the block.
When looking for the forward pass they would have a few solutions: the winger would receive it wide and play a first time pass inside (I’ll come back to this), the winger (mostly Willian) moves inside to collect the ball, before dribbling with the ball diagonally inside and looking to find the front two, or the near side striker would come deep for the ball to feet before looking to play first time lay-offs and combinations - Willian coming inside again here to receive the 2nd ball.
Bringing the opposition onto the short building with the deep fullbacks has been a prominent strategy in both games’. Something else that we have seen (not only with Chelsea, but also with Conte’s Italy) was the first time passes inside, from the high wide player, to the feet of the two strikers. Here they have both wingers high and wide to bring the full backs out, while already pulling the midfield up the field to pressure the buildup. This can not only open central spaces, but also create temporary 2v2 situations between the strikers and the central defenders, with the fullbacks too far away to be able to recover against quick combinations. With Italy they were efficient at executing this pattern. Chelsea haven’t reached that yet, but it is certainly progressing. Moses played these first time passes, without looking, on various occasions, while Willian seems to be still getting used to playing them. The strikers are also not yet coordinated in their movements, even with an excellent display in first time play and combinations by Traore.
In central midfield Matic had a solid game in possession, while Oscar encountered some difficulties. When playing as a number 10 he displays excellent body position to receive and hold the ball against first time pressure from the opponents, but today he faced delayed pressure. Here he had difficulties. With the opponent not touch tight upon receiving and most likely pressuring the second touch, he struggled for solutions. He tried to let the ball run across his body to escape the pressure but lost it, and he also tried to play earlier passes without looking - leading to passes to none.
Misplaced passes leads to another interesting point. When Chelsea had the ball in the opponent's half, Ivanovic would mostly move inside and mark an opponent - or to position himself within distance to block him receiving the ball if Chelsea lost the ball. On a few occasions passes were played out to where Ivanovic would usually be to free space. It will be interesting to see if this was something that was planned for Ivanovic.
In the final 3rd they relied on crosses and switches for creation again, while they were able to find a few passes behind the defence by Willian and RLC. Willian was also able to deliver quality low crosses across the face go goal, while Moses would play lofted balls to the 2nd post. Another solution they had was to use Matic as a box runner. He was found with good timing on several occasions, usually after a switch of play, where the wide player would receive the ball double marked, while space would open between the pressuring fullback and the nearside central defender for Matic to move into and receive the ball.
Against the ball improvements
Defensively they had moments of much better collective pressing in this game, as well as some great individual counter pressing. They were also pressuring higher up and didn’t begin in such a deep block as the first game too. During these moments in the last game, Conte was visibly trying to get the block to move up, with no success. In this game, however, there was one moment where they dropped too deep again and did move up quickly and collectively. What they didn’t do was then initiate ball pressure and adjust the midfield to cover space around the ball, as well as have access to players in central space, which lead to the opposition passing the ball through Matic and Oscar before finding themselves with the ball behind the defenders and facing play. Another issue they have had has been controlling central depth when a central defender is moving out to press. Papy, ball watching again, failed to recognise the free man running off him in a situation like this today.
The higher block and pressing allowed them to have a better platform to counter attack from in this game, compared to the last. The most successful attacks in the game came through counter attacks. Willian would carry the ball quickly and powerfully both up the field and past players, while they would also use switches and diagonal depth moments from the front two.
Set piecesShort corners were also prominent in the game. Traore was the receiver in the first half, where he would elect to bounce the ball back to the corner taker, while on one occasion he was able to receive it in a dangerous shooting position - a poor attempt for his standards. Short and front post corners are something that Conte used at Juventus. He would have 5 players in the box (Chelsea also use 5), with 3 on the edge of the box, who would receive the ball and shoot, after a player from inside the box would run past the 1st post to receive and hold the ball before finding a free player.