Chelsea began the game with a more clearly defined 442 medium block in the first half, with Traore in the front two. Here he would pressure form a higher starting position than he has been used so far this preseason, along with marking the opposition deep midfielder and trying to intercept the ball during moments where Milan were circulating the ball in midfield with their defenders. The block behind was zonal, while becoming man to man around the ball in wide areas, as seen in previous games.
After around 15 minutes Traore began to drop deeper and use the midfield line as his starting point defensively, which is what he has been doing in every game so far. Upon this there was more deeper orientation from the wide players, where either one or both would drop deeper than the central midfielders.
They had some issues when they were trying to gain group access to press or to be able to try to win the ball during this half, while the circulation of Milan could often result in the Chelsea block dropping deeper into their own half. They could find moments where they were able to use individual pressure on the ball, but this was easily escaped by Milan.
The moments where they were able to pressure the ball collectively was during short building from goal kicks. Here Milan would try to keep the ball in deep areas and resist the pressure from Chelsea, in order to tire their pressing players and open spaces to play inside the Chelsea block. However, Chelsea were very successful in moving up to pressure all short options, with access to the ball across the full width of the pitch, forcing errors from Milan with the ball and creating a few opportunities where they were able to win the ball in high areas.
When defending deep in their own box there were problems during second post crosses and crosses across the face of goal, behind the defensive line, during the half. The continued chances from defensive set pieces are also apparent, with the defensive line too high and narrow.
Chelsea also had problems in their possession game in the first half. Passes inside the Milan block from the Chelsea defenders to the front two were mostly blocked, while passes up the line from Aina to Willian were met with clustering of players around Willian and immediate pressure from behind and on the ball. The central midfielders were also not able to find many opportunities to receive the ball facing play, while the usual Azpilicueta to Matic pass wasn’t efficient when used on rare occasions.
The only areas where they were able to find possibilities to progress were when Aina progressed with the ball and played an early long ball forward into depth for Costa, but they weren’t able to find a successful pass during the half.
One aspect that was positive in the first half was the use of surprise long throws from Aina from standing positions. He has a very long and fast throw from standing positions, and was able to find more distance than anticipated by the Milan defence on various occasions. This was particularly successful in the buildup to the first goal from Chelsea, where Aina used an unusual long throw Matic in the centre of the pitch, behind the Milan midfield line, in the final third.
Upon changes during the second half, Chelsea switched to a 4141. This was quite a considerable change and allowed various new possibilities, both offensively and defensively.
During pressing they were able to set up the block with the striker pressing the opposition central defender, while the midfield line of 4 was now higher (where the front two were often positioned in the first half). Here they could use one of the central midfielders to move up and pressure the spare central defender, while the whole block moved up collectively. Kante would move from defensive midfield line into the vacated position by the pressing central midfielder, while the fullbacks were also up high to pressure their man. This was exemplified by Azpilicueta, where he would move up and pressure the opposition fullback on the ball while Hazard was moving inside to block an option inside along with pressing inside between players.
Their new structure allowed them to continuously find access to the ball and to be able to press higher and with efficiency. As a result they were able to spend more time with the ball in the Milan half, where they made greater use of possession than in the first half.
Hazard was very influential in moving inside and combining with the ball, while they would also have a higher involvement of the fullbacks in the final 3rd, with both overlapping on a few occasions.
Another area where they were able to find opportunities from wide areas were Using Oscar to run between the Milan left centre back and the left back, into the space behind the fullback in the box, while Cuadrado was on the ball in the final 3rd. This movement is something that they can also be used with Cesc, Matic, Chalobah and RLC from these positions.
They were also able to find faster forward passes when they won the ball in midfield, with Chalobah, once again, playing early long balls to Cuadrado advancing on the right.
With the current players, a 4141 is in my opinion the best system to use for the current squad. They have four quality strikers (Remy would leave if they were to go with one striker) while the two advanced midfield roles suit players such as RLC, Cesc and Oscar more than the roles they have been used in the 442/424 so far. Using 4141 also allows Kante to cover the space behind as the defensive midfielder, while the wingers can be positioned higher up the pitch and not need to go back to defend in their own half as much, allowing them to save their energy to be used with the ball in the opposition half. With the same players there is also the option to use the 442/424 as well, especially in games during the season where the opponent may sit in a deeper closed block throughout the game. Another aspect that would be advantageous is be that there wouldn’t be the need to sign another striker, while they can then focus that money on getting both a new central defender and a fullback to replace Baba’s squad position. The squad would then be complete in terms of incoming players, while they still need to sell or loan out quite a few players from the current squad.