Conte's Chelsea: Game 6

Chelsea continued with the same 4141/433 as used in the second half of the Milan game, with more situations arising to find solutions and problems in different aspects of their use of this formation.

They began with building short from Courtois, while both Willian and Hazard high on the last line with Costa, along with the fullbacks move up onto the second line. Matic and Oscar are moving up and down between the 2nd and 3rd line to receive, with Kante the central defensive midfielder. When short building was blocked or the ball was forced back to Courtois they would play long ball over the top to the front 3.

Kante mostly plays quick and short first time passes from his defensive midfield position, while he can also move between the central defenders to split them and allow the fullbacks to move higher up. These movements can change the use of the wingers while in possession. When the fullbacks are deep, they begin high and wide. Here Willian can move deep for the ball while Costa will run behind the defence on the right upon a pass back to a player facing play. In these situations Hazard will mostly remain high and wide on the left. When Kante moves deeper and the fullbacks move up, they have different movements. Hazard will leave the wing to move inside, opening the space for Azpilicueta to move into on the left. On the right Willian will remain high, while Ivanovic will be in a supporting role behind him.  

Another situation they could use in midfield here would be to have 3 players on the same vertical line in wide areas, by using the central midfielders to move wide. For example in this game Matic once moved out horizontally from his midfield positions (Hazard high on the last line) on the left, while on the right Oscar would move into the space high and wide on the right, with an outside diagonal run, as Willian would move deeper to collect the ball. They were also able to create some combinations from there situations where Willian could play inside the Oscar moving outside before looking to receive a first time return, where he would be facing play with the ball and moving diagonally inside with it at speed.

They also used the central midfielders to make some longer passes, either diagonals to the wingers over the top of the opposition midfield, or they would use the pattern which has been used on many occasions this preseason where Matic would play a first time long ball over the top upon receiving the ball from Azpilicueta. Today the player running behind for the ball in these situations was mostly Hazard, while they were also able to use Matic to play a ball behind the defence for Hazard during counterattacks.

During deeper circulation they misplaced a few passes from the wide players centrally, giving the opposition the ball in dangerous areas. This mostly happened from the positioning and the timing of the movements from the Bremen pressing, where they would be behind the far side Chelsea midfielder to block the player on the balls view of them, before moving out from behind them to intercept the ball.

In the final 3rd they would use Oscar to move forward, between the central defender and fullback on the right, while they would allow Willian to have the ball against the fullback to try to beat him and cross the ball into the box from the right. In the box there would be Hazard joining from the other side, along with Costa and the two midfielders around the edge.

On the left Hazard would look to either dribble inside or move inside to receive the ball, before combining with teammates. Oscar sometimes moved over to combine in these situations, which resulted in him scoring after combining with Costa inside the box.

Costa can move out to wide areas and move deep to receive the ball to feet and hold off his man. Inside the box he would dummy his shots, while his movements are to dummy the run to the second post and hold his position for a pass to feet or to attack the second post.

When they lose the ball in the opposition half and with an open and high block they can press collectively sometimes, but mostly individually. Here Kante is very efficient while pressing backward and recovering the ball from players that have moved past the higher pressing players and are running with the ball towards the Chelsea backline.

Defensively they pressured in different ways. When Bremen were playing short from goal kicks the team would be in more of a 433 formation with pressure coming inwards from the outside.  They look to win the ball high and centrally, with Costa making the far side central defender (mostly the right centre back) while Willian would move inside from his fullback to pressure the left centre back on the ball. In these situations Ivanovic would move very high to be within pressing distance of the free fullback, as was seen in the second half of the last game with Azpilicueta on the left.

While pressing from midfield they focus on using the central players in pressing and pushing up collectively, while the wide players are deeper, in more of a 4141 starting formation. Costa occupies the one central defender as the other is pressed by the nearside central midfielder (Oscar or Matic) and Kante moves up into the midfield line. This was also used in the in the second half of the last game.

In deeper midfield to deep defending they can drop to a 451, but the two central midfielders can be slow in recovering position. Here the focus is more on winning the ball in wide areas. They use more man marking from the fullbacks to follow their man wide and to pressure the ball in wide areas, especially on the right, while Kante can also move across to support or to mark a passing option.

In these deep areas are where they they had the most issues. While Kante moves out to pressure the ball, the central defenders have a lot of space to cover in front of them and can be exposed. These are weak areas in the defensive aspects of the current centre backs, which can cause problems. There are also times where the opposition can switch from their left to the right and find their right winger 1v1 against Azpilicueta, as well as the fullback also losing Hazard during fast play and creating a 2v1.

As they move collectively deeper into their own box Hazard will often remain higher up as an outlet to receive the ball, while on the right Willian will support from deeper. On the left they were able to create a few good counters. They would use Hazard to hold the ball and combine with Costa and the supporting Matic, while Hazard could also find well timed passes behind the defence for Costa, as well as running behind the defence himself to receive the ball.

In the second half the substitution of Cesc on for Matic changed the possession game of the team, as Cesc is able to play far more direct passes behind the defence, both over the top and along the ground. There were also more central combinations and positional rotations between Oscar and Cesc then Oscar and Matic in the first half, while Cesc would also collect the ball more in deeper areas.

Before more substitutions were made they sometimes used Oscar move back to play as a left midfielder in a 442 shape when defending deep areas, allowing Hazard to be higher up as an outlet on the left. The substitutions later on wouldn’t change the roles, but there were some minor adjustments. RLC was more direct in trying to carry the ball a lot more than Oscar, while Moses would stay higher on the right wing and Pedro was making a lot of runs behind the defence.

Based on the formations used during preseason, the current squad wouldn't need as many changes if they were to play with one striker opposed to two during the majority of the season, while they would still have the players to be able to switch to a front two either as an in game adjustment or as a starting formation sparingly during the season.

The possession game of the team is much more aggressive and direct, with higher and wider wingers that before, along with more collective pressing defensively. There have also been some changes to the way they use set pieces, with more short variations during offensive corners and setting up to have more possibility to counterattack from defensive corners.

The current signing have been good, with Kante offering characteristics that the team hasn't had in central midfield before, while Batshuayi provides good competition for Costa and Traore. There are areas where some changes will need to be made, along with decisions on which players to keep and which to let go. With Terry going off, and while Zouma recovering from a long term injury, a new central defender must be the main priority during the rest of the transfer market. A fullback to take Baba's squad position would be the other player that is needed. Other than that it's between Cuadrado/Pedro/Moses for two winger squad positions, while it's also between Chalobah and Mikel as the backup to Kante.

Overall a much better preseason that the last for Chelsea, but still they have the same problems as the last summer window in central defence. If they can find a good solution here, along with less midweek games than title competitors as a result of missing out on European football, they should be strong contenders for the Premier League this season.