Second half changes result in another late win for Chelsea, against a defensively solid Watford.
Watford find opportunities in wide areas
When Watford could play early passes forward to bypass the midfield they were able to create some good situations in wide areas. On various occasions they were able to create 1v1’s against the Chelsea fullbacks. Terry and Cahill would both be occupied by the Watford strikers in the box and Kante would be centrally on the edge of the box. This issues in the Chelsea defence are a result of a couple of factors: the higher positioning of Oscar and Matic means they aren’t able to recover position quickly enough upon long balls, and the wingers are also high, as well as not supporting the fullbacks in deeper areas--mostly they would position themselves in front of the fullback without being active in trying to win the ball or to cover the fullbacks.
There was one situation in the first half where Ivanovic moves out to the wing to press Capoue and there is a lot of space created between him and Cahill. Here they could be exposed against teams with good 1v1 players in wide areas.
The 1v1 situations against the fullbacks were particularly noticeable during counterattacks where they were able to move the ball wide and high early, as the rest of the defensive line would drop back to the box and the midfielders would be recovering position. Good defending by Cahill--follows Ighalo in the box, keeps tight by holding onto him and is able to block the shot--during one counter attack in the first half prevented a very good goalscoring situation from a situation where Watford were able to isolate Azpilicueta.
Since Chelsea also want the wingers to be fresh and higher up the pitch for when they regain the ball, to be used as outlets, they won't always be able to do both effectively. Here they were able to successfully retain the ball during the transitions between defending in deep areas and winning the ball. Both Hazard and Costa were the most used outlets, where they were able to hold onto the ball before finding support or drawing fouls. Matic was also able to hold onto the ball and dribble past players in deeper areas. This prevented Watford from being able to sustain attacks and field position to use as a platform to create consecutive chances.
When in a deeper and organised block Matic can cover Azpilicueta on the left. On the right they have problems as Ivanovic is often isolated. This is a result of the high pressing from Oscar and the left sided positioning of Costa. This allows Matic to drop deeper with Kante--the opposite of preseason, where the team and Kante would be moving up--while the block is covering deeper areas.
When they are finally defending around their own box Oscar is recovering the ground to get back centrally (it would not be advantageous to have him both pressing high and covering a fullback) and Pedro can be occupied by a man to mark, leaving the 1v1’s against Ivanovic. Here Kante should move over to cover Ivanovic, while the defensive midfield space is occupied by Matic.
Stable defending in deep areas
The deep defending and high numbers in central areas--especially in their own box--allowed Watford to prevent Chelsea from creating many opportunities in the first half.
The structures Watford have in wide areas allowed good cover. Defensively Holebas moves deep into the backline, Capoue moves across to screen the space ahead of him, and Holebas only needs to move out on very few occasions to press. On the right Cathcart moves over to a right back position to support Amrabat from behind, while Guedioura will also shuffle across to either support zonally or to mark a player around the ball.
With their deeper positioning their options when they regain the ball can be limited as a result. Their main outlets when they regained the ball were long balls up to the front two--often easily dealt with by the Chelsea defence--or finding Capoue moving up on the left. Capoue was often allowed to run freely in higher areas, but during transitions Chelsea were able to control him.
As Chelsea were unable to find consistent passes into the box or behind the defence, they began to use crosses to try to create chances. While Matic and Oscar would join the edge of the box and the far side winger would also join the box, they were unable to create any good chances. Crosses in the air were easily dealt with by the Watford centre backs, while lower crosses behind the defenders weren't able to be capitalised upon by Costa or the far side winger.
Chelsea changes after conceding
Within a few minutes of conceding the goal there were a few changes. Initially Hazard moved towards the right to overload this area with Pedro, Oscar and Ivanovic, before they switched Pedro to the left, Hazard centrally, and Oscar moved to the right. Hazard was able to receive the ball more often and have more influence on the game, creating a few chances over a short space of time through combinations and crosses into the box.
As the half progressed the three changes were made: Moses for Pedro, Batshuayi for Oscar (Hazard moved to the right, Batshuayi striker with Costa), and Cesc on for Matic. All three of these changes were able to use their qualities in the game. Moses would attack the fullback and space as soon as he received the ball (far more than Pedro was able to), Batshuayi was able to provide both support in the box and combinations with Costa, and Cesc was able to make use of his direct passing game.
Similar to the game against West Ham, they are able to change the speed of their possession game, resulting in sustained periods of pressure in and around the opposition box. They become very direct, using the wingers to always attack the fullback, as well as playing many passes and crosses into the box.
The second half adjustments, Hazard having more of the ball in the final third and individual quality that Chelsea were able to bring on made the difference.