Chelsea 2-1 Sheffield United Tactical Analysis

Chelsea used a 3-2-5 to build up from the back, with Azpilicueta often stepping up in line with Kovacic and Jorginho to carry the ball and progress Chelsea up the pitch. However, Sheffield United tried to combat this by using Fleck to press Azpilicueta and stop him from doing so, with the two strikers focused on Christensen and Rudiger.

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Chelsea tried to surpass the man orientated press from Sheffield by dropping Jorginho into the RCB position to push Azpilicueta further up and try to drag on of the Sheffield midfielders and break their shape to open a passing lane into one of the forwards.

Sheffield made it difficult for Chelsea to play through the thirds early on due to the front 5 being organised in the press. Below you can see how Sheffield blocked Rudigers passing lane to Mendy while setting pressing traps for Kovacic and Jorginho.

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Chelsea then tried to look for the long ball, they did this by dropping one of the front 3 deeper to drag one of the Sheffield defenders out of their shape to allow one of the other forwards or wing backs to make a run in behind. Below you can see an example of Giroud dropping deep with Mount and Werner about to make a run in behind.

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Chelsea were switching between a 3-4-2-1 and a 3-4-1-2, with Mason Mount drifting into a number 10 position with Giroud and Werner acting as split strikers. This allowed a Chelsea player to receive the ball between the lines forcing a Sheffield defender out of their shape to create space for the forwards to run into. Chelsea were able to do this quite easily due to the distance between the Sheffield midfield and defence. Mount would make a run on Flecks blindside when going central to receive the ball in between the lines.

Above you can see where Mount starts his run with Fleck focused on Azplicueta, Mount makes a blindside run into the central area unmarked. Below you can see where he receives the ball. This is an impressive play as Mount is now unmarked and is able to run directly at the Sheffield defence as Kovacic’s vertical pass has taken 5 Sheffield players out of the game.

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Chelsea were also looking for the ball in behind to the wing backs with Werner or Mount dropping deeper to open up the space for the wing back to run into. Below you see an example of Chilwell making this run in behind after Werner drops deep.

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Chelsea’s first goal came from similar movement from Werner however the German was the one who made the run in behind after dropping deep and playing the ball out wide to Ben Chilwell. This caught the Blades defence by surprise as the Sheffield defender stepped up leaving the space in behind for Werner, as seen below.

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Chelsea were using Kovacic slightly wider on the left to create a 3v3 with Mount and Chilwell, this forced the Sheffield midfield to shuffle over which opened up space on the opposite side for Azpilicueta to push up into. This is something which he couldn’t do much of in the first half due to Fleck pressing him well.

Below you can see the 3v3 created with Kovacic going wide.

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Below you can see the space Azpilicueta has which allows Chelsea to switch the play and progress up the pitch.

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In the second half as the Sheffield midfield tired Chelsea would try and stretch them to open up a gap to play into Mason Mount who was dropping deeper. Below you can see Rudiger in possession but with no passing option forwards, so Chelsea would continue with horizontal passes along the back line.

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Below you can now see Lundstram (Number 7) is slow to shuffle across which opens up a gap for Azpilicueta to play a vertical forwards pass into Mason Mount, taking 5 players out the game and beating the Sheffield press.

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Sheffield was currently 2-1 down and needed to get on the front foot if they wanted a chance of getting anything from the game. Chris Wilder brought on a forward and switched the formation to a 4-3-3, with Norwood as the deeper midfielder. This was to try and get 3 forwards on the pitch to go man for man with the Chelsea defence, as well as giving Norwood the responsibility of marking Mason Mount who was now play as a 10 behind two strikers.

Below you can see Norwood in front of the two centre backs as well as the two CM who were staying in the halfspaces to try and stretch Kovacic and Jorginho and open up gaps and passing lanes into the front 3.

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Thomas Tuchel combated this by bringing on Kante and switch to a 3-5-2 and make sure the distances between the midfielders were tight and stopping Sheffield United playing through them. Hudson-Odoi and Mount were now the front 2 and they drifted into half spaces to link with the outside midfielder and the wing backs. This would force one of the CB’s to come out of their shape.

Conclusion

Thomas Tuchels side held possession well however they struggled for the first 30 mins to play through the Sheffield press but were able to use rotations between the front 3 well to create space in behind for the ball over the top. They were able to contain Sheffields counter attacks well and were not threatened too much in the game in regard to pressure on the back line. In the second half as the Sheffield midfield tired Chelsea were able to exploit the gaps between the front 5 thanks to Mason Mounts movement off the ball and his positioning.

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