Chelsea – Leicester City: Chelsea Show Chance Creation Problems And Overreliance On Hazard In Loss To Solid Leicester (0-1)
Chelsea dominated possession but found it difficult to break down Leicester City in the first half. In the second period of play, Claude Puel’s side came out with greater intensity and managed to get an early goal. After that, Leicester continued to frustrate Chelsea, although Puel’s side were slightly fortunate, as Chelsea hit the post in the final minutes of the game.
Tactial analysis and match report by Josh Manley.
Chelsea came into this game looking to extend their unbeaten record at Stamford Bridge. After Arsenal’s win over Burnley earlier in the day, Chelsea also needed a win to maintain their lead over Arsenal in the fight for Champions League qualification.
Perhaps that is why Maurizio Sarri made no changes from the starting eleven that won last week against Brighton. This meant that Eden Hazard once against started as the center forward in Chelsea’s 4-3-3, flanked by Pedro and Willian.
Leicester’s outlook could not have been more different prior to this encounter, as they had been on a four-game winless run in all competitions. The one bright spot came from a League Cup game earlier this week, where they managed to push Manchester City all the way to a penalty shootout.
Puel made two changes from their last Premier League game – a defeat away to Crystal Palace. Ben Chilwell returned in place of Christian Fuchs, while Demarai Gray was replaced by Premier League debutant Hamza Choudhury.
Vardy’s conservative positioning allows Chelsea to dominate possession
Sarri’s side were able to monopolize ball possession relatively quickly in this game, which was partly due to Leicester’s passive defending. Puel’s side set up in a 4-1-4-1 shape, which could be more accurately described as a 4-1-4-1-0.
The lack of a presence of front was due to Jamie Vardy’s role as the nominal striker. Rather than pressuring Chelsea’s center-backs when they had the ball, Vardy was seemingly instructed to stay close to Jorginho. Similar tactics have been, and will continue to be used, against Chelsea this season, thanks to Jorginho’s key role in Sarri’s system.
The focus on Jorginho meant that Chelsea’s center-backs had even more responsibility to find ways to launch attacks. They attempted long diagonals to either wing, chipped passes in-behind, and passes between the lines. Despite the time afforded to Chelsea’s center-backs, all of these methods were made difficult to execute by Leicester’s commitment to defending deep in numbers.
However, Vardy’s positioning had a negative effect on Leicester’s attacking transitions. Leicester’s classic counterattacks – with Vardy running in-behind off direct passes into the channel – became difficult because he was closer to his own goal.
Thus, with no direct outlet to aim for, and with an inability to play through Chelsea’s pressure, Leicester found themselves pinned back. Consequently, Chelsea were able to easily regain possession to launch their next attack.
Leicester’s curious defensive structure molds the direction of Chelsea’s attack
Leicester’s defensive shape was also slightly asymmetric, particularly when it came to the midfield. James Maddison, who was stationed on the left of their midfield, would often be higher and narrower than Marc Albrighton on the other side. By contrast, Albrighton usually stuck closer to his direct opponent Marcos Alonso.
The roles of Leicester’s wingers invited Chelsea to attack down the right perhaps more than they would have liked. Therefore, space was usually afforded to César Azpilicueta to advance forward with the ball. From here, Chelsea could look for diagonal passes into congested central areas. Unfortunately, this proved difficult to execute successfully.
Chelsea’s passmap shows strong passing connections down their right-hand side – especially through Azpilicueta.
Chelsea continue to display an overreliance on Eden Hazard
This game proved to be another example of how much Chelsea rely on Hazard to break down low blocks A low block refers to a team that retreats deep in their own half out of possession, generally only disrupting their opponents around their own box.. Most of Chelsea’s promising open play moves usually involve Hazard dropping outside the opposition block to receive the ball. From there, he likes to play a wall pass A one-touch pass that quickly sends the ball back to sender. In the meantime the sender has quickly moved into free space, and he momentarily escapes pressure. off an advanced teammate so that he can dribble with momentum or combine further. Alternatively, the ball is fired into Hazard’s feet between the lines for him to try to control and turn in tight spaces.
Despite struggling to create quality chances from open play, Chelsea did come close to scoring twice in the first half; once through a corner and once from a defensive error.
In the first event, Luiz was unable to get enough contact on Pedro’s near-post flick-on to divert a point-blank strike towards goal. Later, Harry Maguire made a mess of trying to defend aggressively. He failed an interception and deflected a pass to Hazard just inside the box, allowing the Belgian to fire a powerful effort against the crossbar.
Leicester’s increased intensity earns them a crucial goal
Leicester seemed to come into the second half with a greater level of defensive intensity, as they pressured Chelsea higher up the pitch. They were rewarded for their efforts within minutes, scoring the game’s only goal.
Leicester’s successful move revealed Jorginho’s possible weaknesses in defensive transition. Ricardo Pereira was able to cut inside Jorginho and Mateo Kovačić with relative ease after having won possession on Chelsea’s left wing. He passed the ball to Maddison in acres of space in front of the Chelsea defense, who then slid Vardy in-behind the defense to finish.
Chelsea fail to react positively
After the game, Sarri criticized his team’s reaction to going down, and his criticism was a fair one. Chelsea were disjointed in their attempts to get back into the match and were never really able to build a good attacking rhythm.
Sarri’s introduction of Olivier Giroud aimed to offer more presence in the box but had relatively little effect. The same can be said for the substitution of Ruben Loftus-Cheek for Kovačić.
Chelsea’s poor reaction is summed up by the fact that they only managed three shots in the last thirty minutes of the game. That is a pretty low number for a top team chasing the game against mid-table opponents.
Nevertheless, they were able to strike the woodwork with one of these shots late in the match. It was their best move of the game and was the only one resembling what has come to be known as “Sarriball.” A slick pass between the lines and a central combination led to Alonso being put through on goal, but his low effort struck the woodwork for Chelsea.
Chelsea’s first home defeat of the season leaves them level on points with Arsenal. On one hand, Sarri’s side might consider themselves unfortunate having hit the woodwork twice with good chances. On the other hand, there are wider problems with chance creation and an overreliance on Hazard to create breakthroughs against stubborn defenses. There are also weaknesses on the defensive side too, especially when Jorginho is forced to defend transitions.
For Leicester, this is obviously a great result to put an end to their winless run. Though they are not the same incredible counterattacking force they were a couple of years ago, they are still a well-organized side. They also have good enough attackers to hurt most Premier League teams – something that was shown in this 1-0 win over Chelsea.
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