Middlesbrough – Chelsea: Blues Display Tactical Flexibility In Face Of Adversity (0-2)
Amidst the most tangible of ownership-related fiascos so far, Chelsea produced a contrastingly professional first-half performance to shrug off Chris Wilder’s spirited Middlesbrough side and reach a fifth FA Cup semi-final in six seasons.
Tactical analysis and match report by Charles Orchard.
The ambiguity of this current Chelsea side – which likewise speaks for much of the club’s success over the past twenty years – is that the more off-field chaos that ensues, the better and more formidable they seem to become. Wednesday’s impressive victory at French champions Lille encapsulated the professionalism and maturity Thomas Tuchel has installed in them amidst unprecedented circumstances.
Chelsea’s hosts on a serene Saturday evening in North Yorkshire were certainly not there to merely make up the numbers – Chris Wilder’s Middlesbrough had already knocked out Premier League titans in Manchester United and Tottenham in the two previous FA Cup rounds, and a festival pre-match atmosphere in the Riverside Stadium clearly suggested the home side fancied their chances of another upset. Wilder made no changes from Tuesday’s win away at Birmingham, deploying a disciplined 3-5-2 formation and hoping to replicate Chelsea’s curated wing-back system to stretch the visitors horizontally.
Tuchel’s Chelsea in recent months have demonstrated their ability to shake things up tactically, here deploying a 4-3-3 in possession and making five changes from Wednesday’s trip to France. Ruben Loftus-Cheek assumed a single pivot Teams vary in the number of midfielders they place in defensive positions during buildup. In systems like a 4-3-3 or 4-3-1-2, usually a single midfielder plays closer to the defense, for protection . . .