The Mind of Conte: Why Chelsea’s awful defense cost them against Roma

The second leg of the Champions League group stage matches carried on the ongoing disappointment for Chelsea FC as they got blown away by Roma conceding three goals.

They had already conceded three goals in the first leg but ended up as a draw.


Roma’s early goal

Call it their neglect or misfortune, Blues wouldn’t have expected to concede such a quicker goal and that too against Roma while their backline was still settling.

Dzeko, after receiving a long cross from Kolarov, have the ball deflected backwards via his shoulders to the approaching El Shaarawy just outside the box who delivered a first-time shot while sprinting.


Chelsea’s awful defending

Chelsea’s awful defending could be easily reflected by the score line which could go even worse.

Although their defence was a bit more compact as compared to their home match against Roma, but they needed to add more defensive elements other than forming a compact wall between Roma’s backline and midline.

Also, Chelsea managed to bring some vertical compactness this time too often causing Roma losing possession when they tried long passing across the flanks, something the Italian team could do more frequently in the first leg match.

But this improvement was not adequate enough to stop Roma players making their way into the passing lanes this way or other. Consequently, Chelsea became concerned more of the back region than of stop penetrating opposition at the midfield.

Forget the field, Blues often even faced difficulty in organizing their defence in the goal area too when facing threats of counterattacking.

The second goal was conceded when Chelsea players were occupied in pressing Roma players to stop them to get into the goal area while El Shaarawy, who was racing into the box, received a long pass from Nainggolan just ahead of Azpilicueta and scored comfortably. Had it been more organized and rigid backline support, the outcome couldn’t go that worse.

Similar negligence can be seen with the third goal conceded.

At first, Fabregas made a loose pass to Azpilicueta who was marching up the wing, but Kolarov was in the way and so he obviously intercepted and passed the ball to Perotti.

The Argentinian winger dribbled it up the pitch bypassing Fabregas and Pedro and scored from outside the box again before Chelsea could organize defence back in the box. This must be the worst counterattacking faced by Blues that night.

On a side note, the only good defensive product of the match was Courtois who made some remarkable saves.


Chelsea’s ineffective pressing and counter pressing

Chelsea also need to be more organized and timely in marking and pressing.

Unfortunately, Kante’s absence has proven to be severe especially when it comes to these defensive elements. For example, the first goal conceded was mainly the result of Dzeko’s lay-off to El Shaarawy as the ball released outside the box – the area usually controlled by Kante.

Chelsea need to work not only on pressing but also counter pressing.

While Roma were able to counter press Chelsea mainly using dribbling and back passing, Chelsea were not that effective to get their way off pressers.

At times, the wingers used extreme width to get their way off pressers while moving to the final third which worked well to some extent they had to again face bunch of pressers in the goal area. But at other times, they made useless long passes and crosses.


Possession and Passing

Roma, like the first leg match, were steady and precise in maintaining possession and relying a lot on back passing and dribbling.

They often lured Chelsea players inside to open space at the width and vice versa – same passing strategy as the last fixture against Chelsea.

They were pressing Chelsea all over the pitch and at the front especially to keep Chelsea’s backline occupied. They were quick to switch to the attack in time almost whenever they got chance to counterattack.

However, there was too much of a broken play unlike the first leg match where Roma continuously carried on their rhythmic back passing and cross passing to retain possession at the longest possible.

On the other hand, Chelsea were better in possession in their away fixture as compared to the last leg and, as mentioned, they were vertically compact this time too which gave them possession.

But they were still lagging behind Roma who showed strict pressing throughout the pitch as well as compact defence due to which Chelsea ended up making loose passes and thus losing possession.

In fact, for most of the first half Chelsea performed well but as the game progressed, they became worse and worse.

Another improvement from the first leg was Chelsea being able to make somewhat more coherent structure for cross passing which also allowed them to retain possession till the attacking third.

But again as Chelsea became able to penetrate to the attacking third, Roma’s defence became more intensified in their goal area preventing Chelsea players to make appropriate cross passing as part of their attacking moves. Morata was marked almost throughout the game. The only option they had left were long shots which couldn’t finish at all.

Even the moments of high possession of Chelsea couldn’t be converted into goals despite creating of some really good chances. On the other hand, Roma were more clinical when it came to score.



Chelsea did learn to add the element of vertical compactness in their defence in the second leg match, but they couldn’t organize their defence horizontally.

They also didn’t learn to be more aware of Roma’s constant counter-attacking threats from the last leg match. Lastly, Chelsea almost always have to stay at back foot and rely on long passing when they face aggressive pressing and counter-attacking threats.

Conte really needs to work on preparing his men to counter press to survive more intense fixtures ahead.


Written by Farkhanda Jabeen

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