The Mind of Conte: Why Chelsea’s midfield was ineffective against Arsenal

Last weekend, Blues eventually ended up at a draw after winning three consecutive wins following their first defeat against Burnley, allowing the Gunners to earn their first point at the Bridge in six visits.


Build-up play in the First Half

In the first half, Chelsea actively initiated their build-up play from the back.

However, Arsenal hardly created any build up by the first half, as they were pressed by Chelsea’s five forwards, and thus relying largely on long passes instead.


Arsenal’s Resilience

Arsenal put on a really good defensive performance throughout their last away match. They had Mustafi covering Morata throughout the contest often frustrating the later to end up with a foul.

Not only this, their consistency and resilience allowed them to initiate counterattacks and through balls, which along with long-distance passes, kept Chelsea defenders worried at the back and along the flanks. This also restricted Blues’ defenders to go forward when they had to, which forced Chelsea to remain crowded at the back for the majority of the second half.

As a result Arsenal got the chance to penetrate midfield and they started making build-up play from there by the second quarter onwards and carried on their ritual of passing outside into the box while looking for chances.

Being able to sit at the middle, Arsenal got better chances to make more through passes and deliver crosses towards the final third, thus causing more threats for Chelsea who had to sit back.


Chelsea’s Lack of an Enriched Structure

Chelsea also started making through passes in the second half while William and Moses showed very impressive passing and attacking runs and a very promising partnership.

But they mostly ended up losing possession in the final third due to the lack of a proper enriched passing structure when going up to the pitch. This may be due to Arsenal’s consistent counterattacking threat and their midfield domination in the second half.

Consequently, Chelsea players who got to advance up the pitch were not in sufficient numbers at a given time to make up a coherent passing structure in the final third, which could have allowed them to outnumber pressers and enhance the passing options in that area.

Thus, they ultimately ended up losing possession.


Chelsea’s Formation Issues

Conte is constantly refining Chelsea’s formation with time. However, the midfield structure is still not stable. There was a lack of control of the midfield.

In their match against Leicester, Fabregas was placed in an attacking wing which allowed him to form up nicely with Morata and focus on attacking duties only.

However, he again ended up with Kante in the midfield last weekend. What’s worse here was that he was placed with Moses on his right. With Moses and Fabregas both not disciplined in defense, the right flank was vulnerable and often got exploited easily by the opposition.

If Fabregas is to be placed in partnership with Kante, he should be placed at his left so he could have Kante and Alonso on his sides to cover him up.

This was rectified later by Conte though after Bakayoko came on on as Fabregas was placed just behind Kante and Bakayoko. Now, this was a favourable change.

Granting Fabregas was still in the defensive area, the central position matched up his talent of creating chances allowing him to find spaces in that pocket. Bakayoko is well rigid and disciplined and he did add some control.



Chelsea did show up as the dangerous side, however, Arsenal played unexpectedly well while showing resilience and steadiness throughout the 90 minutes.

Overall, both Chelsea and Arsenal were engaged in good build-up play times and again but these efforts ultimately got smothered by the lack of good finishing from their respective strikers.

At other times, both teams made long passes in an attempt to rely on second balls to get back the possession.


Written by Farkhanda Jabeen

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