Chelsea FC optimistically ended the year by advancing to second place of the table with a 5-0 win against Stoke City, even though that only remained the case till Manchester United defeated Everton a day later.
Following an early goal resulting from Willian’s free kick, Blues kept on threatening their opponents while enjoying the maximum possession.
Blues played in a 3-4-2-1 with Cahill now as the middle center back and Rudiger as the left center back.
Drinkwater played as double pivot with Kante. Morata played his usual false nine role. Hazard was missing but it was the right time for the Belgian to rest.
Stoke City started in a 4-2-3-1 as an attacking formation while relying on Fletcher to join the attacking midfield with the wingers Diouf and Sobhi when in possession.
However as Chelsea remained dominant in possession and kept threatening and fore pressing, the Potters had to resort to a defensive 4-1-4-1 formation for the majority of the game, causing Fletcher to play as a buffer in front of the front line.
Chelsea enjoyed most of the possession and managed to penetrate their final third frequently allowing them to forepress and disturb the opponent’s passing whenever the later got possession.
Also, since the Potters were not doing any close marking on Chelsea players except at the edges of the box, this allowed the home team to easily make their way through.
Stoke City’s attacking wings were too wide spread and were unable to close down the gap when in possession. This caused them to cede possession to Chelsea’s back 3 without initiating any attacking move.
The away team was also forming up in a 4-5-1 as the wingers often got stuck back leaving Berahino, their real number nine, isolated.
Stoke city’s set up was not solid in deeper areas and often left the half spaces open to be exploited. But Chelsea didn’t utilise that space much as they could already penetrate via the central region – their favourite place to gain control by overloading it.
Also, Chelsea’s back 3 were not meant to dribble up the half space and the wingbacks were also remaining at extreme width to mark their opponents there. Thus, the half spaces remained unexploited.
Retaining possession in the opponents’ half by overloading it could put Chelsea at the risk of counterattacking too as this once resulted in Stoke City’s offside goal late in the first half.
But other than that, Chelsea had their back 3 to clear all such threats. Overall, they were offensively the better side last Saturday.
Chelsea played a somewhat a better attacking game than they did in their last couple of fixtures.
Kante and Drinkwater performed as a double pivot and pushed the opponent’s game back to their zone. Drinkwater is doing better in forward distribution and connecting the defence to the attack than Bakayoko – and so is Rudiger than Cahill at left center back.
Even though Hazard wasn’t there to drop back and collect the ball to initiate attacks, the contributions from Drinkwater and Rudiger covered his absence admirably.
On the other hand, Stoke City’s formation was not coherent enough to win loose balls. This allowed Chelsea players to compress zonally in between the spaces left by the Stoke City players which kept the latter disconnected and thus restrained their passing options.
Apart from their formation, the away team’s passing and player movements were also not good enough to push or retain the game up in Chelsea’s half. They were relying on long passes rather than building up from deep.
In the central areas, Chelsea were not marking the opponents individually but were pressing tight enough to keep pushing them back to their half until they were forced to make long pass. This allowed Chelsea to win the possession back from first or second balls.
Stoke City’s defensive set up was very fragile except their compact defence outside the box. Even in midfield, Chelsea players could easily penetrate their defensive lines.
Stoke City were not doing any close marking and their pressing was not as tight as well. Though in the second half, they improved their marking and made interceptions at Chelsea’s right wing.
But the away team seemed to lack individual defensive talent. The third goal by Pedro was the result of poor marking by Tymon on Pedro.
Then in the second half, it was Tymon’s incorrectly cleared header which led to the Zappacosta rebound and final goal of the game.
Written by Farkhanda Jabeen
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