The Mind of Conte: How Liverpool’s Pressing Restrained Chelsea

Connect in the back of the net

Chelsea’s compressed passing

Chelsea executed their play through compressed passing in restricted areas throughout the first half. Their compression not only restricted their passing options when it comes to penetrate the opposition’s midfield but also put their midfield solidity at risk at some instances.

As Liverpool kept threatening Chelsea’s defence, Chelsea compressed in the central regions to protect their box and so left the width to exploit by the home team. They were often unable to win first balls targeted in wide areas as compared to the central regions.

In the second half though, Blues improved their distribution of players to create spaces for passing and penetrating to the attacking third.

 

Liverpool’s dispersed passing structure

Liverpool were following a much dispersed passing structure.

They kept relying on back passing and passing across the flanks to maintain possession in the midfield until their teammates managed to create any space for them for a long cross in order to penetrate Chelsea’s area.

They were often trapping Chelsea’s players at one flank to get space at the other disturbing Chelsea’s vertical compactness. Salah and Sturridge each performed their job well of stretching Chelsea’s defence to make space for the other.

Sturridge often dropped back into the passing lanes to connect his team’s midfield and attack amidst Chelsea’s horizontally compact defence line. Milner also got into the passing lanes in deeper regions to help the home team penetrating Chelsea’s midfield.

 

Possession and Pressing

Although Chelsea might have planned to compress the ball to stay in possession, they had to experience the opposite.

No doubt Chelsea, being more centrally compact, tend to gain more control over opposition in that area and so did make Liverpool lose possession there at many instances last Sunday. But, the well-distributed passing of the home team allowed them to find pockets of space in between Chelsea’s midfield and so gaining more possession.

Another factor contributed to Liverpool’s higher possession is their strong pressing game all over the field. They pressed Chelsea’s backline time and again.

As Chelsea were falling behind in possession and forced to stay in their own half for the major chunk of the game, their attacking fluidity and balance disturbed a lot. As a result, they missed very key scoring chances at few occasions and also went offside too many times.

 

Chelsea unable to expand their play

It might be Chelsea’s failure to effectively expand their distribution and their over compressing of the ball at the right flank which made them predictable before Sala’s goal.

As a result Coutinho, still being there when Liverpool lost possession to Chelsea, intercepted Drinkwater’s back pass to Kante.

Drinkwater shouldn’t have marched forward so early after Zappacosta got possession as it didn’t give any space to his teammates; rather they had to make close passing to each other as they were heavily pressed there.

Secondly when Azpilicueta managed to release the ball from that high pressing area long to the advancing Drinkwater, he being marked, deflected it back to Kante but the space between the two was big enough to allow Coutinho easily intercept.

That was such a quick and short counter attack by Liverpool ended with Salah’s goal following amazing dribbling in between Chelsea’s opponents. No, the Egyptian didn’t celebrate against his former club!

 

Chelsea with the ball

Chelsea also faced issues in possession due to their wrong handling of ball; they were unable to hold the ball especially in the midfield. They often made some wrong passes at different occasions in the first half.

There was obvious mishandling and mis-positioning by Drinkwater at few instances which disturbed Chelsea’s midfield solidity and passing flow. With Drinkwater in the central midfield and Zappacosta on his right wing, the space often got exploited by the opposition in the first half.

The midfielder simply needs to be more aware of Chelsea’s midfield positional requirements.

 

Chelsea’s counter-attacks in the second half

After Fabregas and Pedro got in, Chelsea switched to their former 3-4-3 – a more attacking oriented formation. Then Willian coming in as a winger proved to be a tactically turning point in Chelsea’s counterattacking.

By the second half, Chelsea made a rally of counterattacks for some good period of time – not to forget Fabregas’ through passes. This made Liverpool worry about their defence, as they shifted to a more defensive formation of 5-3-2 from individual marking, and allowed Chelsea to penetrate Liverpool’s half more frequently.

Although Chelsea still didn’t get to create attacking moves, they were now getting more chances than in the first half to pass across the flanks and all over the midfield rather than compressing the ball in restricted zones only. They were now able to sustain their possession in their attacking third now.

Morata and Hazard were also got more compact to win any loose ball around them as Fabregas assured maintaining the control from the midfield. These actions made Liverpool’s defense misbalanced for some time which partially created environment for Willian’s equalizer.

The Brazilian made a brilliant strike as soon as he got inside the box after receiving pass from Hazard outside the box.

 

Conclusion

Chelsea were lacking in possession due to Liverpool’s well distributed passing and aggressive fore pressing.

As usual, this kept their defence engaged at the back. In the second half, when Chelsea initiated some back to back counters, they got more possession in the attacking third than before which led the way for Willian’s goal.

Overall, Chelsea looked tired or can say less prepared for the fixture. They got beaten very often in workrate by the opposition’s players.

Although they played better in the second half in terms of possession and creation, they were lacking their attacking spirit this time around.

 

Written by Farkhanda Jabeen

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