A mid-week Premier League clash between 6th placed Chelsea and 15th placed Brighton and Hove Albion at the Bridge provided an opportunity to gain three valuable points in the race for a top-four berth. Maurizio Sarri also used this opportunity to select a youthful, exciting line-up, a clear indication of the boss wanting attacking flair which can be brought by that naivety and braveness of the youth. This particular starting XI was warmly welcomed from Blues fans.
The selected eleven responded well, by securing a comfortable 3-0 win to secure the three points, and fifth in the table, for now. I highlighted some key moments from the game below, analyzing how the team performed and achieved this welcomed result:
Moment One: Brighton’s Low-Block
Brighton, a typically expressive, free-flowing side under Chris Hughton, primarily set-up defensively in a low-block shape, hoping to suffocate the spaces particularly in the middle of the field, in hope of eventually hitting on the counter-attack.
As seen in the image below, you can see how low the block of Brighton’s is, from the extremely advanced position David Luiz (highlighted in Red) finds himself in. Giroud is occupied by the two center backs, a common theme in this game as they looked to nullify the link up play between him and the midfield. To counteract this, Eden Hazard drops in the gap between the defense & midfield in order to allow Chelsea to break the lines of the Brighton, with Callum Hudson Odoi & Cesar Azpilicueta (highlighted in Blue) occupying wide spaces in order to stretch Brighton. I believe this is a concrete reason CHO was selected, the full-backs pushing this high was also a common theme throughout.
Moment Two: Jorginho Afforded Space
Jorginho has often found himself man-marked by the opposition in order to diminish his influence of playmaking from deep and dictating Chelsea’s build up play. However, against Brighton on Wednesday night, he was afforded a lot of space to dictate play adequately. Jorginho was not independently targeted by Brighton, I assume this was due to the fact they wanted to protect other areas of the field, predominantly closer to their own goal in a deeper block. This in effect allowed Jorginho to spray passes around. In the below image, you can see the amount of space Brighton afforded the Italian, dropping off whenever he was in possession. The full backs (Emerson and Azpilicueta highlighted in Blue) staying high and wide only pushed Brighton’s defensive lines back farther.
In the slideshow below, this image, an example of Jorginho’s ability to pick out a killer forward pass was on show, as he found Hudson Odoi (highlighted in Red) with a perfectly weighted pass, in which CHO could have done better with his header.
Moment Three: Chelsea’s Wide Play = Giroud’s Goal
With Brighton attempting to distinguish any central link-up play between Olivier Giroud and supporting midfielders, we often saw two defenders on Giroud, in an attempt to nullify entry balls to his feet, which has worked with Hazard and others buzzing off him for the give and go. This benefitted Callum Hudson Odoi on the right of the Chelsea attack, a natural winger, as Chelsea could now focus on wide play and deliveries into the box, hence the first goal.
As seen below, Hudson Odoi (highlighted in Red) maintains his width to give himself and his teammates’ space and time to operate. Giroud is making his move into the box, hoping to home himself in a desirable area for a cross, plays that Giroud primarily feeds off, and perhaps a reason Sarri chose to start the Frenchman in this type of game. N’Golo Kante (highlighted in Blue) bursts forward with the ball, which he did throughout this game, and dishes it to an oncoming CHO, who now has his defender 1v1. Hudson Odoi sufficiently takes on his main with skill and pace, from which he drives a low ball in at the front post for Giroud to finish.
Another example below of Kante’s forward movement, finding spaces and passes up the field. His ability to carry the ball forward and break the lines was welcome against a stubborn opponent.
Moment Four: Playing Between the Lines = Hazard and RLC Goals
Particularly in the second half, Chelsea’s attacking players found joy by occupying themselves in ‘”half spaces” in order to break the lines of Brighton’s defensive shape. In order to appropriately take advantage of these positions on the field, Chelsea had to move the ball quickly in the attacking third. In doing so, this would resemble the kind of attacking play Sarri has tried instilling in his side, the famed “Sarri-Ball” as coined by pundits and fans alike.
Hazard’s goal came from a combination of those notions discussed above. Hazard finds himself in a dangerous pocket of space central to the goal, with space to turn. Ruben Loftus-Cheek noticed this, choosing to clip the ball into Hazard’s feet with one touch, which in turn sucked out two Brighton defenders, giving Hazard more space to operate. Eden Hazard remained composed, took his time in sucking in another defender in Lewis Dunk with cute foot-work, before slotting the ball expertly into the far corner. 2-0.
Loftus-Cheek’s goal came from an identical bit of play to that of Hazard’s goal, with roles reversed for this finish. As seen in the first image on the slideshow below, Loftus-Cheek slots himself into an identical position to that of Hazard’s a few minutes previous, clearly recognizing the potential rewards available in these positions. Hazard does well to replicate the one-touch pass around the corner previously made by RLC in the previous goal, allowing Loftus-Cheek to turn and open up his body for an even better finish into the top right corner of Matt Ryan’s goal. With RLC finding these pockets of space and finishing with such composure, these were both further signs of the attacking prowess the young English international possesses, and how needed this in Chelsea’s midfield, which predominantly lacks attacking flair between the three. An obvious sign of quality, technique and his “completeness” to score a goal of that kind. 3-0. Game over.
Final Moment: Defensive Work From Wingers – Particularly CHO
Much has been made of the lack of willing defensive work that comes from Eden Hazard and Callum Hudson-Odoi whenever he plays. Much has also been made of Sarri’s reluctance to play CHO, due to his ineptness to defend adequately in transition for the Blues (RLC has also been a target of this criticism from Sarri). Primarily, Hazard is forgiven for his lack of defensive intensity, due to his ability to change the game in a moment in the attacking phase, however, both wingers showed signs of adapting to Sarri’s methods more, dropping deep to keep the defensive shape solidified.
As seen in the below image, you can just about see Eden Hazard in the picture dropping deep here, adequately deployed in his left-sided role, in line with the ball currently possessed by Brighton. This is a good defensive position for the winger. More impressively, is Hudson Odoi’s (highlighted in Red) tactical and positional understanding to pressure the ball here, dropping as deep as Jorginho to help his team-mates. Hudson-Odoi managed to play the entire game and was also seen doing his defensive duties into the 90th minute of the game. This resembled a willingness to adapt/change, and also showed the fans, his teammates, and his manager that he is ready to become a peripheral figure in this side, on both sides of the ball.
There were many pleasing moments in this game from a Chelsea perspective. I believe these five, in particular, were fundamental in what was, in the end, a comfortable win for the West London side. Onto West Ham on Monday, come on the Chels.
Analyzed by MaccaSport