Tactical Analysis – Chelsea vs West Ham

Monday night football brought us the latest edition of a London Derby, between the West side of Chelsea and the East side of West Ham. A 1-1 draw was the score between these two sides earlier in the season at the London Stadium. However, Chelsea has duly performed better when at home and was looking to attain three points to take themselves to third in the table. Maurizio Sarri managed to please the fans again with his team selection, Antonio Rudiger in for Andreas Christensen, and Gonzalo Higuan in for Olivier Giroud were the only changes from the Brighton game.

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The team selection was merited from the get-go, with Chelsea playing some aesthetically pleasing stuff. In the end, it was the magic of Eden Hazard who secured the three points for the Blue side of London. Below are some key points on how the result was achieved.

Moment One: West Ham’s 4-2-3-1 into a 4-5-1 (suffocate the middle of the field)

West Ham 4-5-1

West Ham started in a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Mark Noble and Declan Rice sitting behind the three midfielders and one forward, as seen in the image above. We can see in this photo, and throughout the game when you watch it back, that Noble was primarily responsible for marking N’Golo Kante, and Rice with Ruben Loftus Cheek. 

In defense, they would revert to a 4-5-1 formation, in order to suffocate the center of the field and attempt to distinguish Chelsea’s quick combinations through the middle. West Ham’s line of confrontation was slightly higher than Brighton’s previously, their aim was to use the speed of Javier Hernandez with Felipe Anderson and Marco Arnautovic flanking to hit on the counter-attack. In order for Chelsea to counter-act this, firstly they would need to spread the field and open up space for the midfield to drop into the half spaces between the defense and midfield. Chelsea would then have to rely on individual forward bursting runs in order to break the lines set by the Hammers. We focus more on this later…

Moment Two: Creating the width to open up spaces

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Due to the fact West Ham would drop into their 4-5-1 shape when defending in order to suffocate the middle, our wide-players had to spread the field wider to allow those in the middle to operate. In the image above, highlighted in red are Cesar Azpilicueta, Callum Hudson-Odoi, and Eden Hazard, all of whom are staying wide in order to create space for the likes of N’Golo Kante and Ruben Loftus-Cheek to operate.

Both Kante and RLC do this in different ways, Kante makes a bursting run into the space vacated by the width of Azpilicueta of whom is on the ball, and RLC dropping off Declan Rice to allow himself space just outside the box. As you can see from the blue arrows, many West Ham players have been sucked out wide due to the off-the-ball movement from the Chelsea players, allowing sufficient space to operate elsewhere. We highlight the importance of Kante’s forward runs next

Moment Three: Kante’s attacking movement

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 Much has been made of N’Golo Kante’s positional change into a more attacking role under Maurizio Sarri, whether it’s the correct position best suited for his talents. Last night, Kante started the game fantastically in an attacking sense, making direct runs off the ball into promising spaces to create space for himself and others. As seen in the images above, the width created by Azpilicueta in both images allows Kante to burst forard into the space left behind by West Ham’s fullbacks, which in turn dragged out center back Angelo Ogbanna. In doing this, West Ham became exposed at the back. This was tactically great use of Kante’s energy by Sarri, opening up the game for the Blues. In the slideshow below (click right), one of these runs nearly paid off for Kante himself, as he just fired over.

 

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Moment Four: Carrying the ball to draw the opposition in

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As mentioned above, Chelsea had to rely on individual quality when carrying the ball forward in order to sufficiently break down a sturdy West Ham defense, especially in the second half. In the first image above, Eden Hazard in possession manages to drag three players with him inside the area, allowing Emerson and RLC to find space elsewhere to exploit the defensive set-up.

In the second image, RLC manages to achieve the same feat in sucking in three of West Ham’s players with a traditional forward-bursting run, allowing CHO, Higuan, and Hazard to support and make forward runs off these defenders. This is a fundamental reason why RLC is in the side, to make these kinds of runs with his power and speed, this resulted in another solid game yesterday for the England midfielder.

Final Moment: The magic of Eden Hazard (creating space for himself in many ways)

 

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A great individual performance from Chelsea’s talisman single-handedly won the three points for the Blues, scoring two goals to epitomize what was a solid all-around performance. What was impressive however was how Hazard effectively found space to hurt West Ham, in more ways than one.

In the slideshow above, both images resemble the two different kinds of movements made by Hazard for both his goals. In the first image, Hazard drops deep into the gap created by Kante and RLC effectively spreading out to widen the field and midfield of West Ham. Hazard recognizes this gap, receives the ball with a ton of space around him, and the rest is history. A magical run from the Belgian resulted in one of the best individual goals you will see in the Premier League.

In the second image, Hazard this time effectively peels away from the Hammers defense into a wider position, adequately making space for himself in a dangerous area inside the box. West Ham was guilty on numerous occasions of bunching around the ball in this game, as seen above once again. Ross Barkley was able to delightfully clip a ball into Hazard’s path, who brought the ball down and drove the ball past Łukasz Fabianski into the far corner. 2-0. Game over.

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Chelsea’s attacking fluidity in this game was great to see. The off-the-ball movement and fast ball movement from the Blues effectively opened up West Ham’s stubborn shape numerous times, and it was the best player in the Premier League who duly delivered, as he does so often to bring the points home for the Chels. Up to third, with Liverpool at Anfield next up, also known as Eden Hazard’s playground. Come on Chelsea.

Analyzed by MaccaSport

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