Tactics Journal

by Kyle Boas

Analyzing football tactics


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Chelsea begin to fix timing issues

August 26, 2023 — Luton Town are not solid defensively, but some of the timing issues Chelsea experienced in their recent matches are starting to resolve.

Chelsea Hesitate to Play Nicolas Jackson In

August 14, 2023 — Chelsea hesitated to play the pass to Nicolas Jackson against Liverpool on multiple occasions, wasting high-quality chances.

Figure 1.1 - Enzo Fernandez plays Nicolas Jackson into the box.

Nicolas Jackson is always making the run. He is relentless.

Figure 2.1 - Chelsea (left) and Luton Town (right) cluster of progressive pass attempts. Graphic by markrstats

In the first half, Chelsea had trouble finding Jackson. The majority of their progressive pass attempts were to the wings. It was only when they began to play passes like the one Enzo Fernandez made from Figure 1.1 in the second half that things began to happen. Jackson can’t score if he’s never given high-quality chances. Keep feeding the kid the ball.

Figure 1.2 - Nicolas Jackson shoots from a tight angle.

Once you play Jackson in, Raheem Sterling is usually free on the back post. If the shot is not on, all Jackson has to do is play a ball to the top of the penalty area for the easy tap-in.

Figure 3.1 - Nicolas Jackson passes to Raheem Sterling with two Chelsea players making a run to the far post.
Figure 3.2 - Raheem Sterling passes across goal but the pass has too much weight on it.

Raheem Sterling was man of the match, and importantly he is beginning to take the necessary risks. He’s not hesitating. The runs are being made; they just need that final pass to be made.

Figure 4.1 - Nicolas Jackson passes to Raheem Sterling.
Figure 4.2 - Nicolas Jackson goes after passing waiting for the pass back from Raheem Sterling, but Sterling ignores the run.

It’s not perfect yet though; there are times like this where a clear goalscoring opportunity is passed up for the safer option.

Once Jackson and Sterling get on the same page, teams will have trouble holding Chelsea back because the speed at which Jackson can break past backlines is too difficult to contain. Pair that with Sterling’s elite misdirection; it makes it feel like you’re defending against three men, not two.

Figure 5.1 - Moises Caicedo plays Malo Gusto in down the wing.
Figure 5.2 - Malo Gusto crosses first-time on the ground to Raheem Sterling.

The reason why I like Malo Gusto, Ian Maatsen, and Levi Colwill is that they all just go; they don’t wait to pass. Gusto receives the ball from Caicedo, and then he immediately zeroes in on the crossing target.

Figure 5.3 - Raheem Sterling scores.

No delay; cross and score. It’s reliable and predictable, which makes ball-striking that much easier. The player receiving the ball knows when the pass is going to be played, so they can prepare their body to perfectly strike the ball.

If there’s any delay, the player striking the ball will often be off-balance, so they can’t get a clean strike on the ball.

Figure 6.1 - Enzo Fernandez plays Raheem Sterling in down the line, behind Luton Town's backline.
Figure 6.2 - Raheem Sterling runs onto the ball as Nicolas Jackson makes the run to the danger area in the box.
Figure 6.3 - Raheem Sterling passes to Nicolas Jackson, and the pass is deflected perfectly to reach Jackson within the target area.

This is perfect from Raheem Sterling. He doesn’t wait, just pass. Aim for the top of the penalty area; the run is always being made, and easy tap-in for Nicolas Jackson. There was a massive deflection on that pass, seen at a difficult angle, but the timing is there.

It’s all about timing. These players have the ability; they need time to mesh and become of the same mind.

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