Tactics Journal

by Kyle Boas

Analyzing football tactics


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You need to play a striker in on goal to score

September 28, 2023 — The major problem for Chelsea was no central progression into Nicolas Jackson. They fixed this issue through Cole Palmer against Brighton, and he scored after a string of missed chances.

Chelsea need to target the center of the box

September 19, 2023 — You want your center-forward receiving the ball in the center of the box. Where they receive the ball, the speed and quality of the pass need to be taken into account when measuring underperformance. Chelsea needs to focus more on attacking the danger zone.

Up until the Aston Villa match on the weekend, Chelsea did not play Nicolas Jackson in on goal, central, behind the opponent’s backline. Not once. Every chance was a low driven cross with him off-balance attempting to redirect the ball or he was played in to the side of the penalty area, shooting at a tight angle.

Today, Jackson was paired with new signing Cole Palmer, and Palmer has the pausa and composure to play those central passes, towards the penalty spot, that Christopher Nkunku would be playing him if he wasn’t injured.

Figure 1.1 - Ian Maatsen passes to Cole Palmer. Jan Paul Van Hecke helps close down Palmer, leaving Nicolas Jackson free.

The first thing Cole Palmer brings is attention. His runs draw the attention of Brighton’s defenders, who were aware of his threat, and Palmer drags van Hecke away from Jackson.

Strikers need someone behind them to play off of. It’s very important. To drag defenders out of position so they can attack the space. Play them in on goal towards the center of the box. Haaland has Alvarez or Foden, Jesus has Ødegaard, Ferguson has Pedro, Son has Maddison, Watkins has Diaby, Højlund has Fernandes or Mount, etc.

When Nkunku left the side from injury, Jackson had no one to play off of. Enzo Fernandez wasn’t drawing any attention away from Jackson nor was he playing that final pass straight in on goal.

Figure 1.2 - Ian Maatsen receives the ball, Jan Paul van Hecke follows Cole Palmer.
Figure 1.3 - Cole Palmer receives the ball with his back to goal.
Figure 1.4 - Cole Palmer puts the ball between his legs on his first touch to turn.
Figure 1.5 - Cole Palmer calmly takes a touch and then passes to Nicolas Jackson through Jan Paul van Hecke's legs.
Figure 1.6 - Nicolas Jackson scores.

Class from Cole Palmer to wait and then play that pass. Perfectly weighted, slow rolling, right in Jackson’s stride.

I’d only become worried if Jackson misses these types of chances. These must be scored. The others to the sides of the box, he’s off-balance, timing issues misjudging when to stick his leg out to redirect, Ibrahima Konate throwing him off with a leg in the tackle, shots at tight angles. Those need to be scored but these chances where he’s straight in on goal, as a striker, these must be scored.

He hasn’t been clinical in this short span to start the season, but long-term this is the context that’s needed when judging if a player is clinical or not. Are you scoring these simple chances.

Figure 2.1 - Mykhaylo Mudryk drives inside and then plays Nicolas Jackson in.
Figure 2.2 - Another angle of the pass.
Figure 2.3 - Nicolas Jackson is in on goal.
Figure 2.4 - Nicolas Jackson shoots and Jan Paul van Hecke attempts to tackle Jackson. Bart Verbruggen blocks the near post while showing Jackson the far side.

This chance is also great, another one created by Mudryk, but it’s to the side so the shot is at an angle. Needs to be scored but the goalkeeper has a chance. Slim chance but a chance.

These are the chances you don’t finish if your confidence is low.

Figure 2.5 - Another angle of the shot.
Figure 2.6 - Bart Verbruggen save with his left foot.
Figure 2.7 - Another angle of the save.

Jackson has no confidence right now. The first goal will help, but he needs more reps, more chances like this straight in on goal.

Take a bow Bart Verbruggen. What a remarkable save from the Brighton keeper to show Jackson to the far side and then the technique to stick out a leg and firmly block the shot. Jackson should have placed it higher, between Verbruggen’s outstretched arm and his leg, but fair play to the goalkeeper. Positioned himself perfectly to cut off the angle as best he could.

Figure 3.1 - Gallagher great run to open the space for Mudryk to play in Jackson. 1st time Jackson has been played straight in on goal like this, this season.
Figure 3.2 - Emi Martinez save with his right palm.

This is similar to Nicolas Jackson’s first chance of the season straight in on goal that occurred this weekend against Aston Villa. The 1v1 I’ve been waiting for since the preseason.

From the angles shown during the match, this looks like a terrible miss, but in actuality, it’s an incredible save by Emi Martinez.

Martinez is a massive individual, so he makes himself big and sprawls out, almost in a split on the ground, blocking the five-hole. Then he uses his massive wingspan to stick out both arms, praying that the ball hits one. Jackson chips it to the left above Martinez’s leg, the only place he could attempt to hit it at this close distance to Martinez, but Martinez finds a way to get his full strong right palm on the ball.

Correct decision in my opinion from Jackson to try the chip to Martinez’s right side rather than try to dribble past him. Martinez would have had that fully covered.

Figure 4.1 - Pass to Cole Palmer with the angle of Nicolas Jackson's run in on goal waiting.
Figure 4.2 - Cole Palmer attracts the attention of both of Brighton's center-backs. Palmer swiftly turns and passes to Nicolas Jackson.

Again a chance from Palmer drawing Brighton’s defenders in. Look at the angle Jackson is attacking the goal. Direct straight towards the penalty area.

Figure 4.3 - Nicolas Jackson scores.

Palmer turns, Jackson has the full left side of the goal to aim at, goal. It was ruled offside, but in the EFL Cup, they don’t use VAR. It was far onside and would have counted.

It’s all good and well to rack up xG through crosses and cut-backs, but those chances need context. They should have been scored, but I need to see them. And the chances I saw prior to today I’d mark as unlucky.

The shot against Emi Martinez should have been scored, but it was an incredible save. Two goals today from central progression. One well-saved shot that should have been finished. Central progression is the way Chelsea rescues their season. No more Enzo Fernandez as a 10, they need the Cole Palmer’s of the world to disrupt and create these chances for Jackson or Broja.

If you want a striker to score they need to be played in on goal.

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