Tactics Journal

by Kyle Boas

Analyzing football tactics

Chelsea's space invaders

It’s disappointing that Nicolas Jackson didn’t start when he finally had a creator in Cole Palmer to pass him the ball. Jackson has been key to Chelsea’s link-up play, but Chelsea needs a win, and Armando Broja was the last to score a goal. He’s “in form”.

Broja is a different profile than Jackson, which is good. He’s a bigger physical presence on the ball, with a surprisingly high amount of ball control for how tall he is. He shows a great amount of skill and ability to dribble in tight space, but he is not the same threat for speed in behind that Jackson is.

You can see once Jackson comes on in the 2nd half, just how much more open the game becomes. His runs open up space wide. Raheem Sterling already was having a tremendous game running at and beating his man, but the more space the wingers get, the easier it is to create chances.

Figure 1.1 - Chelsea win back the ball.
Figure 1.2 - Nicolas Jackson immediately makes the run forward to draw both defenders forward, opening space for Raheem Sterling.

If you face Burnley, you just need pace; Raheem Sterling and Nicolas Jackson offer that.

Figure 1.3 - Another view of the space in behind once Chelsea regain possession.
Figure 1.4 - Connor Gallagher passes to Raheem Sterling, unmarked, in on goal.
Figure 1.5 - Raheem Sterling scores, and Nicolas Jackson continues his run, waiting for the pass or scraps from a potential save.

The combination of a central pass and the speed of Sterling and Jackson should beat most high lines. It’s a cheat code. Raheem Sterling is undroppable at the moment.

Figure 2.1 - Cole Palmer passes to Nicolas Jackson, in a pocket of space.
Figure 2.2 - Nicolas Jackson receives the ball.
Figure 2.3 - Nicolas Jackson is closed down and fakes the shot.
Figure 2.4 - Nicolas Jackson swiftly puts the ball through his legs to turn.
Figure 2.5 - Nicolas Jackson shoots underneath the defender's outstretched leg to score.

Cole Palmer’s simple composed pass paired with the poise from Jackson to turn so smoothly and then slot it home. This is what was missing. Not rushed or forced. Calm composure, which then leads to clinical finishing.

Chelsea’s win against Fulham wasn’t perfect, but they needed to build confidence. This performance against Burnley was as close to perfect as they have shown this season.

Match: Burnley vs Chelsea on October 7, 2023

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