Tactics Journal

by Kyle Boas

Analyzing football tactics

Chelsea's slow passing and baiting movement

At Brighton, defenders bait movement before passing. Levi Colwill’s muscle memory kicks in, but that’s not what his Chelsea teammates want. You can take the man out of Brighton, but you can’t instantly take the Brighton out of the man.

Figure 1.1 - Levi Colwill carries the ball forward
Figure 1.1 - Thiago Silva points at Axel Disasi to tell Levi Colwill to pass the ball to Disasi.

For some funny context; Thiago Silva injured his shoulder a few seconds prior. The fact he is fighting through pain to point because he’s so fed up with how slow Chelsea is building up.

He was doing this throughout the beginning of the first half but grew more visibly frustrated as the half wore on. Chelsea was passing too slowly.

Figure 1.3 - Axel Disasi calls for the ball.
Figure 1.4 - Thiago Silva more aggressively asks for the ball to be played to Axel Disasi.
Figure 1.4 - Axel Disasi is now squatting and yelling at Levi Colwill to pass the ball.

Axel Disasi and Thiago Silva are doing the opposite of what Andrea Pirlo would want. They are alerting the entire pitch as to where the next pass will go. It’s too predictable.

Middlesbrough then begin to adjust the way they are marking certain Chelsea players.

The player closest to Ben Chilwell begins to cheat infield. The right center-forward backs off to mark Moises Caicedo rather than pressure Levi Colwill.

Figure 1.5 - Levi Colwill finally passes the ball.

When Axel Disasi receives this pass, a pass that Chelsea has telegraphed for over five long seconds, Middlesborough have each third man pass completely covered. Caicedo is covered centrally.

If you are going to bait the center-forwards to jump before passing, like Levi Colwill was attempting to do before he was interrupted, you have to commit to baiting. If you play the ball before baiting the movement, then the man receiving the ball will have no options to pass forward.

This was a contributing factor as to why Chelsea was so slow building up. They were stuck in two minds. Certain players wanted to wait, others wanted to move quicker, and the midfield just had to react.

For timing purposes, they either need to be a team that waits for movement or not. Once they chose to bait the press, towards the middle of the first half, they began to create chances and score.

Match: Chelsea 6-1 Middlesborough, 23 January 2024

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