Tactics Journal

by Kyle Boas

Analyzing football tactics

Chelsea when they have a plan

Chelsea were smartly set up in and out of possession against Aston Villa, using Palmer and Gallagher to shadow-cover up top, instead of Jackson. Jackson could win the ball wide and track Cash, then invert up top with Palmer in possession.

Figure 1.1 - Chelsea out-of-possession

Aston Villa are now without three of their first-choice starting center-backs: Tyrone Mings (out for the season), Pau Torres (coming back), Ezri Konsa (out for weeks). They’re expected to struggle.

Without Pau Torres and Ezri Konsa at the back, Aston Villa’s high-line offside trap will become uncoordinated and vulnerable. Watch for one of the defenders to stray out of line with the rest of the defense. We saw that when Mings was injured, then when Torres was injured, and Konsa was holding it down through all of that but now he’s out.

Aston Villa are highly dependent on their center-backs to distribute the ball up the pitch quickly, sometimes in one pass. If you eliminate the pass short, like Chelsea did, you force them to go long.

The problem is that Diego Carlos and Clément Lenglet aren’t as accurate or proficient at timing a pass to match a run when compared to Torres and Konsa.

When Chelsea turned the ball over you’d notice them back off, reset, and allow Aston Villa to pass back to Carlos and Lenglet. When Aston Villa passed back they were trapped into that long speculative ball.

Figure 2.1 - Illustration of Chelsea in and out of possession shape.

Aston Villa need the numerical superiority central to break out quickly. Start compact then attack wide. No one was holding width on Aston Villa’s left-wing; they are ball-side dominant. The only outlet on the left is Álex Moreno, and the entire team has to shift over if they want to pass through him.

Nicolas Jackson is Chelsea’s best ball-winner in the first and second line. To have him shadow-marking Kamara or Douglas Luiz would be a waste. He would not be impacting play enough. By tracking Cash, you not only eliminate the out ball to Villa’s favored right side but you also then have a quick forward there to attack the space behind Cash when Cash makes runs forward.

Figure 1.2 - Chelsea in-possession

Then Jackson either has the option to invert next to Cole Palmer, like what you see in Figure 1.2, or stay on the left-wing if Chilwell doesn’t move forward.

Jackson and Chilwell have very good chemistry on the wing, and Jackson benefits a lot from this relationship because Badishile and Colwill actually pass him the ball when he makes a run, unlike the rest of the forwards and midfield.

Enzo Fernandez is dropping, but not between the center-backs. He drops to the left of left center-back Badishile. That allows Chilwell to push forward.

Gallagher drops from the left out-of-possession to the right in-possession to help Caicedo link play and overload the middle. He too can drop further to allow for Malo Gusto to get forward. And then Cole Palmer can drop all the way back, if he wants, to link-up play.

It was all much more balanced, much more well thought out, and much more coordinated from Chelsea, targeting Aston Villa’s deficiencies as they deal with a whole host of injuries in key positions.

Match: Aston Villa 1-3 Chelsea, 7 February 2024

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