Chelsea ventured down to the South coast of England in the evening kick off in hope of keeping pace with the top 3. The result earlier in the day at Old Trafford allowed them to gain ground on Tottenham but consequently drift further away from the Manchester clubs. They also scrapped past a manager-less Everton side in the -logistically challenged- Carabao cup during midweek. After swatting away Marco Silva’s hornets last weekend, Chelsea knew that they dodged a bullet with their late comeback & if they let their standards slip any lower, Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth were waiting to pull off a shock result in front of their own fans.
Surman’s movement causes issues
Chelsea’s front three was tasked with closing down Bournemouth’s back three whilst the latter were in possession. They followed the ball across the back line in an attempt force errors from the hosts but intelligent movement from Andrew Surman reduced these errors to a minimum. He took advantage of Chelsea’s pressing scheme by settling between Chelsea’s midfield & forward line; as he was too far forward for Bakayoko or Fabregas to press him & too deep for the front three to consistently watch over him. This did cause some panic within Chelsea’s midfield but the front 3 adjusted accordingly as one centre-most player of the front three would hold their position, using their cover shadow to intercept any passing lane to nullify Surman. Furthermore, Chelsea’s zonal marking in midfield ensured the midfield phase & attacking phase of Bournemouth’s play remained disjointed.
Bournemouth show they’re strangers to the system
Bournemouth were punished for failing to transition into their defensive shape quick enough (3-4-1-2 to 5-3-2). This was dangerous as Eden Hazard found space in behind the unaware Adam Smith who’s inability to drop back fast enough allowed the Belgian to get free, as Hazard ran into the open space & his movement towards goal caused Simon Francis to face a dilemma; either defend zonally (as told) but risk Hazard having a chance at goal or press Hazard & essential ruin the whole zonal structure of the back three. In the end Francis was caught in two minds & fell over, to which the winger capitalised & score the winning goal of the game. Defensive errors of this ilk are few and far between with clubs who are comfortable with 3 at the back systems, which is why it is smart to emulate teams such as Chelsea when facing them but it is rather naïve not to adjust their structure to suit your own shortcomings. This served as a warning to clubs lower down the table who ‘copycat’ the more advanced tactical systems of the bigger sides, this is why you must be smart playing certain sides at their own game.
Chelsea comfortable defending 1v1
Bournemouth’s pairing up front was dealt with two Chelsea centre backs tracking them & forcing them out wide. The third centre back would create 2v1s or step into midfield when the situation required it. Going man to man against Bournemouth benefited the visitors as they isolated the Cherries’ attack allowing less pressure to be put upon their backline. Whenever Jordan Ibe or Junior Stanislas tried to occupy the number 10 space David Luiz would come in to take them out. Additionally Chelsea won the wing-back battle as Davide Zappacosta & Marcos Alonso found it relatively easy to maraud from box to box-this is crucial when two systems using wing-backs facing each other due to the space available at stake. This eventually left Bournemouth’s midfield duo or centre back trio devoid of any penetrative options as almost all their teammates had limited space due to losing their individual battles.
These wins where they are taken the distance by lower sides may well be the issue when they come up when they host Manchester United next Sunday. However, with Antonio Conte’s injury list finally easing the Blues can start playing they way they can as opposed to ‘just about’ getting all three points. On Tuesday they go to the Stadio Olimpico where a win against Roma will give them all 3 points which all but assures a place in the knockout stages. Thus far Chelsea’s season has been disrupted by various factors but it finally seems as if things are looking up for the West London club.