It’s the third time of the season Chelsea and Arsenal have levelled-up the score at full time – this time as a goalless draw. However given the away goals rule of the League Cup, the Blues still have hopes to qualify for the final by scoring in the next leg. But they would need to improve their passing coherency and of course, the finishing.

Possession and Passing

The home team used a 3-5-1-1 set up while the away team deployed a 3-4-2-1 formation. Chelsea used the central plain to maintain the engine and possession. They used a lot of back passes towards the centre whenever they got stuck or when they were about to lose possession in advanced regions. However, most of the time, the back passes were weak and Chelsea ended up losing possession. They also lost it due to weak first touches in the central region. By the first quarter, Arsenal were better in possession. However, as Hazard started to drop deep from the front, the home team could effectively push their possession up the field. With the dropping back of the Belgian, Chelsea got their midfield connected to their attack. This allowed Chelsea to improve their possession.

Hazard dropping deep to collect the ball and link to attack
Hazard dropping deep to collect the ball and link to attack

Fabregas did a good job in maintaining possession and kept running around to be available for distribution. From the second quarter onwards, Chelsea’s possession improved and throughout the second half they were dominating the possession. Conte deployed a 3-man central midfield as his usual weapon against Arsenal at the cost of easy-to-break counter attacks often made by his team. Yet, this worked well as it allowed one of the wide centre-mids to coordinate with the corresponding wing-back while the other wide centre-mid was left to partner Kante in protecting the backline.

Chelsea attacked from the right

As Hazard had to drop back in the centre and Morata was marked throughout, Chelsea made their attacking moves via the wings and most of them were from the right wing. Moses managed to dribble the ball up his flank with Drinkwater also joining him. Yet, the two seemed to lack passing coordination as Moses had to ask the English midfielder twice to pass him close to his left foot. Drinkwater needs to improve his game reading skills and is not yet ready to play at the attacking wing.

Drinkwater (Black circle) passed to Moses (Blue circle) far from his range
Drinkwater (Black circle) passed to Moses (Blue circle) far from his range

Azpilicueta also made long crosses from the right which threatened and pushed the opponents to the back at multiple occasions giving Chelsea enough time with their build up.

Chelsea’s Defensive set up pushed Arsenal’s game to the back

With Rudiger in place of Cahill as left centre-back and a 5-man midfield, Chelsea were stable in defence as they could easily turn to 5-3-2 during the defensive phase. There was not enough space for the away team to penetrate Chelsea’s back zone allowing them to intercept and gain possession. That’s why Arsenal mostly lost possession due to Chelsea’s compact defence outside the box.

The front two of Chelsea also positioned themselves just in front of Arsenal’s back line to maintain pressure and push Arsenal’s game to the back. Rudiger showed good individual defensive traits blocking and clearing many attempts and passes. Rudiger, Alonso and Kante also became more defensively compact than in the first half to block Iwobi’s forward movement. This helped a lot to push the opponent’s game to the back. Although Arsenal reacted to this by attempting to penetrate via midfield, the home team, already in better control there, won back the possession.

Lack of conversion

Although Chelsea managed to dominate possession and control of the game, they couldn’t convert despite having more bodies in the attacking zone than their opponents. They made 15 shots off target compared to Arsenal’s 5 – and 6 shots on target compared to Arsenal’s 3.

Morata was the main factor in lack of conversion. He missed and mishandled multiple finishing opportunities. The Spaniard also dropped back to make assists for Fabregas but unfortunately his passes were not executable.

Drinkwater also couldn’t finish properly at any time. It was due to these missed chances that Chelsea lost possession in or around the opponent’s box many times.

Arsenal created more danger on the left flank

Chelsea got more threatened at their left flank due to dangerous movements by Iwobi. He often pulled Alonso further inside leaving space for Bellerin to bump forward and initiate the attacking moves.

Iwobi (Red circle) pulled Alonso (Blue circle) inside to make space for Bellerin (Black circle)
Iwobi (Red circle) pulled Alonso (Blue circle) inside to make space for Bellerin (Black circle)

The opponent inside forward was also frequently making daring dribbles to escape the defensive block of Alonso, Rudiger and Fabregas at the flank. This was the reason, Chelsea’s left flank players remained mostly occupied.

For the same reason, Alonso, Fabregas, and Rudiger couldn’t make coherent passing structure at their flank. Yet, Rudiger’s long crosses were effective to use the left side to put pressure on the away team.

Arsenal defence

Arsenal maintained tight marking of Chelsea’s players. They compressed in the middle to block Chelsea’s penetration from there while the wingbacks remained at their flank to mark those of Chelsea. Iwobi dropped back to join the midfield to match up with Chelsea’s midfield. He had a constant eye on Fabregas just as Welbeck had on Drinkwater.

Arsenal’s center mids compressing with Iwobi (Red circle) joining them to block that region
Arsenal’s centre mids compressing with Iwobi (Red circle) joining them to block that region

Lacazette dropped back to mark Kante. He marked the French international so strictly that he even pulled to wider zones as Kante began to move and dribble out of his position.

Lacazette dropped back to mark Kante
Lacazette dropped back to mark Kante
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