Chelsea 1-0 Manchester United Tactical Analysis

Chelsea lost 3-0 away to Roma in the Champions League prior to this game & the reaction was beyond negative. With various players being blamed on social media the pressure really was mounting on Antonio Conte. He had been coy on N’golo Kante’s fitness heading into the Manchester United game & he really was missing their best destroyer. Furthermore there were rumours of Conte falling out with players such as David Luiz in training so it was vital Conte ignored all the talk to prepare his side for the big test. United’s last win at Stamford Bridge came in the 2012/13 season so the tie seemed in Chelsea’s favour. There was no doubt about it; Conte had to win, & win convincingly.

Wingback intensity

In the wide areas, Davide Zappacosta & Marcos Alonso came up against Antonio Valencia & Ashley Young. Chelsea had two seasoned fullbacks whilst Ashley Young had only recently cemented himself as United’s best left wingback option & it could be debated whether or not this played a role during the game. A prominent feature of United’s attack includes crossing the ball in the final third so shutting down that aspect would tame a large part of the visitors’ attacking plan. Once United found trouble progressing in the wide areas, they were forced into central areas where Chelsea found more joy & control. It is also a unofficial constant in football that if you can dominate the wingback battle, you usually win the game.

Fabregas freedom

With N’golo Kante coming back into the side, Cesc Fabregas was moved up into the number 1o role. This let him to act as a roaming creator, orchestrating a majority of Chelsea’s attacks from various positions on the pitch. His constant movement and continued link up with Hazard destroyed United’s pressing scheme by leaving their players out of position. Whenever he saw fit Fabregas would sit back & dictate play from a deeper position, these sporadic changes allowed Bakayoko to advance & saw him have numerous chances (which he squandered). He was unstoppable all game & torn Manchester United’s midfield to shreds with his fluid movements all over the pitch.

Importance of wide centre backs

In their back three, the wide centre backs are tasked with progressing further up the pitch when on the ball in order to break down a deep block. This can provide some success as the opposition midfield tends to focus on limiting space on the edge of their own box in order to cut out space there. However in turn, this allows centre backs to travel further up the pitch unopposed. Cesar Azpilicueta has turned this into a an art form of sorts as his regular lofted crosses from the right half-spaces have provided many opportunities, with the only goal of the game coming from one.

Conclusion

When the final whistle blew, there was a euphoric cheer of relief that rose above the Bridge. Chelsea head into the international break 1 point off of Manchester United & Tottenham Hotspur. Upon return Chelsea face a trip to the Baggies to face Tony Pulis’ stuttering West Brom side before facing a tricky trip to Anfield. In between those league games Chelsea travel to Azerbaijan where a win away to Qarabag will virtually assure a place in the Champions League knockout stages come February.