West Brom 0-4 Chelsea Tactical Analysis
Chelsea headed to the Hawthorns to face West Brom after securing a huge win at home to Manchester United a fortnight ago. Tottenham’s defeat in the North London derby hours prior to kick off meant a win for Chelsea would send them into second place temporarily. The Baggies have a reputation for sitting deep & being hard to play against but this season they’ve found defensive solidarity hard to come by, being uncharacteristically mediocre in defence. With the trio of Eden Hazard, Alvaro Morata & Cesc Fabregas starting to flourish, Chelsea should use these three to propel themselves back into the title race.
The ‘new’ Kante
N’golo Kante was deployed as the sitting duck in midfield as he had Bakayoko & Fabregas in front of him. Bakayoko was again deployed as a destroyer/advanced runner hybrid whilst Fabregas retained his license to roam. Kante’s passing limitations have been questioned by some but with the wingbacks creating width, the technical ability of the back 3 & the intelligence of Fabregas, Kante’s inferiority in possession wouldn’t be an issue. As Chelsea pressed forward to batter a worn out West Brom, Kante’s movements became more horizontal than vertical as he swept up poor clearances from the hosts. This is a useful skill for Kante to hone in on as the ability for him to play successfully as a lone defensive midfielder will help him evolve as a midfielder.
The Spaniard has been a mainstay in Chelsea’s backline for almost 18 months now, rarely missing a league game when he’s fully fit. He came up against a traditional winger in Matty Phillips down his left hand side & this was a very easy mismatch for Alonso to handle. Having positional knowledge, strength & defensive ability over the Scottish international, Phillips found successful take-ons hard to come by. His work was well rewarded as he scored from a free kick where he was unmarked & poor set piece organisation by West Brom is a rarity. Overall he kept West Brom’s right wing-back silent & with no clear challenger to his position, Alonso can only build on his consistent start to the season.
Final third combinations
Eden Hazard, Alvaro Morata & Cesc Fabregas are without a doubt Chelsea’s main threats. Morata is a reference point in attack who every uses to make their movements off of whilst the extra defensive protection for Fabregas allows him to support his fellow countryman. In turn, this allows Eden Hazard to drift laterally within attacking midfield where he either runs off the shoulder of the middle centre back or goes wide to involve his own wingbacks. This smart movement from the Belgian allows him to remain unmarked whilst the Morata-Fabregas connection can work to perfection. By full time, all 3 had either a goal or an assist to their name, signifying their contributions to the end result.
It seems as if Chelsea are finally settling on a formation; Alvaro Morata leading the line with Eden Hazard peeling off him as a false nine with a midfield three just behind. The squad are more relaxed off the pitch than in previous weeks but the David Luiz situation is nowhere near close to being resolved. The result leaves the Blues heading back to West London just a point behind Manchester United & with a trip to Anfield coming up, they’ll be hoping to remain in close contact. Between then & now, however, lies a first adventure to Azersun Arena where a win away to Qarabag will seal their place in the knockout stages.