2-1 and the job was done. 2 points away from the top spot, but not really an assuring performance. Failure to kill the game off has turned out to be a really heavy problem for Chelsea.
Like almost every perceived weak team that has shown up at the Bridge, palace to employed deep defensive blocks to prevent Chelsea from penetrating through the middle.
To counter this, Chelsea have tried to switch play flank to flank while keeping the ball on the ground. However the opposition’s high pressing and the midfielder’s reluctance in poking in a decisive through ball through the middle forces Chelsea to play the ball back.
Groans echo around the stadium everytime this happens, and could you blame the fans? We pay for beautiful football, and its not what we are seeing. Dissappointing if you have really high expectations, but that’s not the topic right now.
As Chelsea take it to one flank to another, the block ahead of the defensive line turn towards that side as well. In essence, if Chelsea were to move the ball abit quicker, we could actually be able to penetrate through the middle. Ramires’s goal, being an example on how switching flanks helped create a decent opportunity.
Dragging players away from position is not always the primarily role of a forward, at Chelsea though, it seems second to nature. In the games against West Ham and Schalke, Eto’o drifted wide, allowing Oscar and Willian to take up the proverbial #9 role.
By doing this , Chelsea caused the defensive line a lot of confusion, especially during counter-attacks. This is also another reason why Chelsea won’t go into the market looking for poacher. Maybe we might not even get a striker, because the direction Chelsea seem to be heading calls for a striker that has a deep tactical sense to the game. Scoring first yes, but if you don’t perform your secondary duties, you’ll be isolated on the far side of the pitch.
Talking about other situations, everytime a wide player receives the ball, he comes up against 2v1 situations. If the wide player helps him out, 3v2 at times too. Once the ball is brought back to the center, things don’t become any better as you have an additional player in the form of a striker , harassing you from the back.
As mentioned before, when Chelsea have had their chances, they tend to waste it in a unique fashion. Mata is able to lure in the right-back and back heel the ball onto the path of Branislav Ivanovic while the midfielder turns around in confusion. Here we also see an open Eden Hazard looking for an opportunity to cut in.
Ivanovic went on to take a shot. How many of you would place their bets on Azpilicueta being in a similar situation and cutting back to either Torres or lofting it towards Hazard?
However one can’t blame Ivan too much. It was a decent shot, just inches away from the net.
Moving over to the Ramires goal. It was a spectacular finish by Ramires to win the game for Chelsea. However some finer points in the buildup seemed to have been forgotten at the end of 90 minutes. Essien brings the ball forward and gives it to Mata. Mata proceeds to give it to Willian. Here we can note the famous ” Chelsea can’t transition to attack quickly enough” scenario. Essien and Mata pretty much waited around in the center thinking about making a move.
Keep an eye on Torres (encircled in white).
Willian receives the ball. At this point Palace are retreating their players back and are more in the phase of pressing than restructuring their shape. It’s that point of time after recovering the ball when the players are confused about going after the player or back to their zone.
Keep that eye on Torres.
Willian runs at the defense . Notice how there is no forward and just to be careful, an opposition player runs back into the defensive line to cover the hole (orange arrow) .
Willian running right at them means the full-back needs to mark both Hazard and Willian (primarily on the Brazilian) . In doing so , the center-back helps him out to negate any clear cut opportunities Willian will get from acting as the focal point.
The moment Hazard has the ball his plan is to cut inside and keep running laterally along the box. At this point there are four defenders in the box. Two fully concentrated on Willian, and one each on Torres and Hazard.
For Torres though, there is another player joining in to cover a zone in the box.
As Hazard drives in sideways, three players are attracted towards him, thus leaving Willian a little free. Moreover the chances of the ball going towards Torres is quite high, so he has 3 defenders at him, with the 3rd one having the initial duty of pressing at Ramires.
In a nutshell the goal was created by several factors. Not exactly the sparkliest of team-play, but an efficient way to clear up space in the middle.
At the end of the day Chelsea created problems for themselves. It wasn’t about lack of creating chances, cause Chelsea did manage to do that. Conversion seems to be a problem. The defense too seems to be reasonably well-oiled as long as the ball is on the ground. The moment it’s hoofed in the form of a lob , a cross, a cut-back or a set-piece, Chelsea psychologically aren’t ready enough to face it.
Torres got his one clear chance and took it. The problem is, how many of those can we create and convert?