Stamford Bridge erupted as Jose Mourinho announced his second coming with his arms aloft and eyes swelling with tears. Memories of sitting in the very dugout raced through his mind as he once again flipped out his little notepad.
Chelsea however, gave in a solid performance to bring home 3 points in the opening day of the Premier Leagye. A Chelsea side that even with new signings, seemed quite different than what we’ve been used to seeing. Forgive me , but I wasn’t able to download the match in high quality and I will try my best to do that after the Villa game. Nevertheless, here is my analysis on the Chelsea side that took on Steve Bruce’s Hull City Tigers.
First we have a look at how Jose has employed the strategy of moving players out of position. Here we see most of the attack-minded players. Its interesting to note that the pivot that came under heavy criticism last season , dominated the game for Chelsea against the newly promoted club. Their positioning, communication and spacial awareness was incredible. As we see, Lampard has just received the ball from Hazard while Cole contemplates falling back akin to Ramires . Look at how compact and close all the players are, a lot different from what we’ve seen in previous years.
Lampards gives the ball to Oscar, and he along with De Bruyne and Hazard start moving into the middle . Another thing to look out for is the line Chelsea have maintained. Cole, Ramires and Ivanovic who has just appeared in the frame, are in the exact same line, clearly to avoid any kind of fast-paced counter-attack that Brady specializes in.
Hazard’s gotten the ball and he moves in. Once again excellent understanding as Oscar takes up the empty left-flank to save Cole the effort in running in. Lampard’s making his late run and Torres is trying to move his center-back out of position.
Lampard has a hunch that the attacks going to fizz out, so he’s on his second foot for a moment. Ivanovic has arrived, due to the lack of anyone providing width cause they’re busy going central. Ramires moves into give more passing options, or in other words a triangle. More on that later.
Oscar receives the ball as Cole tries to run down the flank and move another player out of position. Lampard’s trying to get into that little hole again, as Torres re-evaluates his options.
The man encircled in red is Eden Hazard, who provides the decisive blow. Cole and Torres have already tried to carve open a chance by dragging defenders away, but Hazard makes the smart move. Logically he’s moving to receive a pass but he knows he won’t get it. Tell that to the Hull defender who runs with him and leaves De Bruyne open. Oscar senses a chance and lays it in.
The red circle is the area where the Hull defender was before getting himself attracted to Hazard. The red arrow shows how the ball should have gone to put Chelsea one up, however De Bruyne’s shot was disappointing. Chelsea on the other hand had carved open their first chance of the game in only 2 minutes. The Chelsea of last season would be still getting used to the tempo.
Dragging defenders is something only Torres used to do for the past few season, but now it’s turning out to be one of the most important strategies under Jose Mourinho. Quick passing, precise movement and bang , 1 nil up. Profit.
Next up, let’s have a look at the high pressing Chelsea seem to have adopted.
Four players grabbing and snatching at the ball hoping to pick up the pieces. As said earlier, Chelsea are aiming to make almost every area that the ball goes, as compact as possible to force their opponents into making mistakes and giving the ball away.
Body language says a lot. As Hull kept toying around with the ball, Chelsea pressed and pressed. But not without putting forethought like Barcelona did against Bayern Munchen. It simply put was remarkably intelligent and so unlike Chelsea. It suddenly hit Hazard that Lampard would be moving in centrally along with the play, so he needs to be on the flanks to cover for Cole.
Intelligent covering combined with aggressive and tactful pressing. This is Chelsea’s first game under Mourinho and it’s highly surprising that they have managed to pull it off, even though its against a newly promoted team. This explains why Chelsea took their foot off the gas, almost as if Mourinho was sending us a message. ” Look ! This is how I plan to play in future my fellow country men.” and after coming back out for the second half, “This is how we used to play last time around, and bear with me for 45 minutes ! ”
This is the second example we saw of a remarkable improvement in Chelsea’s pivot. The 4-3-3 is speculated to play a huge role at Chelsea this season, but with Mourinho going with a 4-2-3-1, many would expect Mikel and Ramires to occupy the roles. However with Mikel being left out, Mourinho entrusted these vital positions to Ramires and Lampard. They eventually played a deciding factor in the outcome. Have a good look at how Ramires joins forward with De Bruyne and a dejected Lampard heaves himself back. So unlike last season.
Now to the next strategy Chelsea seem to have employed. Passing like its the end of the world. Chelsea made numerous little passes that seemed completely pointless until they made a devastating effect. Oscar’s goal, Torres’s penalty, and the foul that led to the free-kick was all thanks to this. Chelsea’s ability to pass is due to the positioning of the players. As told before how Ramires moved away from his defensive pivot role to give more options, he did this by forming triangles. Triangles is the basic element of tiki-taka which gives a team to dominate possession with the help of quick passes. To quote Rinus Michels the brains behind Total Football, “Triangles is the reason I fell in love with geometry. It was simple to apply it in football when I was at Ajax. ”
Simple. Could be a coincidence. Right?
It can happen twice, not exactly something we can be sure off.
Maybe there’s a little chance…
This is one of the best examples you could find. De Bruyne goes on to pass it to Lampard who gives it to Torres. No time to take a first touch and hold the ball. Receive the ball and return it back.
But come on, let’s be honest. It’s just one triangle, not many options.
Maybe Jose does have other ideas. Ivanovic goes on to close the gap and come a bit closer.
But just two triangles. You realistically can’t go further than this. Right?
This is the main reason Chelsea compact the play. With the plethora of attacking midfielders Chelsea have in their ranks, they can actually afford to pass really quickly. Those who can’t adapt are left out. Is that why Mikel was left out? Conspiracies. There’s a chance.
Let’s compare Chelsea’s passing to that of two other club’s who won their opening game of the season.
Chelsea finished 472 out of 552 passes successfully.
Manchester United managed 393 out of 471.
And the biggest surprise is Liverpool who managed only 432 out of 525 passes despite being the one that revolves its tactics around possession based football.
Now these are just the strategies. How can one implement them? Let’s have a look at the first goal.
Chelsea’s high pressing gives them the ball which eventually lands on the captain’s foot. Hazard makes a bombarding run down the flanks and Terry lobs it over to him.
Here we see two people, behind the goal. Curtis Davies, the man who made the mistake, and Eden Hazard whose decision to cut in proved devastating to the Hull defense.
This is where we see Chelsea’s plans coming true. High pressing to win the ball back? Check. Triangles formed to provide options? Check. Hazard draggs Davies out of place who is lazily jogging back while Oscar and Cole drag two more to create space? Check. The orange circle depicts where Davis should have been. Yes he was dragged out of position by Hazard, but he should have been quicker to react to the situation.
Clinical finish. 1 nil up. Chelsea score their first goal during the second coming.