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Match analysis: Chelsea - Manchester United

Match analysis: Chelsea – Manchester United

United dominated possession but Chelsea was more effective

in front of goal

By Athanasios Terzis

Manchester United travelled to London to face the leading side in the Premier League table, Chelsea. United played a possession style game and created several chances. However the home side defended well especially inside the box and proved to be more effective in front of goal as they managed to score after creating fewer chances than United. Chelsea now are heading for the title by retaining a ten point lead against the second Arsenal.      

FORMATIONS

 

1st half: United dominated possession but Chelsea scored   

Chelsea: The home side started with 4-2-3-1. Matic was on Rooney who played as a right attacking midfielder and Zouma was on Fellaini. Mourinho choose Zouma to mark Fellaini as the Frenchman is equally strong and good in heading the ball as the Belgian. He gave him a defensive role (not like Manchester City’s Toure), so Zouma didn’t have to move forward to provide help during the attacking phase. Fabregas was placed behind Drogba while Oscar was on the right and Hazard on the left. Jose Mourinho after watching United’s match against City it was for sure that he searched a way to deal with two main problems. United’s possession style and Fellaini’s marking especially in heading. Despite Chelsea started by pressing high up, after the first minutes Mourinho’s players dropped deeper, within the middle third, and waited for the opponents to come. Mourinho gave time on the ball for Smalling and McNair, mainly to the first one, and focused on marking the midfielders of United. However Fabregas was placed behind Drogba, but not in a goal side position against Herrera. This positioning allowed him to take advantage of a potential positive transition in case United lost possession but he wasn’t effective during Herrera’s marking. Furthermore when he moved forward to put pressure to one of the central defenders Herrera was left free of marking and Fabregas had to make sure that he was aware of his position in order to block the passes towards him.

CHELSEA PUTTING HERRERA IN THE SHADOW

 

The aim for the home side was to prevent United from creating numbers up in midfield and take advantage of it, as they did against City. Zouma was deep and close to Fellaini and this positioning created space on the left of United’s midfield. Matic marked Rooney tightly even in cases that Rooney dropped very deep in order to receive. Chelsea looked balanced, but when Fabregas was dragged out of position (to put pressure on the c. defender) Herrera was left free. In this cases Oscar (during first half) converged towards the inside to mark the free midfielder on the weak side Herrera or Rooney. 

CHELSEA TRYING TO MARK ALL MIDFIELDERS

CHELSEA TRYING TO MARK ALL MIDFIELDERS 2

However this shifting wasn’t well synchronized and United found the time to play a pass on the left and take advantage of the 2 v 1 (Shaw and Young vs Ivanovic) near the side line as Oscar was away from Shaw. The other problem for Chelsea rose when the central defenders exploited the time they had on the ball and moved forward. When McNair was the defender in possession, Oscar left Shaw and moved together with Fabregas to close him down. However United’s defenders passing accuracy was excellent and created problems for Chelsea as the ball was moved to the free man Shaw and Mourinho’s side was forced to defend the cross. 

CHELSEA TRYING TO CLOSE DOWN THE CENTRAL DEFENDERS

CHELSEA TRYING TO CLOSE DOWN THE CENTRAL DEFENDERS 2

As regards the attacking phase, as Chelsea was unable to build up from the back with short passes due to United’s pressure, they tried long balls towards Drogba who usually took up a position on the strong side to offer a passing option. At the same time Hazard and Oscar moved to receive the second ball (potential header from Drogba). These facts forced Chelsea to focus on the counter, probably by exploiting Fabregas’ advanced positioning as well as Hazard’s, who several times took up a balanced positioning between Smalling and Valencia.

 

Manchester United: United had to face Chelsea without having Carrick, a player who performed excellently during the last matches. Van Gaal started with an attacking minded 4-3-3. He put Herrera in the defensive midfielder’s role and as Falcao was the centre forward, Rooney dropped back to the right attacking midfielder’s position. Fellaini was the left attacking midfielder. During the defensive phase United tried to take control and prevent Chelsea from building up from the back. The midfielders were focused on marking their opponents tightly and when Matic or Zouma moved to positions to receive Rooney and Fellaini respectively marked them tightly. 

MANU PUTTING PRESSURE ON THE DEFENSIVE MIDFIELDERS

In cases that Fellaini moved forward to put pressure on Cahill he had to make sure that he put Zouma in his shadow while Herrera was close enough to take over his marking. 

MANU PUTTING PRESSURE ON THE CENTRAL DEFENDER

When Fabregas dropped deeper along in the same line with Matic and Zouma to create numbers up United’s attacking midfielders marked the potential receivers and left the one on the weak side free of marking. 

MANU PUTTING PRESSURE ON THE POTENTIAL RECEIVERS

United’s midfielders worked in synchronization and Chelsea couldn’t move the ball forward with short passes. During the attacking phase Van Gaal’s team tried to dominate possession by building up from the back. McNair mainly and Smalling took advantage of the time they had on the ball and moved forward. Then they tried to unbalance Chelsea and move the ball to the free player Herrera or create numbers up situations on the left with the forward runs of Shaw. This worked well as most of the passes from both the c. defenders were accurate and United players were many times in a position the make the cross inside the box. Additionally Van Gaal’s team tried to also take advantage of Hazard’s balanced positioning and move the ball to Valencia through Herrera who played as link player. As Valencia moved forward with the ball, Chelsea were forced to drop deep in order to get compact and retain balance. 

MANU MOVING THE BALL TO VALENCIA

At the same time Chelsea couldn’t play on the break as Van Gaal’s team passing accuracy was excellent. However Chelsea managed to score in their very first chance created by a positive transition. Hazard exploited the gap created between Valencia and Smalling and received the pass from Oscar who was in centre forward’s position. Then Chelsea dropped deeper and defended well.

 

2nd Half: Chelsea sat back and defended well in crosses while United dominated possession

 

During the second half Chelsea dropped deeper in the field to defend. Mourinho told Fabregas to drop a few yards back and take up a goal side position against Herrera in order for his team to maintain balance and prevent the Spanish from receiving unmarked. Furthermore Drogba stayed closer to the midfielders to provide help to Fabregas. 

CHELSEA GOALSIDE POSITION

However the c. defenders of the opposition had still time on the ball. This allowed United to push forward and forced Chelsea to defend mainly within their defensive third. Van Gaal’s players continued to attack effectively on the left, as Shaw took advantage Oscar’s poor positioning and made several crosses. On the other hand the aim for Chelsea was to be effective in defending outside and inside the box. This meant that the marking of Fellaini and Falcao had to be effective. So when United attacked on the left and Fellaini entered the box, his marking was passed either to Cahill or to Terry. Even in cases that the Belgian tried to take up a position on the weak side near to Azpilicueta, Terry (except once), was near him. 

CHELSEA DEFENDING WITHIN THE BOX

Mourinho changed Oscar with Ramirez to deal with the problems on the right and as time went by Van Gaal instructed Fellaini to take up more advanced positions behind Zouma and in some cases on the right. When Fellaini was on the left behind Zouma his marking was passed to the c. defender Cahill and in some cases, when Cahill was forced to shift towards the right, it was Terry who marked him. Furthermore Matic dropped into c. defender’s position to retain numbers up. When Fellaini was on the right, Matic dropped very deep in order to mark him. 

CHELSEA DEALING WITH FELLAINIS POSITION ON THE STRONG SIDE

CHELSEA DEALING WITH FELLAINIS POSITION ON THE WEAK SIDE

Fellaini’s positioning on the right caught Chelsea unbalanced once, as the focus was on Fellaini and Falcao was left free on the left to receive and shoot on goal. but the post saved Chelsea from the equalizer. Additionally the dropping back of Matic created space in the centre and United managed to push more forward as Fabregas moved back to fill the gap. Chelsea defended well until the final whistle and managed to defeat United who was unbeaten for six consecutive matches.

 

Conclusion: Chelsea after defeating United will probably be this season’s Premier League champion. However Van Gaal’s team was the better side during the match. They played possession style and were creative enough against a very well organized team during the defensive phase. This means that the Dutchman’s philosophy has already been injected to United.    

 

Last Updated on Tuesday, 21 April 2015 02:24

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