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Match analysis: Arsenal - Chelsea

Match analysis: Arsenal - Chelsea

The goalless draw brings Chelsea closer to the title  

By Athanasios Terzis

The first team at the table Chelsea faced the second Arsenal. Mourinho’s team after a goalless draw is one step closer to the title as the ten point lead from Arsenal remained the same, with five more rounds to come. 

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1st Half: Arsenal dominated but Chelsea had the chances

Arsenal: Arsenal started with a fluid 4-4-1-1 formation as the three players in the middle moved a lot and switched positions. During the defensive phase the formation was more of a 4-4-2 as Ozil, the attacking midfielder, moved forward close to Giroud most of the time. Cazorla and Coquelin were the defensive midfielders while Sanchez was on the left and Ramsey on the right.

Chelsea: Chelsea started with 4-2-3-1. Oscar was on top with Ramires on the right and Hazard on the left. Willian was the attacking midfielder. The three midfielders switched positions frequently but tried to retain balance all the time. Fabregas was lower in a defensive midfielder’s position next to Matic who was the holding midfielder. The four man defence was the same as the game against Manchester United (Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry και Azpilicueta).      

Both teams tried to take control during the first minutes of the game, by applying pressing mainly within the middle third. However Arsenal was the one that succeeded it, mainly due to their effective negative transition. Arsene Wenger’s team tried to regain possession as quickly as possible by putting pressure high and immediately after the loss of possession. This forced Chelsea into long balls which were more of clearances, rather than accurate passes. Furthermore the fact that Oscar is not the target man to fight for these kind of balls, enabled Arsenal’s defenders not only to neutralize them but also to start a new attack. Arsenal was in control and Chelsea was forced into a passive role.

The aim of Mourinho’s team was to take advantage of the positive transition, but this was possible only in cases that they could escape Arsenal’s counter pressing and build up with short passes (as they did in Ramires’ scoring chance).

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In every other occasion Chelsea tried to take advantage of Oscar’s and Ramires speed against Mertesacker and Coscielny. Chelsea players moved towards the gaps between the defenders and their team mates (when they had time on the ball) tried long passes behind the back of the defenders. This style of play resulted Oscar’s scoring chance.  

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As regards Arsenal, there was a lot of fluidity from the three players in the middle who switched positions. Furthermore Ozil and Ramsey dropped frequently back to receive, towards the free space created by the constant mobility of the players. The available space was mainly created in the central area and towards the weak side, as the two wide players Ramires and Hazard were focused on marking the fullbacks rather than converge and limit the space in the centre. By this way they tried to prevent the home side from creating numbers up near the side lines and use combination play on the flanks. 

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Additionally, in order for Arsenal to move the ball forward more easily, they tried to create overloads. This was done mainly by Cazorla who moved in advanced positions and within Ivanovic’s zone of responsibility. In this cases Chelsea’s fullback had two players to mark and this prevent him from moving forward to put pressure on Cazorla when the last one received the ball. So the Spanish could receive and turn free of marking.  

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As Arsenal found ways to move the ball forward by breaking through the pressure of the four players in front (c. forward and three midfielders) then their aim was to break through the four man defence + the two defensive midfielders. These players were frequently supported by Ramires who followed very deep Monreal. Arsenal tried to use combination play but the central area was blocked and little space was available as the central defenders of Chelsea didn’t track Ozil and Giroud, when the last ones dropped into deep positions. By this reaction they avoided creating space in the defensive line for Arsenal players to exploit. 


Furthermore the two defensive midfielders together with the four players at the back created a solid formation with short distances between the players which was difficult to be broken through with vertical combination play.

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On the left Monreal made frequently forward runs and after working in collaboration with Ozil and Sanchez, he tried to bring balls into the box by crossing. Ramires was most of the time in effective defensive positions after following him very deep. On the right Arsenal tried to take advantage of Hazard’s low contribution in the defensive phase, through Bellerin’s overlapping and interlapping runs. However the contribution of Matic in keeping the lines balanced was crucial to deal with Arsenal’s attacking moves. The Serbian was fantastic tactically and was always at the right place at the right time. He prevented Arsenal from creating numbers up on the right when Hazard was out of effective defensive position.

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He enabled Azpilicueta to move in advanced positions to put pressure on his direct opponent Ramsey, as he filled the gap behind him.

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In cases that Cahill shifted near the side line to provide cover to Ivanovic, Matic dropped into central defender’s position and filled the gaps inside the box. So Giroud couldn’t take advantage of them during the crosses from his team mates.  

13-Matic 2

Arsenal’s centre forward was in most of the cases between three or even four defenders inside the box.  

14-Lonely Giroud

15-Lonely Giroud 2

During the final minutes of the first half Arsenal put more pressure to Chelsea by pushing more players forward. This resulted a couple of good crosses inside Chelsea’s penalty area. 

During the first half Arsenal was the team that dominated possession but Chelsea had the best scoring chances (Oscar, Ramires). The home side managed to take some good shots with Sanchez, Ozil and Cazorla but these weren’t much of a danger for Thibaut Courtois.


2nd Half: Chelsea managed to control the tempo but none team managed to create scoring chances

Chelsea started in the 2nd with Drogba in the place of Oscar. Mourinho brought in a target man to fight for and win the many long balls his players tried during first half. Furthermore he made several switches in positions, without switching formation, in order to improve his team performance as regards keeping possession and slow down the tempo. Willian was placed on the right while Ramires moved in defensive midfielder’s position next to Matic. Finally Fabregas was placed in attacking midfielder’s position. On the other hand Arsene Wenger retained his first eleven.

Mourinho’s tactical adjustments improved Chelsea’s performance significantly. Drogba won many fifty – fifty balls and the team could build up from the back and move the ball forward and close to the opponent’s box more easily. This was achieved due to Arsenal’s less intensive pressure as well as due to Fabregas’ creating overloads. The Spanish international shifted towards the left and within Bellerin’s zone of responsibility and created a 2 v 1 situation in order to receive unmarked or to use combination play with Hazard.  

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Furthermore he dropped very deep to create numbers up and receive the pass straight from the defenders. 

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19-Fabregas dropping back 3

Arsenal tried again to use combination play near the side lines where there was more available space. 

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However Chelsea compensate for this by Matic’s excellent tactical positioning, as the Serbian filled every gap that the opponents could have taken advantage of. 

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22-Matic 5

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Arsenal’s combination play through the centre couldn’t be carried out as the spaces were limited and Chelsea players worked in collaboration by providing cover to each other. So when Arsenal players tried to play through the centre they were blocked. 

24-Combination play in the centre

Chelsea on the other hand moved the ball more easily close to Arsenal’s box but they couldn’t create scoring chances as they did in the first half. This was due to a) Mourinho’s decision not to play in risky way by bringing many players forward, but preferred to keep the team balanced at the back and retain numbers up against Arsenal forwards during negative transition and b) due to Wenger’s decision not to press high but to leave Chelsea enough available space to move forward in order to hit on the counter. At the same time Arsenal was more compact than they were during the first half.

The two coaches made their last moves by bringing fresh players in, but nothing changed until the final whistle despite Arsenal’s last chance after Monreal’s low cross in 91st minute.  


Conclusion: Mourinho’s choice to face Manchester United and Arsenal by focusing on defending effectively within the middle and the defensive third proved to be wise. Chelsea managed to win four points in two matches and retained a ten point lead against the second Arsenal. Furthermore Chelsea proved that this kind of tactic plan (when they have to face strong opponents) is suitable for them and they can carry it out with success. Arsenal despite the high percentages in possession (mainly during the first half), failed to create scoring chances, as they couldn’t take advantage of the combination play which is their strong point. One thing that someone has to remember after this game was Matic’s excellent positioning. The Serbian was superb and had decisive contribution in his team effective defensive plan.   


Last Updated on Wednesday, 29 April 2015 17:26

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