In a clash with two teams that didn’t win in the first fixture of the Premier League, Chelsea and Leicester City faced each other at Stamford Bridge. The Blues were looking forward to following up the good performance in the final of UEFA Super Cup against Liverpool and grab the first victory on Premier League. Leicester arrived at Stamford Bridge with a draw from the first match against Wolves.
Chelsea was the better side on the first 15/20 minutes but on the 2nd half the changes on Leicester’s approach and the fatigue on Chelsea’s players from the midweek game led to a very good performance from the “Foxes”. The final result was 1-1, with Leicester regretting the missed opportunities in the 2nd half.
This tactical analysis will explain Chelsea’s approach at the beginning of the game and how the performance decreased in the 2nd half. This analysis will demonstrate the strategic changes performed by Brendan Rodgers at the half time, which got the team closer to win the match.
Chelsea shaped in 4-3-3 as usually in this season, the only change from the previous game against Liverpool was the presence of Mason Mount on the starting eleven instead of Mateo Kovačić. Leicester repeated the same first XI from the previous game against Wolves. Shaping in 4-1-4-1, which varied to a 4-3-3 in some moments of the game.
Chelsea’s first 15 minutes
It was a very strong start from Chelsea since the first minute of the game. Chelsea’s strategy was clear from the beginning: to be aggressive without the ball, pressing very high on the pitch, react fast to the ball loss to kill any chance of offensive transition for Leicester and with the ball use simples processes to reach the final third. The best Chelsea’s period of the game coincided with the worst Leicester’s period of the game. Especially at the beginning of the game, the “Foxes” had a lot of issues to control the midfield, showing a lot of disorganization. In some moments of the game when the midfielders tried to press Chelsea’s building up the defensive line didn’t follow the movement of the midfielders and space between the defensive and midfield lines was created.
As explained in the first paragraph of this section, the movement made by Leicester’s midfielders wasn’t followed by the defensive sector. This allowed Chelsea’s midfielders to receive passes or win second balls in those areas.
Bellow, another example of Chelsea’s buildup in the first half. Jorginho always the reference to connect the team, Kanté exploring the depth between the left-back and left centre-back.
Leicester’s players were attracted to the left side and Jorginho changes the centre of the game to the right side, where Pedro is giving width and is free to receive the ball.
Another positive aspect of Chelsea’s strong start was the high pressing applied to Leicester’s buildup phase. This obliged Leicester to kick the ball to the front where the high defensive Chelsea’s line would win the ball. Chelsea’s first goal appears from a ball recovered from Mount right at the entrance of the penalty box.
Chelsea’s game intensity dropped considerably after the 15th minute where the team had three shots (two on target) and 60% ball possession in the opposition’s half. After a very promising start, the team reduced the pace of the game but still kept control of the game. In the first half, Leicester never seemed to find a way to reach the final third with danger and creating goal-scoring opportunities, registering a very poor first half.
Leicester’s offensive transition
If on the first half Leicester didn’t register any goal-scoring opportunity (only one shot), the same can’t be said about the second half. The “Foxes” changed the “chip” at the halftime and came into the second half with different mentally and attitude. The team increased the first line of pressure, by pressing higher and showing more aggressiveness reaction to the ball loss. This approach allowed Leceister to win and recover more balls and to make use of their biggest strength: the offensive transition. This different approach by Leicester coincided with the awful second half by Chelsea. The effort done by Chelsea players on the midweek game against Liverpool paid its price on the second half, where Chelsea’s players appeared very fatigued.
Leicester’s pressing on 2nd half
In the second half, Leicester opted to press Chelsea high on the pitch in some moments of the game. This obliged Chelsea’s players to play direct balls to the front, which were often won by Leicester City defenders.
Beyond pressing high in some moments, in the second half Leicester was much more aggressive and organized at the moment to fight for the ball than Chelsea. The distance between Chelsea’s players shows how unprepared was the team to react to ball loss.
Man of the match: James Maddison
The strategic change on Maddison’s positioning performed at the half time by Brendan Rodgers was crucial for the positive Leicester’s second half. Maddison looked to positioning himself always in the insides spaces left by Chelsea’s midfielders when those tried to press Leicester’s players. Chelsea’s midfielders often jumped to pressed Leicester’s players on the side of the ball and left the middle zones uncovered, by occupying this space Maddison was the reference player to receive the ball and to reach the creation zones.
Maddison’s performance in the second half earned him the man of the match award. The 23 year old attacking midfield was always the key player in Leicester’s offensive transitions making use of his positioning, dribbling, and passing capacity to create imbalance situations on Chelsea’s defence. The English player registered impressive stats and was crucial on Leicester’s upgrade during the game.
James Maddison’s stats:
6 touches in opposition’s box (most in the match)
24/36 passes (66.7%)
3 chances created
1 assist for Ndidi’s equalizer
Lampard is still yet to get the first victory for Chelsea in official games. Looking back to the game the “Blues” might praise the first 20 minutes of the game, where they showed the way they want and can play, by being very aggressive with and without the ball, pressing high on the pitch and creating rapid attacking situations. On the other hand, the second half showed there’s still a lot to be done. The team showed an incapacity to adjust to different situations in the game. Chelsea’s players were feeling the impact of 120 minutes midweek game and Lampard didn’t change the strategy of the team. It would have been wise in the second half to organize the team in a medium/low block, invite Leicester to take the initiative of the game and then try to explore the offensive transitions. Instead, Chelsea continued to press high but in a more disorganized way and when the team was beaten on this pressing there weren’t fresh legs for the defensive transition, leaving the team exposed and imbalanced
The tactics and the strategic changes at the half time allowed Leicester to come back into the game and having the best goalscoring chances of the game in the 2nd half. With Maddison exploring the insides zones, Leicester broke easily Chelsea’s high pressing from and explore the space between the midfield and defensive line left by Chelsea’s midfield. Leicester got their second draw on the Premier League in normal conditions this would have been a good result for the Foxes, getting a point in a very difficult stadium but looking at the chances missed in the second half they might be thinking that they’ve just lost a very good opportunity to get the three points in Stanford Bridge.