Chelsea Need To Learn From Their Mistakes – A Tactical Analysis

Basel shocked the European footballing world , by taking away 3 points at Stamford Bridge . Jose Mourinho’s eggs were left scrambled at the end of 90 minutes, as they wondered what went wrong. Let’s have a look at how the Swiss champions were able to achieve a historic first victory in the British Isles.

Basel’s philosophy and performance :

From a tactical point of view, Basel gave in a terrific performance. They sat back and defended hard, and initiated lightning fast counter-attacks from the flanks. Two banks of four (4 midfielders and 4 static defenders) is very hard to break down A perfect example of a European away performance. After getting the equalizer, many expected Chelsea to bounce back strongly, however Basel looked like the one most likely to score.

Their effectiveness was remarkable. Chelsea dominated possession,having 59% in the first half. However when it came to converting their possession into chances, they failed. Basel had 6 shots in which 2 of them resulted in goals. This gives us a remarkable conversion rate of 33.33% . Further proof that possession doesn’t exactly win you games.

Basel did everything right , in the sense that they accepted that they were minnows, but weren’t going to back down. At the end of the day, Chelsea failed to live up to the expectations, but this shouldn’t take away credit from the Swiss side who were brilliantly well structured despite the huge pressure from the fans and players.

Chelsea will suffer without width and a target man

This was the average player position for Chelsea. A very sorry state of affairs cause there’s absolutely zero width. Wingers are expected to play down the flanks, but do have the option of cutting in as well. Should that be applicable throughout the game? Any coach would say no. For a moment lets think that wingers can cut inside and stay there for the majority of the game ( think Pedro, Sanchez) . The role of providing width falls on the full-backs. Was that done? Ivanovic (2) and Cole (3) on an average, barely moved ahead of the half-way line. Hazard (17) and Willian (22) did their job of cutting inside, but the attacking third was theoretically very narrow.

Heatmaps show that Ivanovic made more runs than Cole, but that still doesn’t justify the problem. I would personally have liked Bertrand to start, as he provides an added attacking impetus, something Cole seem’s to have lost in the last year or so. The same can be said for Azpilicueta instead of Ivanovic.

Basel played compact, with the midfield four pressing and making the pitch smaller. In hindsight, if Chelsea were to restrict Willian and Hazard’s movement only to the flanks, I would see Chelsea scoring a lot more goals.

Having a look at the average position map again, see how Eto’o (29) is more left than Hazard (17). Too much drifting to towards the flanks has a huge downside. Whenever the midfielders look up, they have nobody making a run.

His heat map gives a very grim story. Rarely was he playing directly down the flanks. The philosophy that Mourinho’s trying to apply is way too complicated when trying to break down a well organized defensive structure. If he had stayed centrally, the problem of congestion would arise. It’s a huge possibility as Chelsea would be even more vulnerable to counter-attacks.

This map show’s the direction of attacking plays. While Chelsea’ tried avoiding width, they were forced to go down there, due to Basel making the pitch smaller. This made sure that Chelsea lacked clear cut chances as the wingers were more interested as playing midfielders. Attacks came down the flanks, but rarely with support. Hazard and Cole’s linkup play was quite horrible, contrary to how it was against Hull City and Aston Villa.

Basel on the other hand, only wanted to defend narrow as they highlighted Chelsea’s weakness. All they had to do was make sure that every counter-attack that started from deep, had to be played down the sides. This would give them a greater chance in converting their possession into goals, which at the end of the day, they did thanks to a remarkable performance from Salah.

A tactical master-piece, in which Chelsea fell short due to small reasons that can easily be corrected. Despite the over-reaction, there isn’t much to worry about, as the holes in Chelsea’s attacking transition can be plugged in time. Expect a very different Chelsea side against Fulham.

Published in Permission with Sherry Philips