Swansea City 2 – 2 Chelsea: Post-Match Tactics & Review

When the Chelsea coaching staff regroup at their Cobham training ground this morning, heads will be scratched furiously as they try to work out how they left the Liberty Stadium with just a point.

Swansea City were the perfect hosts for Antonio Conte’s men, offering them plenty of the ball in the attacking third and until the second half, posing little genuine attacking threat themselves. And yet, yesterday’s 2 – 2 draw felt like it was the right result.

Swansea on the back foot from kick-off

Wary of the threat posed by Chelsea’s midfield, Francesco Guidolin opted for a 3 – 5 – 1 – 1 formation. The theory was sound with the centre backs able to pass Diego Costa on to one another whilst offering cover, negating his preference for playing on the shoulder of the last defender.

Numbers in midfield meant that the space Oscar, Hazard and Willian crave should have been at a premium.

It didn’t work as Swansea were dragged more frequently into a 6 – 3 – 1 shape with Chelsea finding space through judicious flank play and dribbling, leaving Fernando Llorente increasingly isolated.

Guidolin spoke afterwards, acknowledging that his side had struggled to hold their shape.

“I think it’s normal to have a little bit (uncertainty), but this is a different game to the Leicester game. I think we can play again with this system because, in my opinion, we have the characteristics to play this way.”

All the planning in the world means nothing when sloppiness creeps in

There was an air of inevitability about Chelsea’s opener.

Lukasz Fabianski made two good saves in the opening fifteen minutes and when the ball was headed upwards by Fernandez rather than away, Fabianski looked to claim, went back to his line and the ball remained in the Swansea penalty area.

It was neither commanding goalkeeping nor commanding defending with the latter more of the root cause of the goal.

Oscar’s presence of mind when the ball fell to him was an object lesson to any youngster watching and quite a few experienced professionals as well. The Brazilian was always aware of his team-mates positioning and fed Diego Costa with a beautifully weighted pass.

The Spanish international’s finish was equally exquisite; well-struck and taken early, it always favoured the striker rather than Fabianski.

Once the goal went in, Chelsea could quite easily have doubled or trebled their lead. Hazard took full advantage of a static Swansea defence and dribbled his way through, only to be denied by Fabianski’s legs.

The Pole would deny Diego Costa before half-time as Swansea’s plan to absorb Chelsea’s pressure, having frayed around the edges, began to crumble.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. If it is, act quickly

Which is what Swansea manager Guidolin did. Four minutes before the interval, he withdrew Neil Taylor and switched to a back four. Swansea limped through to the end of the first half and regrouped.

Chelsea began the second half where they spent most of the first: on the attack. Within a couple of minutes, Willian had a half-chance to extend the visitors lead but Swansea began to build a head of steam and by the hour mark, were level.

Same old Chelsea, always leaking

John Terry in his prime was never the fastest defender and now at 35, he’s lost the yard of pace he had. Gary Cahill isn’t particularly quick either so when they play a high line, Chelsea are at their most vulnerable.

Little surprise that Antonio Conte spent the summer scouring Europe to sign a mobile centre back although the return to Stamford Bridge of the calamitous David Luiz is hardly reassuring.

Swansea’s equaliser came with the Chelsea centre backs exposed. Gylfi Sigurdsson broke the offside trap, latching onto a ball over the top of the defence and as he rounded Thibaut Courtois, he was tripped by the Belgian. The Icelandic international swept home the resultant penalty.

Pep Guardiola made it clear that he wanted a ‘sweeper keeper’, Chelsea need the same to mask their vulnerability. Courtois is young enough to learn that role but at the moment, doesn’t read the game well enough to perform those duties.

A change in the rules worked in Chelsea’s favour with Courtois receiving a booking which in years gone by would have been a straight red card.

Gary Cahill is the likeliest loser when Luiz returns to the first team

Being first choice for England means nothing to club managers; ask Joe Hart. Cahill rightly claimed Leroy Fer, fouled him during the build-up to Swansea’s second – it was as obvious as the Chelsea centre back made clear to the referee.

However, Cahill’s handling of the situation which saw him dispossessed raised questions about his judgement.

David Luiz has been training with John Terry and that is believed to be Antonio Conte’s favoured pairing. Hardly surprising: Cahill is as error-prone as Luiz but without the pace to rescue himself.

With the exception of Cesar Azpilicueta, Chelsea’s back four – Branislav Ivanovic included – is vulnerable to pace and it is this Conte wanted to address during the summer. He compensated for the same weakness at Juventus and with the Azzurri by playing a back five; at the moment, that’s high risk with Chelsea not having the necessary depth in their squad.

You can’t keep a good man down

And when he is in form, Diego Costa is a good man to have in your XI and makes you forget about the dark arts which come as part of his package. Chelsea’s strength is the variety of their attack with wide players equally comfortable on the touchline or moving inside.

Strong support from the full backs gives them numbers and when their minds are focussed, the passing is incisive and lethal.

Diego Costa’s equaliser underlined that. Ivanovic joined the attack and when the rebound from his shot came to the Spanish international, he wasted little time in executing the perfect bicycle kick. A stunning finish to an enthralling game.

Going forwards

Whilst Chelsea will be aggrieved at not winning, they will go into Friday’s meeting with Liverpool in good heart. The Blues have plenty of attacking verve and will trouble the Merseysiders porous defence.

But they have their own vulnerability to pace, suggesting a high-scoring game at Stamford Bridge this weekend. Liverpool have signed speed in abundance with Sadio Mane.

Swansea put their defensive woes behind them once they switched to a more orthodox formation. Guidolin hinted it may be used again, probably away from home more often than not but the second half underlined that the Swans strength lies in their attacking abilities.

Written by Stuart Stratford

Sports Writer for the last ten years, I have written the well-respected football (soccer) website, A Cultured Left Foot, focussing on Arsenal but with a broader outlook than most club-specific sites.

Follow me on Twitter @Yogis_Warrior

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