Frank Lampard’s Chelsea took a big step towards securing Champions League football for next season as they beat Manchester City 2-1 at Stamford Bridge.
Unlike previous performances against Manchester City at home, this Chelsea performance was well planned and well executed with Frank Lampard coming out victorious in the battle against Pep Guardiola.
One of the key aspects which allowed Chelsea to see out Guardiola’s men was their fantastic use of a midblock. Lampard smartly identified Manchester City’s strong points, nullifying them using his own chess pieces and picking up the three points.
We’ll analyze Chelsea’s strategy in depth:
Lineup and Statistics
Do not let the possession stats and a Kevin de Bruyne free kick fool you, Chelsea dominated this encounter creating most of the dangerous situations.
Chelsea ended the game with more shots on target and much the better chances as their xG of 2.8 excluding the penalty they scored in contrast to 0.8xG Manchester City had, which is remarkable considering the talent the latter possesses.
Chelsea set up in their typical 4-3-3 formation with the surprise inclusion of Ross Barkley in the lineup alongside Kante and Mason Mount in midfield. Olivier Giroud kept his place, being flanked by Pulisic and Willian (both fantastic on the day).
Both Barkley and Mount were deployed as interior midfielders with the aim roles assigned to them to help the team out defensively, while Chelsea used Willian and Pulisic as both outlets and support for Giroud to play off.
4-5-1 While Defending
Chelsea primarily defended in a 4-5-1, another defensive variation of the 4-3-3 which we already discussed. The screengrab clearly shows them being set up in said formation to defend Manchester City’s attacks.
City have a habit of exploiting opposition half spaces very well and Frank Lampard recognised that, using interior midfielders in Barkley and Mount to help stop or minimize that exploitation.
As you can probably see, the staggered 3/2 was used to counter the movement of Kdb and David Silva which worked to a treat. But how did they manage to balance the players’ defensive responsibility while maintaining their offensive threat?
Normally teams would either use a zonal or a man marking system while pressing or containing opposition. Lampard’s side used a combination of both to make sure that they had all their basis covered.
Each player was given a specific zone to operate and defend in. Sometimes these zones would have multiple players being involved to help defend the ball into those half spaces that City use so well. We’ve outlined the areas that showcased importance to the Chelsea players.
- White Zones: Stay in your zones and defend space
- Blue Zones : Press and force City back
- Red Zones: Overload and look to counter
This was especially useful when defending against Kevin de Bruyne, with Mount/Markley dropping in with the wide midfielders/forwards in Pulisic and Willian to block passing options and space for the former Chelsea man.
Everytime he would drive with the ball, one of these players would leave their zones to follow their man with the wide and or central midfielder dropping in to fill the void should the ball be moved in either half space or out wide towards Mahrez/Sterling.
Defending Wide Areas
In our opinion, it’s defending the wide areas that won Chelsea the game. Every time City would shift the ball outwide, Chelsea would overload the side of the pitch with the ball, with the Center-back following the side of play too and occupying the wide players instead of staying central.
This provided both Raheem Sterling and Mahrez with a 4v3 situation every time they had the ball, even with the overlapping fullback and midfielders providing support. Willian and Pulisic would drop back to support while the midfielders stayed in their zones, occupying the City attackers from central areas.
This is one of the reasons Lampard is keen to keep Willian at the club. The Brazilian’s technical quality along, assurance in possession and his workrate makes him an important asset for the team.
One of Frank Lampard’s strength as a manager is to use his midfielders in the best possible positions available. He selects his midfielders depending on the opposition while staying true to his attacking style of play.
This time, It was Kante’s turn.
Lampard deployed Kante as the defensive anchor in this game. Due to his superior athleticism and ability to defend multiple zones at once, the France World Cup winner was instrumental in the win against City. City’s midfielders by nature take turns becoming false-9 for the side, allowing for greater rotation and penetration into the opposition third.
Kante was tasked to track these runs into the box to nullify that while also helping cover different zones across the back 4. When City shifted the ball outwide, Kante would become an auxiliary CB while either of Rudiger or Christensen would engage the City wide attackers while the other midfielders provided support in the zones they were assigned in.
This also allowed both Pulisic and Willian to stay a little higher up the field if their zones were bypassed, to provide a counter attacking threat and not have City completely boxed into the box. This is how Chelsea scored their first goal.
Chelsea has basically given the rest of the league a blueprint for ‘How to beat Manchester City’ and we feel that this strategic set up has a much better chance of succeeding against their attack.
With them strengthening in key positions with players like Kai Havertz and Timo Werner (we have Scout Reports on them below) things are looking up for the blue side of London