Saturday, January 11, 2014

Tactical Analysis: Chelsea 2-0 Hull City

Chelsea managed to overcome a well organized Hull City side with second half strikes from Eden Hazard and Fernando Torres after Steve Bruce's side had frustrated the visiting Blues throughout the first half.

Bruce went with the 3-5-1-1 formation he's opted for most of the season with Ahmed Elmohamady and Maynor Figueroa operating as wing backs. George Boyd played a withdrawn forward role in behind Yannick Sagbo.Tom Huddlestone, David Meyler and Jake Livermore made up the midfield three.

Defensively, Hull's shape was almost a 4-5-1 despite the fact they lined up with three central defenders. Boyd would drop in on the left side of midfield to pick up Cesar Azpilicueta with Figueroa sitting in behind more as a traditional left back. On the other side Elmohamady defended higher up the pitch on Ashley Cole as part of the midfield bank of five. Behind him James Chester would close down the right flank from his right center back spot if any balls got in behind Elmohamady. The graphic below roughly shows Hull's shape.

Coming up against a midfield bank of five and three narrow center backs in behind them, Chelsea found it incredibly difficult to get any sort of penetration through the middle of the pitch. Mourinho played his normal 4-2-3-1 with David Luiz and Ramires as the double pivot and Oscar in the #10 role. Hulls shape was good and there weren't gaps available for Luiz and Ramires to play balls through the Hull midfield into Oscar and Hazard and Willian tucking inside from the wings. As a result, Chelsea were unable to get at the three Hull center backs. The screen shot below shows how compact Hull were and how crowded the center of the pitch was for Chelsea. All 11 Hull players are in the defensive half and the midfield five are working hard to deny Chelsea space in between the lines.

On a few occasions Luiz looked to bypass the Hull midfield with balls over the top into the channels but the three center backs were usually able to deal with them comfortably.

When Chelsea's opener finally arrived it was a result of brilliant build up play from the Blues and an excellent finish from Hazard rather than a loss of defensive shape from City. Ashley Cole got into an advanced narrow position, rare for him under Mourinho, and played a clever flick onto Hazard at the edge of the box. He was able to create enough space for himself to fire low past McGregor into the right corner of the net.

After the goal Hull ultimately shifted to a 4-4-2 but never really troubled Chelsea. With the home side forced to take a more adventurous approach, Chelsea had more opportunities to transition forward quickly on the counter. Torres sealed the win for Chelsea in the 87th from a two pass Chelsea move on the break.

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