Wyscout Analysis: Chelsea vs Manchester United

Wyscout Analysis: Chelsea vs Manchester United

Competition for Champions League places is heat­ing up and Manchester United’s vis­it to Stamford Bridge to face Chelsea is a game that may yet have seri­ous effects on European qual­i­fi­ca­tion at the end of sea­son for two teams placed so close­ly togeth­er in the table. 

Both Frank Lampard and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had an oppor­tu­ni­ty to show how their teams are pro­gress­ing in this match which was even­tu­al­ly won by United 2 – 0. We used Wyscout’s match report to derive key sta­tis­tics and find­ings from this game. 

Formations:

Lampard rolled out his usu­al 4 – 3-3 with United play­ing three at the back with two wing­backs to com­plete a 5 – 3-2 setup. 

Chelsea's 4-3-3. Right image shows Mason Mount taking Kante's position after the Frenchman's early injury.
United's 3-4-1-2 which they stuck with until late in the match when Andreas Pereira and was introduced next to a more advanced Bruno Fernandes in a 3-4-2-1.

Chelsea in Possession:

Chelsea tried to play out from the back when pos­si­ble with cen­tre-backs Christensen and Rüdiger aim­ing to feed Jorginho at the base of mid­field and Mateo Kovacic in cen­tral areas. 

When play­ing out from the back, Chelsea would push their wingers high to pin United’s full­backs deep, which when effec­tive would leave their own full­backs, Cesar Azpilicueta and Reece James, as wide out­lets to advance the ball up the pitch. James had 109 actions with the ball, which was the high­est of any play­er in the match. The below pass­ing matrix shows how often Chelsea’s play­ers passed to one-anoth­er, here you can see Rüdiger found Azpilicueta 13 times alone over the dura­tion of the match.

The Wyscout passing matrix shows how often players from Chelsea connected with passes. Colour intensity indicates the most frequent combinations.

Jorginho and Kovacic in the pivot:

Also what can be seen here is that Jorginho and Kovacic were the dom­i­nant passers in the mid­field. Jorginho com­plet­ed 86 pass­es was the high­est of any play­er on the pitch, with Kovacic sec­ond on 79. 

Often, United’s attack­ing mid­field­er Bruno Fernandes sat on Jorginho and for­wards Daniel James and Anthony Martial marked the Chelsea cen­tre backs, but Chelsea could beat this press with Kovacic drop­ping next to Jorginho in a dou­ble piv­ot to pro­vide an extra option and Kante mov­ing fur­ther for­ward to force united’s mid­field piv­ot deep. 

Passing map showing #5 (Jorginho) and #17 (Kovacic) receiving lots of possession while fullbacks #28 and #24 (Azpilicueta and James) pushed high up the pitch to receiving the ball from the Chelsea pivots.
Chelsea led possession throughout the match with the Jorginho and Kovacic to the fore.

Mason Mount cre­at­ed, but Chelsea were wasteful:

Kante’s injury in the 13th minute meant Mason Mount took his place, he cre­at­ed two oppor­tu­ni­ties that were wast­ed by the Chelsea attack. 

As ear­li­er men­tioned, Chelsea would often move the ball for­ward with their full­backs, which in turn would pin United’s wing­backs deep. In this instance, Chelsea wingers Pedro and Willian would move into nar­row posi­tions to occu­py United’s cen­tral piv­ot which then left space in for a cen­tral attack­er to run in behind. Mason Mount was that cen­tral attack­er and cre­at­ed a big chance for Michy Batshuayi, cross­ing from a wide posi­tion, that was wast­ed by the Belgian striker. 

The same hap­pened again as Mount got in behind Luke Shaw to cross for Olivier Giroud. This time the ball hit the back of the net, but the goal was chalked off by a VAR off­side call. 

Mount's key pass (#19) from the wide area that was wasted by Batshuayi with the score at 0-0. His assist to Giroud is not counted as a key pass due to the goal being disallowed by VAR.
Chelsea shot chart showing 16 shots (only 1 on target). A wasteful performance from their attack.

Manchester United coun­ter­ing Chelsea’s high fullbacks:

United also looked to play out from the back. But to deal with United’s three cen­tre backs, Chelsea brought their wingers in nar­row on the press. This meant the ball could be recy­cled wide to the United wing­backs who had time on the ball. 

On occa­sions where Chelsea pushed their full­backs up, Martial from a for­ward posi­tion, would look to pull left towards the touch­line and receive a long pass from deep to iso­late Martial against the cen­tre back. Harry Maguire had three deep com­ple­tions in the match, which was a match-high for his team. A deep com­ple­tion can be defined as a pass (exclud­ing cross­es) that was received in a 20-meter radius from the oppo­nent goal line.

Eventually it was a link up between United full­back Wan-Bissaka and Martial that com­bined for the open­ing goal. 

Passing stats for United, showing Maguire leading the deep completion and average pass length stat lines as he looked to pick out Martial up front.

Bruno Fernandes the cre­ative force:

With James and Martial fast play­ers, Chelsea’s cen­tre backs would often stay deep to avoid them run­ning in behind, when the Chelsea mids would press high, this left a gap between mid­field and defence in which Bruno Fernandes would take up attack­ing positions.

Fernandes mov­ing into this posi­tion would draw a Chelsea mid, and when Martial would drop deep­er to draw a cen­tre back, this left space for James to run into. This action was flu­id between all three play­ers who could be any part of this attack­ing sequence. 

Aside from pro­vid­ing the cor­ner from which Maguire head­ed in United’s sec­ond goal, Fernandes engi­neered 3 key pass­es, which was the most of any United player. 

Key passes: Fernandes leads the way for United.

Pressing inten­si­ty:

Chelsea would look to counter attack or relieve pres­sure by get­ting the ball to Batshuayi with Pedro in sup­port. But united’s back three and mid­field were up to the task, press­ing and har­ry­ing the Chelsea mid­field­ers and attack­ers and caus­ing them to lose possession. 

The below graph shows both teams’ PPDA, which can be defined as oppo­nent pass­es per defen­sive action in opponent’s final 60% of the pitch. This is a
well-stud­ied met­ric used to qual­i­fy press­ing intensity.

As can be seen in the PPDA graph below, United’s press­ing inten­si­ty was much high­er than Chelsea’s. 

The next image down shows loss­es of pos­ses­sion by Chelsea play­ers. The top four in loss­es for Chelsea were all attack­ing mid­field­ers who were pres­sured by United’s mid­field with ground duels being by far the best source of recoup­ing pos­ses­sion for United. Fred led the way for United with a game-high 22 ground duels in the United engine room.

The PPDA metric shown here in graph form.
Chelsea's midfielders were pressured intensely by United.

Conclusion: 

A strong per­for­mance from the United mid­field in terms of workrate, com­bined with the cre­ative force of Bruno Fernandes meant the three points went back to Manchester. Chelsea will rue their missed oppor­tu­ni­ties espe­cial­ly when they could have opened the scor­ing in the first half. Chelsea were how­ev­er just the sec­ond side ever to have two goals award­ed and then over­turned by VAR in a Premier League match this sea­son, after Sheffield United against Brighton in December.

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