After a series of poor performances in the pre-season friendlies, Jose Mourinho led Chelsea started its Premier League title defense on Saturday. A red to Thibaut Courtois and two equalizers from Swansea denied Chelsea full points in front of the home crowd, continuing its winless run.
Chelsea – 4-2-3-1: Courtois; Cesar Azpilicueta, John Terry, Gary Cahill, Branislav Ivanovic; Nemanja Matic, Cesc Fabregas; Eden Hazard, Oscar, Willian; Diego Costa.
Swansea – 4-2-3-1: Lukasz Fabianski; Neil Taylor, Ashley Williams, Federico Fernandez, Kyle Naughton; Ki Sung-Yeung, Jonjo Shelvey; Jefferson Montero, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Andre Ayew; Bafetimbi Gomis.
Chelsea’s poor decision-making in the final third: (00:00 to 00:18)
After defending Swansea’s attack and knitting a few good passes, Chelsea broke free towards the opposition goal and created a 5v4 situation. Here, Hazard chose to pass the ball to Ivanovic. The angle of the pass (very much a horizontal one) slowed the right back, put Hazard and Willian up against Williams and Taylor respectively, and gave Swans some time to regain their defensive structure.
On the other hand, if Hazard had chosen to execute the passing options indicated in the picture, then the number of passes involved in the attack would have doubled. Oscar was in the middle of the act and was not facing any opponent. A pass to Oscar (1) could have either provoked Williams to press him (in which case a return ball to the Hazard (2), who is advancing into the space behind Swansea’s defense) or led to a pass to Costa (2) (cross from him to Oscar or Hazard). In any case, both the passes (1 and 2) would have been diagonal and directed from the center towards the half-space region and could have hampered with the back line of Swans.
So Hazard’s poor pass choice in this situation resulted in a wasted chance for the home team.
Chelsea change to situation back three – poor response from Azpilicueta and central midfielders: (00:19 to 01:04)
With the back line of Chelsea changing shape, the team should have resembled a 3-4-3: the two wingbacks pushing forward and the central midfielders (Fabregas and Oscar) offering passing options for the defenders. Swansea quickly changed to 4-4-2.
Here, Terry does not have a good passing option – he has Azpilicueta, but the effectiveness of the pass is less. Hazard should have moved a bit wide to offer Terry a vertical passing option or Fabregas should have dropped into the space behind Swansea forwards or at least Azpilicueta should have pushed on a bit forward.
Azpilicueta finally ends up passing the ball over the midfield line of Swansea to no good use.
The very relaxed approach of Chelsea – no pressure on Ki: (01:07 to 01:18)
With Fabregas seeming reluctant to move from his position and Matic’s slow running, Ki plunged into the free space ahead of him and laid out a good ball to Gomis. Fortunately for Chelsea, the assistant referee raised the offside flag against the striker.
This wasn’t the only case. Ki made many such runs (03:05 to 03:09) and found no difficulty in connecting with Montero on the left wing.
Ayew orchestrated a superb attacking move by dropping deep and dragging Matic and Azplicueta with him. Ayew’s movements provided Shelvey with space ahead of him and no Chelsea player to press him. This resulted in a goal scoring chance for the Swans but Gomis failed to put the ball in the net.
Ivanovic’s nemesis: (see Swansea’s first goal – 01:56 to 02:22)
Ivanovic, who likes to pose attacking threats with his advanced movements, found it hard to balance between his forward runs and tracking of Montero.
Ivanovic’s rush to get ahead put Fabregas under pressure by exposing and the picture below shows the case where the Spaniard was easily dispossessed.
Although it was a rather disappointing from Chelsea until the second equalizer by Swansea, the home team did well in the second half with a man down. Chelsea tried to convert their qualitative superiority to create openings. Chelsea also started playing a lot diagonal passes to switch from one flank to another and stretch the opponents.
If the problems that occurred are dealt with properly, Chelsea can be as good as they were last season.
This article was also published on Football Hunting. This is the first of the many articles that will be published on both the sites.