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Chelsea 1-0 Manchester United: Tactical Analysis


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Both teams were missing key players for this match and it was interesting to see how the two managers would replace them. Chelsea were without two of their strikers in the likes of Diego Costa and Loic Remy which meant that Jose Mourinho had no other choice but to play Didier Drogba. Willian was ill and this meant Oscar starting on the right wing. United had more problems and had to deal with the absences of Michael Carrick, Daley Blind, Marcos Rojo and Phil Jones. Some of those players were key to United's recent rise and Louis van Gaal would've certainly preferred them to be fit for this clash. The Dutch manager chose to drop Wayne Rooney in midfield and replace him with Falcao while the changes in defense were obvious. Luke Shaw is better offensively than Blind and caused the Blues many problems with his forward runs.


The match began with dominance from United and a couple of problems with Chelsea's approach became clear. There was too much space for United's centre-back to dribble through the middle and seeing that the hosts were defending deeply there was a gap between the striker and the midfield. This was partially caused by the lack of efficient pressing from Drogba and Fabregas who were easily bypassed by United's passing. Herrera dropped back deep to get the ball which meant United had an extra man to help them build from the back, but the striker and attacking midfielder were focused on marking him which left space for the central defenders.


In the fourth minute, United probably had their best chance in the game. While Fellaini was engaging Zouma and Ivanovic was more focused on Ashley Young, Oscar didn't track back and left Luke Shaw unmarked, who, thanks to his pace, outran Ivanovic and found the unmarked Wayne Rooney outside of the penalty area. Zouma and Matic can be faulted because they weren't aware of Rooney's position and couldn't stop the shot. Chelsea were lucky that the English striker couldn't find the target or the game could've played out differently.


United's centre-back Paddy McNair often stormed forward and tried to catch Courtois by surprise with long shots, but the Belgium goalkeeper was aware of the danger and managed to keep them out. After the first twenty minutes Chelsea started to look for counter-attacks and were unlucky on a couple of occasions. Eden Hazard was the man who had to create upfront and United often left him one on one against Valencia. Fabregas was also trying to be more direct and made a couple of runs at the opposition's defense.


Chelsea managed to neutralize Falcao for most of the match by marking him tightly and not allowing him much time on the ball. That played a role in Chelsea's goal as John Terry won the ball off the Colombian striker and that started the attack in which Hazard made a great run off the ball through the center of the pitch. That caught Ander Herrera off guard and he couldn't follow him quickly enough which ultimately lead to the goal.

United's defense was high up the pitch and if Chelsea had a faster striker than Drogba that could've caused them much more problems. In the situation where Matic intercepted a pass and played Didier through, the Chelsea striker should've done better, but he isn't young anymore and doesn't possess the same pace as he did a couple of seasons back.

Mata was completely taken out of the game because Azpilicueta marked him tight and didn't allow him any time on the ball. The Spanish maestro was invisible for most of the game and was reasonably substituted.

Most of Chelsea's problems came from the left side where Manchester tried to overload the zone with Young, Fellaini and Shaw. The English full-back often overlapped Young and Ivanovic had a hard time against him. That's why Mourinho brought on Ramires on the right side and shut down the zone.

Falcao was frustrated most of the game and didn't have the space he needs to pose a threat. He tried finding the space between Cahill and Ivanovic which lead to Zouma making a mistake but luckily United's number 9 blasted the ball into the post.


Jose Mourinho's experiment with Kurt Zouma in midfield was once again successful and the Frenchman countered Fellaini's aerial influence. Chelsea's boss gave United the attack and relied on counter-attacks like he has done many times in the big games. He played not to lose, had a little bit of fortune and won, so shouldn't be faulted for his approach.

Constructive criticism is always appreciated. If you enjoyed this article make sure to follow me on Twitter where are post links to my other work.

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I rarely comment, but I have to say that articles like this is what makes me keep coming to this website. Since I found this website I've read all your analysises, and I always hope there is an analysis of the match, as I find them very interesting. I don't naturally understand too much of the tactical aspects of the game, I just watch them for fun and as a fan and hope for the goals :P

But these analysis you provide are great for insights and understanding of the game. So thank you for that.

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