Graham Potter’s first recreation in command of Chelsea will really feel curiously acquainted to anybody who recurrently watches his Brighton facet.
There have been parts of Brighton from the previous few seasons: dominating however failing to win. And there have been bits of Brighton from the beginning of the season: a really uncommon form, the place Potter’s facet defended in a three-man protection however defended vast areas with out correct wing-backs.
On paper, Potter’s facet might both be a again 4 – Cesar Azpilicueta partnered by Thiago Silva within the heart of defence, and Reece James and Marc Cucurella both flank – or a again three that includes Azpilicueta, Silva and Cucurella. It turned the latter, with James pushing ahead to turn out to be a wing-back. That theoretically left Raheem Sterling on the wing on the other facet.
However in fact, Sterling was nothing like a wing-back. Take this case, for instance, after throwing to the far facet. Cucurella is ready that implies he’s answerable for protecting all the left facet of the protection.
Solely as soon as did Sterling are available from a large place as Crimson Bull Salzburg decisively received possession from the throw-in. That is, clearly, not a correct “wing-back” – however, within the absence of a correct time period, we’ll keep it up for now.
Certainly, at instances Sterling felt a part of a entrance three alongside Kai Havertz and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Halfway by way of the primary half, he raced again to take a Havertz lofted move over the Salzburg protection.
…and, on this place, feels most like an inside-left.
Sterling’s solely actual defensive contribution got here when he rushed to assist sack Salzburg on the touchline, however probably the most notable function of the transfer was how Cucurella moved out of the left-wing centre-back place and Jorginho successfully dropped. Keep three-man protection.
The hallmark of Sterling’s recreation was not hugging the touchline and dribbling straight ahead, however as an alternative staying on the far put up to gather crosses. Ten minutes to James’ deep cross…
A bit mishandled by Sterling, however he recovered nicely…
And slide in Cucurella on the overlap.
Eight minutes later, it is the identical factor – this time James will get to the byline…
… and performs a deep cross to Sterling to deliver the ball down, and check out to create space for a shot.
The subsequent scenario got here after an exquisite flip from James – and, seeing Sterling alone on the far put up, he tried to fireside in a strong low cross.
…but it surely performed past Sterling and Aubameyang.
Then there was a change – James pulling the ball again to Azpilicueta, whose deep cross…
…Along with his shot blocked, Sterling was invited to volley at aim.
However, in Chelsea’s first transfer of the second half, the plan lastly labored. At this level, Mason received the ball on a run in entrance of Mount James.
It is exhausting to know if this barely errant cross, which one way or the other eluded 4 gamers within the center, was really meant to achieve Sterling. However, from the aforementioned deep crosses within the first half, it looks like this has an excellent likelihood of being the concept…
…Sterling took a contact to set himself up, then curled the ball neatly into the far nook. 1-0.
And, to this point, Chelsea have not had too many defensive issues.
Immediately, however maybe when their stress eased a bit, Salzburg got here into play. Chelsea’s defensive form was beginning to look a bit loopy – that is primarily how they play, one thing approaching a five-man midfield however probably not conceptual wing-backs in entrance of midfield.
Maybe it is a full misinterpretation of the system, which is definitely 3-3-2-2. Nonetheless, on this scenario, Chelsea give Lucas Gorna-Douth time on the ball in midfield, and their defensive form lacks width.
And, certain sufficient, Gourna-Douath has time to move the ball to Maurits Kjaergaard. Right here, it actually feels prefer it’s Mount and Mateo Kovacic who’re answerable for defending vast areas, however Mount is not ready to cease this move.
Salzburg discovered house outdoors Chelsea’s protection with ease.
9 minutes later, Chelsea have it, and it is value assessing the positions of the 2 “ping-backs” – James and Sterling each excessive and, in Sterling’s case, stunningly vast. The opposite standout participant on this picture is right-sided centre-back Azpilicueta, on the close to facet.
When Chelsea lose possession, each James and Sterling are unable to show round and assist. Azpilicueta is unable to defend the proper of the pitch. Once more, Salzburg usher in males from the again of the close by facet, and this case could possibly be executed higher.
Two minutes later, the aim comes. Once more, Sterling and James aren’t in place to assist the protection – they’re on the midway line – regardless that perhaps they should not be supporting the protection. Nonetheless, this once more signifies that Chelsea are uncovered down one flank because the vast centre-back – this time Cucurella – absorbs the pitch.
… and after Silva misses a deal with on the far facet and Azpilicueta catches Noah Okafor’s transfer, Salzburg seize an equalizer and Chelsea go to the underside of Group E.
The targets felt like they sprung straight from Chelsea’s strategy – mixed with a particularly excessive wing-back (or winger) three-man protection, Sterling saved receiving deep crosses from outdoors, but it surely meant Chelsea could not cowl the width. Again pitch.
However primarily based on how his Brighton facet have performed this season and the way Chelsea have positioned themselves all through this match, that is precisely what Potter needed. It is too early to make judgments about whether or not Potter’s strategy can be profitable at Chelsea, however both means it is unlikely to be bleak.