- Alonso (62)
- Depoitre (50)
Chelsea’s late rush towards a top-four finish suffered a setback in this 1-1 home draw with Huddersfield, but it was the visitors who stole the headlines by earning the point that guaranteed their Premier League survival. A matter of days after securing a 0-0 draw with champions Manchester City, David Wagner’s men arrived at Stamford Bridge determined to frustrate a team that lined up without either Eden Hazard or the in-form Olivier Giroud. The Terriers threatened to pull off an almost unthinkable win when Laurent Depoitre got the better of Willy Caballero and slotted home early in the second half, but Antonio Conte called for the cavalry and the equaliser came from a fortunate deflection off the face of Marcos Alonso. Here, our experts give their verdict on all the action.
Chelsea started off in their usual 3-4-3 formation. Wing-backs Marcos Alonso and Davide Zappacosta provided the width, which allowed Pedro and Willian to play inside more and operate as either forwards or attacking midfielders in the half-spaces. Cesar Azpilicueta played as the highest of the three central defenders and was often utilised as an extra man in midfield.
Antonio Conte’s men concentrated the majority of their attacks down their right-hand side. There was a common pattern of Azpilicueta, Zappacosta, Cesc Fabregas and either Willian or Pedro (who often swapped sides) forming a diamond from which they would look to try to unlock the Huddersfield defence. The aim was often to free up either Fabregas or Azpilicueta to cross from deep, for Morata or supporting runners – most commonly Alonso – to attack from deep.
They struggled to break Huddersfield down, however, and going a goal behind forced Conte into action. The introduction of Olivier Giroud for Zappacosta pinned the individuals within Huddersfield’s last line of defence and created more space out wide. Azpilicueta moved to the right side and now provided the width as a traditional full-back in a very attacking 4-2-4 formation. Morata and Giroud occupied the three central defenders, while Willian and Pedro (and later Eden Hazard) tended to stay inside the central defenders and full-backs. This gave Azpilicueta and Alonso freedom to create opportunities from wide areas.
This was, however, not a rigid structure – and Alonso was particularly good at adapting his position in response to the movements of Pedro, Willian and Hazard. If they drifted wide, then Alonso would move inside and occasionally found himself in central attacking areas as a result. His goal, albeit a fortunate deflection, came as a direct result of this positional movement.
A late tactic from Chelsea was for the players occupying the outside central defenders and full-backs to drop deeper to receive the ball and drag the defender with them. This would create space in behind for their ball-players to find, but their passing lacked quality and they struggled to make any genuine late chances.
Chelsea set up in a 3-4-3 formation, with wing-backs Marcos Alonso and Davide Zappacosta providing the width. Cesar Azpilicueta would often move forward from the back three to create overloads on the right-hand side of the Chelsea midfield, where most of their attacks were created.
The diamond pictured here was a common theme throughout the game, although the personnel would occasionally change. This was done to create overloads on the right and create space on the opposite side of the pitch for Alonso to attack.
Alonso would often find himself in more central areas when Willian or later Hazard drifted out wide. It was no accident that he was almost on the penalty spot when he scored; he could have had more goals from similar positions in this game.
After going a goal down, Chelsea switched to a 4-2-4 formation. This pinned the Huddersfield defensive line back and created space for Azpilicueta and Alonso – now in more traditional full-back roles – to create from wide areas.
The attacking players would sometimes drop off the highest line and take defenders with them, which would open up space for other attacking runners in behind. This required clever combination play, but the technical quality was lacking.
Huddersfield set up in a 5-3-2 formation that was very compact and difficult to break down.
Their primary strategy in attack was to send the ball long to Laurent Depoitre, either to run in behind or to hold the ball up.
On the rare occasions Huddersfield did try to play through the thirds, they found themselves outnumbered due to their own hesitance to make forward runs and Chelsea’s numerical superiority. They invariably lost possession in these situations.
There were numerous occasions in the second half when Huddersfield would have all 11 men in and around their own penalty box. This was positive in terms of defending their area, but it also meant that every time they managed to clear the ball, it would come straight back.
The visitors reacted to this late on by leaving Depoitre up the pitch and attempting to get him on the ball in the far corner, where he could run the clock down.
Huddersfield set up in a 5-3-2 formation and had a very clear game plan to soak up the pressure from Chelsea and then look to build on the counter and through direct play. The two wing-backs, Chris Lowe and Tommy Smith, would deal with play in the wide areas, while the three midfielders would act as central screens.
Even when in possession, the two Huddersfield wing-backs were a little hesitant to push forward for fear of being exploited, particularly in the knowledge that a point would be sufficient to ensure their Premier League safety. Smith would occasionally get forward on the right, but Huddersfield maintained defensive security with their three centre-backs staying compact and deep in order to deal with any threat on the counter. Aaron Mooy and Philip Billing provided excellent defensive screens in the midfield block, and worked incredibly hard to cover the ground and regain second balls.
Huddersfield only attempted to play short from goal-kicks once, and that was to entice the press from Chelsea so the long ball to Laurent Depoitre would have a better chance of creating an advantage through second balls. Almost every other attack from the visitors was a direct pass to Depoitre, who got through an exceptional amount of work to win the first ball and hold it up for his teammates.
David Wagner’s team tried on one occasion to build an attack through short passing, but because of their unwillingness to commit numbers forward they had no chance of penetrating Chelsea’s numerical superiority in midfield.
There were occasions in the final 10 minutes when all 11 Huddersfield players were in their own penalty area, Depoitre demonstrating his aerial prowess to help his team out on a number of occasions. The issue here was that the ball was inevitably cleared to Chelsea players, for the onslaught to continue. Late on, they kept Depoitre high and looked to send the ball into the corners for him to hold up and perhaps draw fouls. With the number of Huddersfield players in the box, this made it very difficult for Chelsea to create any clear-cut opportunities; the away team defended valiantly until the final whistle, when they were able to celebrate earning themselves another season in the top flight.
Chelsea looked to operate down their right-hand side as much as possible, the quartet of Cesar Azpilicueta, Cesc Fabregas, Davide Zappacosta and Willian or Pedro used mainly to construct their attacks.
Huddersfield were extremely organised in their 5-3-2 formation. David Wagner had his players working with outstanding intensity throughout.
The visitors’ primary strategy in attack was to send the ball directly to Laurent Depoitre, who was very good at winning the first ball. Aaron Mooy, Rajiv van la Parra and Philip Billing would try to pick up any second balls.
Once Chelsea went a goal down, Antonio Conte’s switch to 4-2-4 and the intelligence of Marcos Alonso in attacking areas caused Huddersfield problems – and created more space for the hosts to build more threatening attacks.