Chelsea beat Bournemouth 2-0 on Tuesday evening in their first game back after the World Cup break. It was a much needed win and clean sheet after stumbling form and poor performances before the break.
There was one key element for me that I noticed that really helped Chelsea get the edge over Bournemouth and make it a pretty straight forward game from them in the end, and that was the in-game change of shape.
We are starting to see elements come in to our play that has clearly been implemented by Graham Potter and his team, and the shape is one of them.
I also counted about four moves in the first half that Chelsea made that were quick one-touch passing that set us up for an attack within seconds. We have rarely seen this at Chelsea in recent seasons, with our possession play often being too slow and too laboured.
It was refreshing to see some quick movements and players also taking on those more difficult and riskier passes; that is what we need to be seeing much more, worrying less about keeping possession, and concentrating more on our counter press when we do lose that possession.
But as I say, it was the in-game change of shape that I really noticed as being key to the win. Potter is clearly looking to play a back four as the mainstay going forward, and in this game we lined up in a 4-3-3.
The midfield was pretty staggered, with Jorginho at the base, Denis Zakaria slightly ahead on the right, and Mason Mount ahead again on the left, having the most attacking role out of the three. It worked very well, and provided good balance.
Out of possession we looked a bit like this:
But in possession we looked more like this:
As you can see, it looked more like a back three. Reece James almost plays as a right midfielder, and Marc Cucurella drops deeper as more of a centre back, or a narrow full back. Mount was heavily involved in the attack, and Zakaria and Jorgi dropped slightly.
Another key element was Kai Havertz roaming in a free role. He played as a 9, but he kept dropping in deep to get on the ball and get involved in build up play, and this drew defenders out of position, and allowed Raheem Sterling and Christian Pulisic to often operate in open spaces. James joining the attack often as well really helped this, and most of our attacking threat came from that side.
It’s nice to see ‘Potter-ball’ if you like, starting to take shape. The change of shape is just one of the many things that he and his coaching team have been working on in training. And it’s evident they also have a real emphasis now on moving the ball forward much quicker and taking less time with mundane possession play going backwards and sideways. There’s a time and place for both types of play of course, and that’s why as always, balance is key, as is decision making.
It’s all about getting numbers in attacking positions to penetrate, and the 4-3-3 allows for that a lot better than other formations. Midfield is key to this though, and I’d not be so confident without the physical and energetic presence of Zakaria in there bringing more of a defensive awareness.