Only two days after the boxing day, Chelsea and Aston Villa returned to the pitch in the EPL last Monday. Despite the lack of training period, both teams did an intense fast game with 1 on 1 on the scoreboard.

This tactical analysis will bring light to the strategy adopted by the teams to try the win the match. We’ll also take a closer look at the tactics and statistics of the tied game along with Football Index Analysis.

Lineups and formations

EPL 20/21: Chelsea vs Aston Villa - tactical analysis tactics

The manager Frank Lampard rotate his squad and Antonio Rüddiger, Andreas Christensen, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Olivier Giroud received a chance to start. The team kept its 4-3-3 formation with Mason Mount in the middle left supporting Ben Chilwell and former Borussia Dortmund player, Christian Pulisic.

On the other side, Dean Smith, Aston Villa’s manager, didn’t change any player from the last match except for the defender Tyrone Mings that was replaced by Ezri Konsa. due to the suspension of his team leader. The well-know 4-2-3-1 formation was kept with Jack Grealish circulating throughout the pitch giving support to the attack.

Aston Villa’s space closers

One of the factors that the good campaign Aston Villa is having this season is due to the intensity of closing spaces in the middle. Douglas Luis and John McGinn have been around all of the midfield leading the team to prevent spaces for the opponent to attack.

EPL 20/21: Chelsea vs Aston Villa - tactical analysis tactics

The heatmaps above are showing that both midfielders from Aston Villa not only collaborate in the defensive phase. They also are playing advanced in the pitch contributing to the offensive construction. McGinn gave two key passes and one shot off target in the match.

When Chelsea had the ball stuck in their defence, both midfielders dictated the rhythm to advance and close the spaces to a hard exit for the opponent. The image below shows McGinn and Douglas running towards the opponents to not allow the short pass in the ground. 

EPL 20/21: Chelsea vs Aston Villa - tactical analysis tactics

The pressure on the opponent with the ball was also another strategy adopted by Smith’s team. In the image below we can see the team posted in the 4-4-2 defensive formation with Douglas Luis covering the middle while McGinn pressured Kay Havertz to run back with the ball.

EPL 20/21: Chelsea vs Aston Villa - tactical analysis tactics

Offensive transition

The first half was more equal between the teams. Aston Villa tried to control the ball and have more possession but it stopped in the well-posted defence of Chelsea. In the attacking phase, we noticed Douglas Luis and McGinn contributing to the construction being the centre midfielders to delivery the first pass. 

EPL 20/21: Chelsea vs Aston Villa - tactical analysis tactics

The image above shows one frame of the construction movement. McGinn returns to the defensive line to receive the ball with space. Then he has a front view of the pitch to make the vertical pass to find Grealish or Ollie Watkins.

Once in the middle, the ball eventually goes to the wingers. In the left side, Anwar El Ghazi received many times in confrontation with Cesar Azpilicueta. But what was supposed to be a good offensive construction stopped in the wide defensive line of Chelsea. The image below shows how Chelsea defenders spread to prevent the attack from the wingers without covering it.

EPL 20/21: Chelsea vs Aston Villa - tactical analysis tactics

Difference between positions in the pitch

Chelsea also opted to use the sides of the pitch with a similar approach. Chilwell especially had a lot of space in the left-wing due to the different position of Aston Villa’s defensive line. Opposed to Chelsea, the defenders from Aston Villa were more close to each other, with a tight line giving the sides to the opponent.

EPL 20/21: Chelsea vs Aston Villa - tactical analysis tactics

The image above shows the frame before the goal scored by Giroud. The defenders from Aston Villa closed the inside in front of the penalty area giving room to Chilwell attack the left side. The quality of Giroud and Pulisic to triangulate with the left-back result in the cross to the striker’s head.

The left side was more used by Chelsea. Chilwell gave eight crosses with two shots on goal and the assistance to Giroud’s goal. The difference between the defensive line was crucial to Chelsea to explore the sides with game volume. The team managed to have 63% of ball possession, 16 shots on goal and 11 corner kicks. But did not result in the victory.

Conclusion

After a good season start, Chelsea has been struggling with the sequence of not convincing results. December only brought two wins in the Premier League for Lampard’s team in the last six matches. The pressure is getting higher, especially with the big star Timo Werner not scoring for a long time. The analysis shows the team controlling the match, creating chances but failing to secure the win.

Aston Villa has two matches behind the top three and has been incredibly efficient this month with five matches invincible. The tied with Chelsea led the team to the fifth place in the league being the second-best defence. Smith is showing the tactics chosen are getting results with consistency, despite the defensive flaws in the sides. The team is giving the supporters a real hope to see the club at least in the Uefa Champions League next season.

Gabriel Pinto