Chelsea 3 Shakhtar Donetsk 2 – 7th November2012

Chelsea will take all three points from tonight’s encounter, but in truth they would have been lucky to take a draw going into the final minutes of a highly entertaining match. Shakhtar were the side who dominated for large parts of the game, but it’s the home team who got the winner late on. Here are five quick observations…

Hazard’s positioning

It’s no surprise to see Eden Hazard drifting over to the right flank from his left-sided position, but tonight he seemed to be doing this more so than before – and he very rarely picked up the ball on his original flank. Whenever Chelsea attacked his first thought was always to cut inside and occupy one of Tomas Hubschman and Fernandinho. This meant that Ryan Bertrand was the only consistent provider of width down the Chelsea left hand side. However, only Fernando Torres and Petr Cech had less touches of the ball, showing how conservative the left back was tonight.

Srna was a constant outlet for the away side and had plenty of space to travel into

Srna the outlet

Bertrand’s conservatism was primarily down to the constant threat of his direct opponent, Alex Teixeira, and even more so, the runs of Darijo Srna from deep, who had a very good game. With Hazard (yellow ring) playing as a second player in the hole at times, when Shakhtar won the ball, there was a very clear turnover opportunity down the right hand side where Srna had acres of space to move into unchallenged (orange box). It’s no surprise that both Shakhtar goals came down the right hand side where, due to Hazard often being too central and high up the pitch at turnovers, Bertrand was left to mark both Teixeira and Srna in a 1v2. For both of Willian’s goals he was on the receiving end of cut backs after Srna had gotten in behind the Chelsea defence down this flank.

Wasteful Chelsea

Chelsea averaged a pass completion percentage of 85% tonight, but their passing at times seemed a lot sloppier than this would suggest. In defence, David Luiz and Bertrand averaged 83% and 81% respectively and further up the pitch Hazard (83%), Oscar (84%) and Juan Mata (just 76%) also seemed to be making slightly strange decisions once in possession. The away side completed 88% of their passes with Willian and Luiz Adriano the most wasteful (both 84%).

Shakhtar’s full backs (orange boxes) were very advanced when their side attacked

Hubschman and Fernandinho

The two holding players for Shakhtar, Hubschman and Fernandinho, both had superb games. They both averaged 93% passing accuracy and both made four tackles. It was clear that each understood their role in the side. Coach Mircea Lucescu instructed them to sit in midfield, allowing both full backs to push up the pitch, meaning that Shakhtar had a very solid central spine – important for playing against a team like Chelsea that naturally attacks with little width due to playing three attacking midfielders all used to playing down the centre. Hubschman was the more defensive minded of the two, and often made straightforward sideways passes, whereas Fernandinho was more adventurous (completing six accurate long balls out of seven) and played a role in both goals.

Willian the star

However the star of the match was certainly Willian, who claimed both of his side’s goals. The first was from a cutback by Fernandinho after Srna got in behind Bertrand and took advantage of Hazard’s reluctance to defend, and the second came after picking up the ball on the edge of the box and making a pass before getting back into the box, ready to finish from another cutback. As well as getting the goals, Willian worked extremely hard defensively, making three tackles in the process, and tonight’s performance rightly justified him being linked with the likes of Chelsea and Tottenham.

As always feel free to comment. You can follow me on twitter @TTTFootball.

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About Sam Thompson (@TTTFootball)

Sam is the sole editor and writer of TTTFootball – a football tactics blog that analyses the main fixtures in the top five European Leagues as well as international matches and European competitions. Sam is a massive Ipswich Town fan and currently studies Journalism at the University of Kent. For links to more of his articles, follow him on twitter: @TTTFootball
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