mercoledì 25 aprile 2012

What we learned

What can say about a game as that? We had everything and a heroic defending play that sent Chelsea to the Champions League final. So, what we learned? Here's some stuff.

1. Playing a la Inter 2010 against Barcelona can pay off. As they did in the first leg game, Chelsea rarely went over the midfield's line, but their defensive display was good. Against Barcelona’s 3-4-2-1, Chelsea opposed  a tight formation that made Barcelona hard to play against. Roberto Di Matteo challenged Pep Guardiola's side in the middle of the pitch, where Barcelona is more dangerous. He covered the spaces beetween the four-men back line and the midfield, keeping the holding trio of Raul Meireles, Obi Mikel, and Frank Lampard very close to the defensive line. That closed the spaces around Lionel Messi, Cesc Fabregas, and Alexis Sanchez. On the flanks, both Ramires and Juan Mata had no overlapping full-backs to face, so they had the opportunity to close the gaps centrally, helping the central midfield's trio. Instead, while Ashley Cole, on the left, nullified Cuenca, and Ramires came in the middle to help Meireles, Mikel, and Lampard, Mata went to help Ivanovic against Iniesta on the left.

2. 11 v 10: from 4-4-1 to 4-5-0/6-3-0
Terry’s red card changed Di Matteo’s thinking. The Chelsea's manager brought on Bosingwa to play in the middle alongside Ivanovic, with Ramires as right full-back. But Chelsea 4-4-1 formation didn't work: the defense was uncomfortable allowing the 2-0 goal. So Di Matteo went in the second half defending 4-5, with Drogba lined up as left wide.

Though Drogba made a big mistake, allowing the Barcelona's penalty kick then missed by Messi, he generally made a great job.

In the second half, Guardiola changed his pattern, moving Iniesta inside,  Cuenca to the left and bringing on Alves to the right, while Di Matteo, as the game went on, changed Mata with Kalou and started a 6-3-0 formation, with the four-men back line inside the box, Drogba and Kalou wide open and the three holding midfielders towards the edges of the penalty box. This worked well defensively. With a 6-men back line, Chelsea covered all the field horizontaly and pulled off the Barcelona's opportunity to use the cutting movemements of its forwards.

3. Barcelona's mistakes
Though a passive defense isn't the best way to contain a more technical side, Chelsea's approach worked also thanks to Barcelona's mistakes. Against a side focused on covering the central spaces, Pep Guardiola's team had to explore the flanks, instead of accumulate players in the middle. Utilizing overlapping players is a way to do it. But Guardiola never changed his mind  Barcelona didn’t have anyone to play as central striker but the crosses can be low, close to the ground, made from the inside of penalty box. Also, as we said earlier, Barcelona's lacks of cutting inside movements by the attacking players played a pivotal role: the team played a passing, control the ball kind of game, not winning spaces forward, across Chelsea's back line. Chelsea stayed tight in the middle, nullifying Barcelona's forward passes. Also, trying to recover, Guardiola changed Cesc Fabregas instead of Javier Mascherano, sending off an offensive player and keeping in the match a defensive one, bootless at that moment.

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