Leicester City vs Chelsea: tactical analysis, what went wrong for Mourinho?
Chelsea travelled to the King Power stadium in high spirits after an impressive showing against Porto in the Champions League in a do or die match but Leicester had been in a league of their own in the domestic campaign while Chelsea had been just a point above the relegation three. A win for Leicester would mean they would sit on top of the table and they were up for the challenge, dispatching the Champions away in a 2-1 win over at Leicester.
Coming into the match, Leicester had been playing their typically incisive counter attacking football and hence they tread with caution in the initial minutes of the match with Chelsea looking the better team over the first ten to fifteen minutes but Chelsea like so often this season, failed to capitalize on their dominance and just had sustained possession around the Leicester box instead of the middle.
Leicester on their part kept hunting down Chelsea when they were in possession and the fact that Chelsea were lousy with their passing meant that situations of all kinds, promising and generic, resulted in a disappointing stray pass which turned over the possession. More often than not, Diego Costa was bullied off the ball by the Leicester centre backs and with no one else to hold up the ball, Chelsea were left passing around amongst the centre backs and Matic.
An especially disappointing performance was put forth by Ramires who seemed incapable of finding any Chelsea player with his passing and always chose the wrong option. It was not uncommon for him to put the Chelsea defence in a tight spot with his wayward passing turning over possession to players like Albrighton and Kante who then immediately pushed up the pitch to turn in a cross for their strike force of Ulloa and Vardy or switch play to the brilliant Mahrez.
Vardy has been given an especially free role be Ranieri this season and he seems to be making the most of it. He has been given zero restrictions by the manager and seems to enjoy the space afforded to him simply because Ulloa needs one of the centre backs constantly monitoring him due to his aerial prowess.
With one centre back marking Ulloa, the full backs marking their respecting wingers and Matic helping out the wing back against the opposing winger in possession, Vardy was only being monitored by one centre back and it was hence easy for him to find space in between the centre backs. It seemed like a defensive system destined to fail against the overload Leicester were making in the Chelsea box.
The fact that Chelsea wingers are not as proficient in tracking back as someone in their opposing team, like say, Vardy makes it an extremely difficult proposition for Chelsea to deal with such overloads and it has been exposed time and again this season with teams like Crystal Palace and Liverpool using them to expose the Chelsea backline this season.
Another pressing issue with Chelsea this season is their obvious lack of motivation and abysmal work ethic. Mourinho has not been devoid of blame for their results but any regular person can see that this team thinks it is playing a regular friendly match instead of giving their all, which, is infuriating for the fans.
The only surprising event in the match was that the goals scored by Leicester were both made from possession play instead of their usual counter attacks with Mahrez at the centre of both of them, using his left foot to curl in first a great cross for the brilliant Vardy to thump in and then later a lovely shot which nestled in the top corner, impossible for Courtois to reach.
Azpilicueta, the Chelsea left back was extremely poor considering that he often let Mahrez on to his favoured left foot and Mahrez duly created havoc with it, gliding past Chelsea players on multiple occasions and testing Courtois. Another failure was Ramires who never picked up Albrighton and he too crossed with freedom into the Chelsea box and in the same fashion, assisted Mahrez on his goal.
After the hour mark, Mourinho made an interesting change to bring out Terry for Fabregas and it seemed a great decision with the impotent Chelsea attack immediately finding the rhythm but it came at a compromise regarding the defence who switched to a three man system. Fabregas probably put in the best performance of his season and was at his incisive best, pinging balls for Costa, Pedro and Willian with regularity. One such ball released Costa for a two on one against Schmeicel and he failed to score with an extremely disappointing finish.
In fact, Chelsea created enough chances in the final 20 minutes to win the match easily but appalling finishing was the deterrent. From the corner which resulted in the above mentioned Costa chance, Ivanovic missed a tap in from two yards out with him actually performing a stunning backheel volley which cleared the ball from the six-yard box.
Remy was brought on because it was clear that Costa was inept to deal with the defence and he had two great opportunities created by Pedro and Willian respectively from which he hit a tame shot and tried a skill to invariable lose the ball respectively.
Eventually, though, Chelsea did manage to score through Remy with Pedro finding him via a stunning cross to head in home. Further, Chelsea dominated the possession but it was clear that with the kind of ball retention Chelsea had, there was no hope. Duly, Leicester City saw out the match and registering an invaluable win over a team who had not lost to them in eight years.
The win takes Leicester to the top with Chelsea struggling at 16th place, a point above the relegation zone and expectedly caused Mourinho to question the team’s ability and work ethics after the match.
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