First things first, I have to admit that I’m a Chelsea fan, so if this article comes across as biased in any way, I apologise.
Chelsea made two changes from their first match, with Hilario coming in for Cech and Anelka starting instead of Malouda. This meant that Kalou’s original position was as a left-winger, but as you can see in the diagram at the bottom of this article, he and Anelka constantly swapped wings. West Brom manager Roy Hodgson went with the same eleven that narrowly lost to Man Utd last week.
The first thing to note was the number of times West Brom targeted Jose Bosingwa with high balls. The Chalkboard below shows how many passes were directed towards Chelsea’s right-back area compared with their left-back area. Despite this, Bosingwa had a strong game, especially in the second-half, as the next chalkboard shows.
Another interesting tactical point was that Andre Villas-Boas clearly likes his goalkeepers to play it short (which can get you 1-2 more goals per season!) as the chalkboard shows, with Foster’s passes on top and Hilario’s below. For this to succeed, the full-backs went wide, the centre-backs parted and Mikel was often seen in between Alex and Terry, attempting to receive the ball short from Hilario and start attacks from deep.
The first-half saw Chelsea struggle in a number of areas and the crowd began to get frustrated. Anelka failed to produce the width required wide on the right, and Kalou was hardly more successful on the other wing. West Brom figured this out and attempted to shut down the full-backs Cole and Bosingwa. This was partly successful and resulted in Chelsea having only one shot on target in the first-half. Malouda’s introduction just after the half-hour introduced some width to the side, although if you look at the chalkboard below, he failed to find a team-mate with 18 crosses – this is precisely because Fernando Torres is not a target-man and prefers linking with advanced midfielders rather than relying on crosses like Drogba or Carroll. Another reason for West Brom’s strong defence was Gabriel Tamas. He succeeded with 5/5 tackles in the game, all in important areas.
One of many positives to come out of the game for West Brom was their forward partnership of Shane Long and Somen Tchoyi. Long in particular made life very uncomfortable for Chelsea’s centre-backs and made a very high number of tackles for a forward.
All in all, it was an uncomfortable afternoon for Chelsea and their manager Andre Villas-Boas, but they managed to come through the challenge in the end. It is hoped that the imminent arrival of Juan Mata from Valencia will provide Chelsea with width, pace, creativity and guile, all of which have been lacking in their opening two Premier League games, and that he will link to great effect with his fellow Spaniard Torres. West Brom can consider themselves very unfortunate to be stuck on 0 points after two good performances against Man Utd and Chelsea, and one thing is for sure, they will prove a tough challenge for any side in the league this season.