Bitten again: History repeats itself as Chelsea fall foul of an identical tactic – opinion

This article is part of Football FanCast’s The Chalkboard series, which provides a tactical insight into teams, players, managers, potential signings and more…

Chelsea were beaten by Manchester United 2-1 on Wednesday in the League Cup, which therefore ended their seven-match winning run. Frank Lampard’s tactical naivety showed he learned nothing from that loss on the opening day of the season against the Red Devils.

On the chalkboard

Despite having 65% possession, the Blues somehow contrived to lose against Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side. They weren’t exactly outplayed, but they also didn’t deserve to win either.

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This is their second loss against the Old Trafford outfit already this term, with the first being their 4-0 defeat in Manchester on the first matchday of the Premier League season. Certain aspects of this second match were worryingly similar to that initial loss.

Once bitten but not twice shy

There were several different players for both sides in this match, but it ended up being the same result. Although they had a lot less of the ball, United took advantage of the chances they had, and never looked under pressure too often either.

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As they did at Old Trafford in August, Solskjaer’s side targeted the flanks.

On Wednesday, Reece James and Marcos Alonso, Chelsea’s two full-backs, lost the ball more times than any of their teammates – 23 and 22 respectively. In that 4-0 drubbling, Cesar Azpilicueta lost the ball 22 times, which was only less than one other starter from either side.

The heat-maps from the two games show that United had the same tactic on both occasions. They attacked the flanks consistently, albeit in different formations, with even the centre-forwards drifting out wide to go at the full-backs rather than down the middle. In the League Cup, it paid dividends again, with Alonso giving away the penalty that led to Marcus Rashford opening the scoring.

Both times, we can see that the attacking wingers did not do enough to trackback. In the first game, it was Ross Barkley who was too far forward specifically, whilst in the second Callum Hudson-Odoi was the main culprit – although Christian Pulisic was almost as bad.

The way United exploited Chelsea in the same way shows that tactical naivety Lampard had by not giving extra-reinforcements to his full-backs.

Whether that be asking his wingers to track back more or putting in an extra centre-back, it would have surely made some difference here. The former Derby County boss may still be new to a job at the highest level, but he needs to learn fast to avoid falling foul to the same strategy.

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