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Talking Tactics

Chelsea need to be stronger at back to keep Man Utd at bay

Adrian Clarke 23 Oct 2020
Kurt Zouma, Chelsea

Adrian Clarke says the Blues must develop a clean-sheet mentality if they are to challenge for the title

Adrian Clarke looks at key tactical points in Matchweek 6.

Developing a clean-sheet mentality away from Stamford Bridge is key if Chelsea are to mount a title challenge.

They have conceded a competition-high 42 goals on the road since the start of 2019/20.

Indeed Chelsea's only top-flight shutout in 21 away matches under Frank Lampard came in a  2-0 win at Tottenham Hotspur last December.

To win at Manchester United this Saturday, they must focus hard on making themselves more difficult to beat.

Finding a settled defence

Lampard has made at least two changes to his back four and goalkeeping positions in each of Chelsea's last four matches in all competitions. 

Within their rotating rearguard no defender has started all five Premier League matches this season.

This scenario is far from ideal because it is difficult to build on-pitch relationships, which are of critical importance to a defence.

Clear communication and knowing your team-mates’ strengths and weaknesses is vital to any successful backline. 

Matches started in 2020/21
Chelsea defender/goalkeeper Total Chelsea defender/goalkeeper Total
Andreas Christensen 4 Cesar Azpilicueta 2
Kurt Zouma 4 Ben Chilwell 2
Kepa Arrizabalaga 3 Thiago Silva 2
Reece James 3 Edouard Mendy 1
Marcos Alonso 3 Willy Caballero 1

Edouard Mendy, Reece James, Thiago Silva, Kurt Zouma and Ben Chilwell worked well together in Tuesday’s goalless draw at home to Sevilla in the UEFA Champions League.

With N’Golo Kante and Jorginho sat in front of them to offer protection, Sevilla were restricted to only five efforts on goal.

If this unit is kept together for the trip to Old Trafford it could be a sign that Chelsea’s head coach is closer to knowing his preferred defensive set-up.

Rashford threat

Man Utd have enjoyed a positive week, beating Newcastle United and Paris Saint-Germain with much-improved performances.

At the heart of their success in both matches was Marcus Rashford.

The England international scored the winner in Paris, having contributed a goal and two assists at St James’ Park.

At Newcastle he also won a penalty kick which Bruno Fernandes missed.

Developing talent

The 22-year-old is now approaching the age where many strikers begin to fulfil their true potential, and the signs suggest Rashford’s game will develop further in 2020/21.

From transitions, on breakaways and in general build-up play his runs between defenders will be a real threat.

Rashford was outstanding as the lone striker with Newcastle finding his clever movement hard to handle.

Man Utd's display at Newcastle

The forward's penetrative runs were so effective that he had 16 touches of the ball inside the opposition box, bettering in one match the total from his Man Utd career to date.

He also equalled his best tallies for shots and shots on target in the same encounter. 

Rashford v Newcastle
  Total Personal PL rank
Touches in opp. box 16 1st
Shots 7 Joint 1st
Shots on target 4 Joint 1st

Up against a Chelsea side who could line up with two attacking full-backs and the experienced Thiago Silva, Rashford will look to utilise his pace down the side of the defenders.

If Lampard adopts a more retrained tactical approach than usual on the road it could give Chelsea a better platform to win the match.

However, if they play with their usual adventure away from home this could be a very exciting shoot-out between a pair of teams who are at their strongest going forward.

Tomorrow: Returning Maddison can help ease Leicester burden on Barnes

Also in this series

Part 1: How Sheff Utd can get the best from Brewster on Anfield return
Part 2: Leeds must stop Barkley to end perfect Aston Villa start

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