Opposition Insight: Chelsea (H) | Premier League
Manchester United take on Chelsea this evening, as the Reds look to pick up their first win at Old Trafford of the season against Frank Lampard's side.
It's time to take a closer look at Chelsea's potential team, as well as strengths and weaknesses United should be coming up against.
FRANK LAMPARD’S PREFERRED XI
Frank Lampard has used a 4-2-3-1 in 6 of Chelsea’s 8 games so far this season, in 3 different competitions. They have won 2, drawn 3 and lost 1 using the system, scoring 17 and conceding 7.
6ft5 goalkeeper Edouard Mendy will start in between the sticks, after Lampard confirmed he is his first-choice option going forward.
36-year-old Thiago Silva and Kurt Zouma is the likely partnership in central defence, although Lampard hasn’t found his preferred duo yet and Andreas Christensen could come in for either.
Cesar Azpilicueta has been the recent go-to option over Reece James at right-back in the league, with Ben Chilwell providing a serious threat at left-back.
Jorginho and N’Golo Kante have been ever-present in the Premier League and Champions League as the midfield pivot connecting defence to attack, with Mateo Kovacic providing strong back-up.
After early struggles on the wing, Chelsea are now utilising Timo Werner as the sole striker and it’s already reaping rewards.
Behind Werner, is fellow summer arrival Kai Havertz, with Christian Pulisic and Mason Mount on either side of him. Although, Hakim Ziyech is now challenging for a starting spot after recovering from injury.
STAR MAN – Kai Havertz
A lot of the attacking focus has been on Werner so far this season, but Kai Havertz has been making things tick, either from the wing or in the middle.
Following Pulisic and Ziyech’s return to fitness, Havertz has been operating in the No. 10 role, acting as Chelsea’s primary source of goals.
The 21-year-old has scored 4 goals in 7 games this season, averaging 0.65 goals p90 and 138 minutes of football per goal.
He has a serious eye for goal, particularly from range. He’s taken 8 shots at Chelsea so far, maintaining an 88% shot accuracy and 50% conversion rate.
He also has one assist to his name, creating 7 chances (1.00 chance p90) for the talented forwards working around him.
Going forward, almost everything runs through Havertz. He’s completed 246 passes for Chelsea so far (3rd most behind Azpilicueta and Jorginho this season), achieving an 86% pass accuracy.
United will have to ensure they close the German international down and make things really uncomfortable for him.
If he’s given time and space to either get a shot off or find the tricky runs of Werner and Pulisic, United could seriously become overwhelmed at the back.
Many of Chelsea’s attackers are capable of playing in different positions and therefore regularly shift into different areas when the opportunity presents itself.
The best example of this is between Werner and Havertz. You see Werner commonly drop deeper to ask for the ball, pulling his defender out of position in doing so.
That’s Havertz’s cue to move into the opened space to either receive the ball, or force the full-back centrally to create space on the wings – which moves us onto their second strength…
Danger from the wide areas
Nine times out of 10, Chelsea’s chances root from the wide areas, particularly from the left.
With the likes of Werner and Havertz dragging full-backs centrally, it leaves plenty of room for Chelsea’s wingers and full-backs to receive the ball and drive towards goal.
Chilwell has enjoyed a fine start to life at Chelsea, providing 3 assists and even scoring a goal in his 5 appearances so far.
He receives plenty of the ball and has created 7 chances (1.40 p90) in his 5 appearances so far, highlighting just how often Chelsea look for him.
If both Chilwell and Pulisic are marauding down the left, Wan-Bissaka will need support if United are to cope with what is Chelsea’s biggest strength.
Chelsea have struggled to effectively press teams since Lampard took charge.
They move into a 4-4-2 off the ball, which teams have been able to exploit by putting 2/3 players in between the lines to receive long balls.
Even if the Chelsea defence wins the first ball, there rarely tends to be midfielders in between the lines to win the second ball, which leaves opponents needing to make one simple pass to enter the final third.
It played a major part as they lost the lead to Southampton last weekend and it’s why they have tended to concede a lot of goals. There is commonly a huge space in between the defence and midfield that, if placed correctly, United can operate in on the counter.
Lack of protection for defence
Although Jorginho and Kante are good players in their own right, they don’t quite seem to be clicking as a midfield two, and it’s certainly an area United can exploit.
The biggest problem they is that when Chelsea attack, both Jorginho and Kante are keen to get forward into more advanced positions.
This, similar to the last point, leaves the defence very vulnerable. There has been a lot of focus on Chelsea’s poor defence over the last season, but at the end of the day, you have to defend as a team.
There’s going to be bags of space in between the centre circle and penalty box for United to work in. If they can weather the threat Chelsea pose going forward, there should be optimism of a result.