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Chelsea v Hull City tactical analysis

Adam Bate takes an in-depth tactical look at Chelsea's 2-0 win over Hull City at Stamford Bridge in the Premier League on Sunday.

Last Updated: 19/08/13 at 11:30 Post Comment

Chelsea: Celebrate in front of Jose Mourinho

Chelsea: Celebrate in front of Jose Mourinho

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After the acrimony of last season it was all smiles at Stamford Bridge as Jose Mourinho made a winning return as Chelsea coach. Hull City were the victims on their own return to the Premier League, suffering a 2-0 defeat after a sensational first-half performance from the Blues.

Tigers goalkeeper Allan McGregor conceded an early penalty before promptly saving from Frank Lampard but it didn't take Chelsea long to go ahead through Oscar. Lampard then got it right with a deadball effort from significantly further out and the game was over as a contest.

There were no further goals as the anticipated rout didn't materialise. Here we take a look at in-depth look at Sunday's game...


There was a familiar spine to the Chelsea line-up for Mourinho as he named Petr Cech in goal, John Terry at centre-back and Lampard in midfield. All three men started in the Portuguese coach's first game in charge back in 2004.

Fernando Torres was given the lone-striker role with Eden Hazard, Oscar and young Kevin De Bruyne in support. Chelsea playmaker Juan Mata had to settle for a place on the bench alongside Demba Ba as well as new arrivals Marco van Ginkel and Andre Schurrle.

Hull boss Steve Bruce changed his successful system from last season, adopting a 4-3-3 formation with Sone Aluko and Yannick Sagbo supporting Danny Graham up front. It was a decision he explained to Sky Sports before the game.

"We've predominantly last year played three at the back and been very successful doing that," said Bruce. "People will probably be questioning why we've moved to a back-four. But very few teams now play with two strikers up the top end of the pitch, that's what we're experiencing.

"So we've gone with a 4-3-3 but the actual wide players we've got aren't wingers. They're predominantly strikers. Aluko and Sagbo in particular will be wanting to join in. The big thing in this system is that you can isolate Graham a bit. It's important we don't do that today."

Where it was won and lost

Graham might not have been isolated but he was certainly deep. Chelsea were all over Hull in the first half and not only were their attacking midfielders pressing hard but others were getting forward well too. Alarmingly for the visitors, Branislav Ivanovic had as many touches in the opposition box as the whole Hull team. Graham himself hardly had a sniff.

The main reason for that was Chelsea's pressing that saw them win the ball high up the field. The 33 failed passes by Hull inside their own half was more than any other Premier League team over the weekend. And as Graeme Souness noted in the Sky Sports studio, winning the ball in those areas means higher quality possession.

That's where Chelsea's trio of Hazard, Oscar and De Bruyne had their fun and it was the movement that did for Hull. "We know it is not easy in this country because teams keep are compact and maintain good distances between the lines," said Mourinho after the game. "But our creative players had very good movement."

Lampard agreed. "In the first half, we moved the ball very quickly," he said. "There's a lot of movement in our team." It was a run from Fernando Torres that induced a rash dash from Allan McGregor to win a penalty, although the goalkeeper was able to deny Lampard from the spot.

But the goal was only a matter of time. "I think we could all see it coming," said Alan Smith on commentary. "It was a recurring theme, De Bruyne having space." The Belgian was impressive on his Premier League debut, showing good close control and impressive awareness to thread the ball through to Oscar for the opener.

The fact that De Bruyne received the ball from a short pass by the third man in the attacking-midfield trio, Hazard, shows the fluidity of the movement. They were not stuck out on the flanks. "Those three that you're thinking might be spread, you could throw a net over them," said Glenn Hoddle.

This is where you see Oscar at his best. The Brazil international prefers neat passing and quick interchanges and for that he needs players around him. All but two of his 58 passes against Hull were less than 35 yards in length.

When Lampard added a second goal before the break, Hull truly were in the damage limitation business and Mourinho's side were certainly not as effective after the interval. Was it the orders of the manager or fatigue from the midweek internationals?

"I don't think Mourinho told them to do anything different," said Hoddle. "I think players just switch off a little bit. The worst thing that could've happened for Hull is if they'd scored because that would've woken Chelsea up. They had plenty of gears to go into."

Hull deserve some praise for the way they dug-in during that second half with the introduction of Tom Huddlestone and Jake Livermore - recent arrivals from Tottenham - providing some cause for optimism. "They'll make a difference for us because we were certainly different with those two on the pitch," said Bruce afterwards.

Some encouragement for Hull then. But this was all about Chelsea, Mourinho and a pretty effective warning to the Premier League that this is a team capable of mounting a serious title challenge.

Mourinho's view

"There is no doubt we deserved the victory. It was a brilliant first half with high intensity, high quality, great movement, great football. The game was always under control, but in the second half the quality of our game went down a bit. I am happy with the victory and I am happy because what we did in the first half was good. Our creative players had very good understanding, very good movement and I think the football was brilliant. If we had been 3-0 or 4-0 ahead at half-time it would not be surprising."

Bruce's view

"The first 20-25 minutes was just unstoppable for us. The intensity, the ground, the way it was - what a stark contrast to last season. The ground's right behind the new manager, the players are all ready for it and when they play with that intensity and movement and fluidity, they were just a constant threat so we had to stick at it big style. Thankfully in the second-half, human nature makes you take your foot off the pedal a little bit and we were better then, but in the first half-hour, not many teams could live with that intensity so for us to stick at it was terrific."

Graeme's view

"People may have laughed at me saying they played like Barcelona. But to play like Barcelona you are totally reliant on your midfield stopping the opposition getting their heads up when they're on the ball. You end up winning the ball higher up the pitch and you're nearer the opposition goal so you get more chances. The energy that the midfield five showed - including Frank Lampard - was fantastic in that 45 minutes."

Player ratings

De Bruyne received the Barclays champagne, but our man of the match was Oscar. The little Brazilian typified the subtle passing and movement in the final third that was such a feature of the first half and his opening goal set Chelsea on their way. With the plethora of attacking midfield talent available to Mourinho, Oscar needed to start well and he's done just that. He could be a significant figure in the title race this season.

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