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Norwich 1 Chelsea 3 - tactical analysis

Adam Bate takes an in-depth tactical look at Chelsea's 3-1 win over Norwich and looks at how Oscar and Mata gelled together.

Last Updated: 06/10/13 at 20:14 Post Comment

Jose Mourinho: Changed his selection successfully

Jose Mourinho: Changed his selection successfully

Chelsea survived a scare at Norwich to win 3-1 late on at Carrow Road. After a fine first-half strike from Oscar, Anthony Pilkington equalised for the Canaries midway through the second half and the home team were in the ascendancy.

But Eden Hazard seized on an error by Alexander Tettey to force the ball past John Ruddy with five minutes remaining before fellow substitute Willian added some gloss to the scoreline with a superb left-footed effort shortly afterwards.

Here we look at the Opta data to examine the interaction between Oscar and Juan Mata, Chelsea's direct tactics with Demba Ba and a curious change of shape from Jose Mourinho.

Selection

Chris Hughton made one change to the Norwich team that won at Stoke last weekend. Ryan Bennett made way at centre-back for the returning Sebastien Bassong. Ricky van Wolfswinkel continued as the lone frontman with Anthony Pilkington and Robert Snodgrass offering support from the flanks.

Mourinho opted to go with Ba as his striker, stating that the player's aggressive physical approach was suited to a trip to Carrow Road. The three attacking midfielders remained the same as in Bucharest in midweek with Andre Schurrle on the left, Mata playing from the right and Oscar nominally in a central role.

Where it was won and lost

With the sun a factor, John Terry chose to swap ends at the coin toss and Norwich's defence endured a difficult 45 minutes dealing with the long balls fired in the direction of Ba. The Senegal striker held the ball up well and seemed to relish the contest with Michael Turner and Bassong.

"Ba has won every ball that's been knocked up to him," said Davie Provan on co-commentary, while Jamie Carragher added at the break: "That's one of the best performances from a Chelsea striker this season." Jamie Redknapp concurred. "They've not been afraid to be direct," he explained. "It's definitely something they worked on before the game - that ball over the top of Turner. Ba has bullied them."

Much has been made of Chelsea's abundance of attacking midfield talent but this was a different way of making use of the assets at their disposal. Petr Cech played 10 passes in the first half and five of them were to Ba. The tactic reaped dividends too. Frank Lampard's lofted ball over the top was latched onto by Ba and his lay-off was driven into the net by Oscar in support.

There are those at Stamford Bridge unconvinced by Mourinho's decision to move Mata out of the No.10 role. However, Oscar has responded well to the responsibility in a central position. The 22-year-old scored four Premier League goals last season but this was already his third of the current campaign. He is justifying the faith of his manager.

Oscar is also continuing to link up well with Mata. The Brazilian played 10 passes to his Spanish team-mate - more than any other player - while Mata reciprocated with 13 in the other direction. It was the most regular passing combination on the field and suggests that there could be a future for the pair with Mata as the wider of the two players.

While Oscar and Mata enjoyed plenty of the ball, Ricky van Wolfswinkel continues to find possession elusive leading the line for Norwich on his own. The Dutchman arrived with a significant reputation as a goal poacher but chances have not been forthcoming and he has only managed one shot on target in his six appearances since the opening day of the season.

His involvement in the build-up play has also been limited. Van Wolfswinkel played 17 passes against Chelsea, while every other Norwich outfield starter made at least 33. However, he put those concerns to one side to play a significant role in the equaliser. His headed pass to Pilkington from Martin Olsson's cross came thanks to an impressive leap above Terry and was a deserved reward for Norwich's efforts at that stage. It had been coming.

The loss of Ashley Cole through injury shortly afterwards prompted a curious change of shape from Mourinho. After the straight swap of Samuel Eto'o for Ba, Eden Hazard was introduced for the full-back as Chelsea switched to an unusual 3-6-1 formation. "I'm here to try to win so I had to risk a little bit," said the Blues boss after the game.

Initially, it appeared as though the changes played into Norwich's hands. Hughton's introduction of Nathan Redmond with 10 minutes remaining gave his team pace in the wide areas left vacant by Chelsea's lack of full-backs. Indeed, Schurrle was essentially operating as a particularly attacking left wing-back, as shown by the average position map for the final 20 minutes of the contest.

It was from a corner won by Redmond that the decisive goal was scored... By Chelsea. Although Hughton seemed to have got the better of his more illustrious counterpart with the tactical tinkering, it was the Chelsea substitutes who proved key. The corner kick was a poor one and both Willian - on for Mata after 80 minutes - and Hazard did well to win aerial duels before Tettey's failure to deal with Oscar's forward pass allowed the Belgian star to fire the bouncing ball under Ruddy.

A minute later, Willian added the third with a remarkable strike from the left edge of the area. It flattered Chelsea. And yet, the goal also highlighted the important difference between the sides. For all Norwich's endeavour, the home team failed to test Cech often enough. Of their 14 attempts on goal, only three were on target. Ultimately, Chelsea's class in front of goal proved critical.

Hughton's view

"I generally felt, on the balance of play after conceding a poor goal so early and giving them that momentum, we couldn't have asked for any more effort and determination. It was their second goal which hurt us. It came from our corner and we were set up very well, but their power and pace on the counter-attack got the better of us, then at 2-1 it became very difficult for us. You have to hold your hand up sometimes: the strike for the third goal, they have that kind of quality."

Mourinho's view

"They fought hard and gave us a very difficult match. With the result at 1-0, they didn't risk it; they were waiting for their chance to score a goal. They scored and after that, the game is open football but I'm not here to defend a point, I'm here to try to win so I had to risk a little bit. I wanted to use Demba because we know that Demba is adapted to these kind of matches, but then the match became different. When the match became more open and there was more spaces, it's all about work and I played Samuel."

Jamie's view

"The way Norwich conceded the (second) goal will really upset Chris Hughton because they were right in the game. Jose changed his system and it wasn't working for them. If anything Norwich looked the team most likely. They were starting to press. But Chelsea just had that little quality and that was the difference in the end. Jose will be looking at it thinking he made two substitutions and they both scored."

Player ratings

Ba was crucial to Chelsea's approach in the first half but it was Oscar who grabbed the man of the match award. His brilliant goal kicked things off and the little Brazilian played his part to the end as he featured in the breakaways that brought goals two and three for his side. "Oscar was the star of the show," said Redknapp. "He was involved in all of the goals." Click on the Player ratings tab to cast your own vote.

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