Analysis

The Debrief: Pacy pairing and cutting City chances was Chelsea’s Wembley way

We take a look at some of the eye-catching statistics and graphics from yesterday's FA Cup victory over Manchester City, which extends a proud record in the competition...

Wembley Stadium again proved to be a happy hunting ground for Chelsea in FA Cup semi-finals with yesterday’s victory meaning we have now won nine out of the 10 games we have played there at this stage of the competition.

Our only FA Cup semi-final loss at Wembley was against this weekend’s opponents Manchester City, back in 2013, but there was no such slip-up this time against the current Premier League leaders. Thomas Tuchel’s side controlled much of the game, keeping the scoring chances for Pep Guardiola’s outfit to a minimum, while creating the better opportunities for ourselves.

This is emphasised by the expected goals analysis, which backs up the deserved nature of the 1-0 scoreline and the superior quality of the chances we created.

That the game’s goal came from a move that was extraordinarily similar to one earlier on that resulted in a goal ruled out for offside, with Timo Werner escaping down the left-hand channel and squaring for Hakim Ziyech to put the ball in the net, indicates a game plan that worked and Tuchel spoke after the game about pairing the two upfront for their speed and acceleration, as he did so in our win at Liverpool last month, when as against Man City we had also faced a side with a high defensive line and caught them on the counter-attack.

Seeking out gaps

The average position map for yesterday’s game at Wembley shows how there was more space behind the City backline than the position of our defence allowed our opponents, and how their full-backs were pushed on more than our wing-backs. Despite that, Ben Chilwell managed a game-high three dribbles and two key passes. 

Chelsea are the lighter blue numbers.

It also shows that with our front three, how much closer our no.22 Ziyech played to Werner than no.19 Mount did, with the Moroccan often moving more centrally while Mount stayed deeper and wider on the left, the area from which he supplied a great pass from which the German set-up Ziyech to score his second goal of this cup campaign.

Stifling City’s usual threat

The effectiveness of Chelsea’s attacking plan against quality opponents is highlighted by the three ‘big chances’ we created to City’s one. Contrast that with the season’s averages in the Premier League, during which we have created 2.3 big chances per game, while Guardiola’s side normally create almost three times as many as they did at Wembley – with a league season average of 2.9.

The sturdiness of Chelsea’s defending under Tuchel is well-known and since he took charge we have the most clean sheets in all competitions across all teams in Europe’s five biggest leagues. Saturday’s was the 14th.

Top of our tacklers were Jorginho with four and Cesar Azpilicueta and Mason Mount with three, while Thiago Silva was responsible for two interceptions from our team total of seven, the same number as Kai Havertz managed despite only coming on in the 78th minute. That was an important contribution from the substitute as it was when Man City had one of their stronger spells as they pushed hard for an equaliser.

No player made more clearances (seven) or blocked more shots (one) than Thiago Silva.

By putting pressure on them in key area, we ensured City lost possession 126 times to our 117. They were dispossessed nine times (Raheem Sterling on four occasions) to Chelsea’s six.

From Man City’s total of 11 shots, four were by midfielder Rodrigo and two by Sterling, with their most forward player, Gabriel Jesus, limited to one attempt on goal.

Playing differently for a purpose

City’s second half, when they had 61 per cent of possession after an even first half by that measure, tilted the possession stats for the game overall to Chelsea 44 per cent, Man City 56 per cent, from 669 touches to 776.

Again this chimes with the win at Anfield, when our counter-attacking plan against the Reds’ high line meant Liverpool had 54 per cent of the ball to the Blues’ 46 per cent. Our Premier League season’s average is to have 62 per cent possession.

As a result of Saturday's successful semi-final outcome, Chelsea on 15 May will play in the FA Cup final for the fourth time in five seasons. Only Arsenal (21) and Manchester United (20) have made it to that stage of the competition more often than our 15.
 

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