Rafael's defensive approach - Chelsea vs City
Rafael Benitez was baptized against City and was applauded by critics for the splendid improvement in Chelsea‘s defense as the teams played out a draw. He had earlier told the media that he had identified the problems in Di Matteo’s tactical approach and had worked on them.
It was clearly shown against City as Chelsea denied City a chance to capitalize and the fans were even treated to a good defensive performance by Mr. Geezer.
Despite Chelsea’s solid rejuvenation at the back, they were a bit light going forward, with Torres having a good chance to put the boys in blue ahead. Bar the miss, Fernando put in a good game. He looks like a new player with more energy when he runs for every ball.
Defensive setup under Di Matteo revolved around the full-backs staying wide with the center-backs forming a 3-man penalty area defense along with Mikel. This allowed Oscar, Torres and either Mata or Hazard to be upfront with Ramires at the edge of the box along with either Mata or Hazard.
This made sure that Chelsea were not really good aerially, unless they had someone with exceptional reading capabilities, i.e. – John Terry . Plus Ramires with his pace could initiate counter-attacks along with Oscar, Torres and Mata/Hazard, while Mata/Hazard was recovering from defending one of the flanks.
With Benitez “identifying” the weaknesses in the Chelsea squad, he most definitely fixed this major defect in the defensive third, under my observation.
Letting the box be penetrable
This was a major concern as opposition players started running in behind the defenders. Moreover even aerially, Luiz had huge difficulties in facing some of the players.
So the first step was to let the full-backs push back inside to the box. This could make sure that the penalty box was crowded by 5 to 6 players at a time. With the full-backs being called back, the problem was that the flanks were all open. This was covered up by making sure that the wide players retrieved in time, giving them additional defensive duties in simple words.
Despite that, one of the wide players has to stay in a position that helps him to initiate a quick counter-attack. In the frame, Mata is a bit behind the box as he waits for the City player to make a run. This gives Chelsea a much better defensive approach along with a balanced attack.
Only problem this causes is that Chelsea’s attack virtually dies out, with Torres having to work more harder. He did do it, but was very unlucky to not find the net.
In a nutshell -