EPL 2021/2022 GW8: Brentford 0 - 1 Chelsea
Chelsea are back with a win against city rival Brentford after the international break. The Blues were held by the hosts before Ben Chilwell rifled one home from the edge of the penalty area for the first-half stoppage-time winner.
Brentford had their opportunities, especially in the second period. The woodwork first, which Bryan Mbeumo hit twice, and a couple of Edouard Mendy's heroic saves later, blocked The Bees' equaliser. It was an excellent Brentford, but Chelsea took all three points, and they're now back to the top of the table.
⚽ In Possession
No Antonio Rudiger, no Thiago Silva, no problem. Malang Sarr featured in the starting XI and provided a solid Premier League debut. Thomas Tuchel also picked Ruben Loftus-Cheek to start, ahead of Jorginho, flanked by Mateo Kovacic and N'Golo Kante in a 3-man midfield. The visitors played in 3-5-2, with Chilwell and Cesar Azpilicueta playing high up the pitch alongside the front two. The two wing-backs allowed Chelsea's setup to shift to a 3-3-4 shape during the attacking phase.
Despite the absence of the usual starters in defence, Chelsea's back three were more than confident to play from deep. Loftus-Cheek acted as the lone pivot and dropped deep to link up with the defensive line and sustain the build-up.
Brentford committed two to three men to press high up the pitch and disrupt Chelsea's transition. When the midfield line was tightly tracked by The Bees' pressure, Timo Werner often dropped deep to bypass the first line of pressure, connect with Azpilicueta and provide an alternative to bring the ball forward.
Brentford's defensive tactical discipline deserved all possible praises. They stayed very compact, and every player was fully committed to supporting the defensive phase. The visitors struggled to find their break against the 5-man defensive line throughout the entire game.
The hosts approached the game with a 3-5-2 system, even if, especially during the first period, it was more a 3-3-4 since Brentford's wing-backs were pinned back by Chelsea's 4-man attacking line.
Chilwell was a constant threat and successfully limited Sergi Canos on defending duties, and Azpilicueta found himself with acres of space in front of him quite often. How to effectively limit them without exposing the defensive line is more and more often an unsolved conundrum.
The two wing-backs were pivotal in the development of the goal that gave all three points to the visitors. Azpilicueta's cross bounced off Pontus Jansson before being picked up by Chilwell, who smashed it into the back of the net for the winner.
⛔ Out Of Possession
Chelsea defended in 5-3-2 without the ball even if they didn't have to defend that much in the first half.
Chelsea pressed high with the forwards tracking the centre-backs, with Kovacic catching high up the pitch Brentford's pivot. Frequently the hosts' keeper, David Raya, played a significant role in moving the ball and switching the play from side to side, trying to catch Chelsea's defensive line off guard. However, this approach ended with a long ball that Chelsea's defenders would easily manage most of the time.
Brentford had their opportunities, but the Blues seemed more in control of the game. This changed tremendously in the second half, where the hosts played very much on the front foot.
Thomas Frank brought in Marcus Forss, who played between the lines and occupied a more advanced position than Frank Onyeka. In the second period, The Bees committed more players to the attacking phase.
Their 4-man attacking line pushed further and further back Chelsea's balance, with the wing-backs on either flank now limiting Chilwell and Azpilicueta.
Jansson, usually on defensive duties, spent the last portion of the game lurking around Chelsea's penalty box, trying to use his excellent aerial skills for a late equaliser. Which the Swedish defender almost found, it wasn't for Mendy's brilliant save. Chelsea's keeper provided at least three decisive blocks in the last minutes of the game to deny the hosts' deserved equaliser.
🔑 Key Factors
It was Chelsea's clinical finishing and tactical discipline that provided them with all three points and the top of the table.
They were the better side in the first half but conceded more and more chances to the hosts in the second period. Only one shot on target and a total of 0.3 Expected Goals (xG) did the job for the visitors. And it was again the wing-backs who connected to unlock the game in Chelsea's favour.
On the other hand, The Bees collected 1.6 xG and hit the post twice. However, when they broke Chelsea's defensive line, they couldn't convert their excellent chances thanks to brilliant goalkeeping from Mendy.
Brentford: 1. Raya, 22. Zanka, 18. Jansson, 5. Pinnock, 7. Canos (14. Ghoddos), 15. Onyeka (9. Forss), 6. Nørgaard, 8. Jensen, 3. Henry, 17. Toney, 19. Mbeumo
Chelsea: 16.Mendy, 31. Sarr, 4. Christensen, 14.Chalobah, 21.Chilwell, 8.Kovacic (19. Mount), 12.Loftus-Cheek, 7. Kante, 28.Azpilicueta (24. James), 11.Werner, 9.Lukaku (29. Havertz)