The Regista: Chelsea vs Arsenal tactical review - Palmer promising but Blues let lead slip


The Regista: Chelsea vs Arsenal tactical review - Palmer promising but Blues let lead slip

Chelsea midfielder Cole Palmer scores a penalty during the Premier League match against Arsenal
Chelsea midfielder Cole Palmer scores a penalty during the Premier League match against ArsenalProfimedia
Tribal Footbal's tactics expert Connor Holden examines Arsenal's fight-back at Chelsea on Saturday and insists the Blues only have themselves to blame for dropping two points.

In a 2-2 draw between struggling Chelsea and title-challenging Arsenal, it was actually Chelsea and Mauricio Pochettino who got the better of the Gunners tactically, and if it wasn't for a big mistake from Robert Sanchez, and a piece of brilliance from Bukayo Saka, the result would have shown that.

But what adjustments did Pochettino make to startle Mikel Arteta's Arsenal and why did it work so well?

Arsenal's Gabriel in action with Chelsea's Moises Caicedo and Levi Colwill
Arsenal's Gabriel in action with Chelsea's Moises Caicedo and Levi ColwillReuters


Pochettino set up differently in this game, playing Cole Palmer as a central striker, but his role was more of a false 9 one, to create a 4-4-2 out of possession to stunt Arsenal's build-up play and force them to find another route.

Chelsea set up out of possession in this 4-4-2 block, with Palmer and Conor Gallagher as the two 'strikers' in the press. However both of these players are naturally attacking midfielders, and therefore they carried out their jobs in a likewise manner.

The two 'strikers' and two pivot players (Enzo Fernandez and Moises Caicedo) formed an initial box press in the middle to stop Arsenal's midfielders from picking up the ball and progressing in this way. Instead, they allowed Arsenal to move the ball between their back four, and left the open routes down the flanks, with the wingers slightly tucking inside to show the ball towards the touchline.

Key match stats
Key match statsFlashscore

The idea here was to stop the likes of Martin Odegaard getting on the ball and hurting Chelsea in dangerous areas between the lines, and instead opting to make the Gunners go wide where they can then double up with the full-back and winger on Arsenal's wide men.

By doing this, Levi Colwill became important to deal with any long balls or flicks into these central areas, which is why we saw Colwill playing aggressively pushing up onto the back of Odegaard at times, and stopping that pass inside.

This allowed Silva to cover, both sets of full-backs and wingers to double up on the danger men out wide, and Colwill to carry out his job.

Once the ball did go into the wide men for Arsenal, the Chelsea full-backs had a lot of license to be aggressive and try to win the ball back, which was seen with Marc Cucurella's five tackles and 10 duels won, and Malo Gusto's three tackles and six duels won.

By doing this, Chelsea were minimising the risk of being caught being aggressive and played around, and instead timing these chances to pounce and win the ball back, where they could then break with the full-back, winger and front two of Gallagher and Palmer leading the charge.

This happened on many occasions, and the second goal scored by Mykhailo Mudryk was the perfect example, winning the ball back from a double up, Gallagher then breaking with the ball and Mudryk joining on the overlap before scoring the goal. This was Pochettino's plan and it had worked until the 77th minute when a mistake from Sanchez cost Chelsea a goal and made the game go pear-shaped.

Before we speak about the mistakes, one more thing to touch on is how Palmer played when Chelsea did hold sustained spells of possession and how he allowed others to flourish as well as himself.

Palmer, playing as the central man for Chelsea upfront, would drop into attacking midfield areas and continue to run across the defensive line of Arsenal, which caused the central defenders issues over whether to follow him into these areas or allow him to get the ball.

When he dropped into the midfield areas, he would make quick combinations with the other midfielders, and the ball would then be put into the channels behind the full-back and central defender looking for the likes of Raheem Sterling and Mudryk who became the focal points.

Palmer's role in this was vital, as he pulled the defenders around and out of position, and allowed Mudryk and Sterling to make those runs into the channels and be dangerous in those areas. He also combined the play really well with the midfielders due to his excellent ability on the ball, press resistance and security in possession.

It was a real man-of-the-match display from the 21-year-old and there is a lot more to come from him in a Chelsea shirt.


Mistakes on the day are what allowed Arsenal back into this game, as before the Sanchez error in the 77th minute, Chelsea looked very comfortable keeping the ball for sustained periods, and even having a few chances to make it 3-0.

However, giving the Gunners the goal in that period of the game gave them a second wind and something to go for, which saw Chelsea come under the cosh, make a few mistakes and eventually a brilliant cross from Saka found Leandro Trossard at the back post to make it 2-2.

This is something Chelsea will learn from, they are a very young and inexperienced team, and part of growing as a squad will be learning from those mistakes, learning to hold a lead and cutting out errors in vital moments of a game that you are in control of.


In conclusion, Arsenal were poor for most of the match and were bailed out with some brilliance from a key player, and a big Chelsea error. However, Chelsea were very much responsible for making Arsenal look this poor, with a perfectly executed game plan for 75 minutes of the game.

This is a very positive step for Pochettino and his Chelsea side, and the next will be making sure they don't let concentration slip when putting in a performance deserving of a result.


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