Chelsea 1-0 Bolton: Bonus Match Review

Since I am currently on holiday with my family, I hadn’t planned to do a second match review this week. However I caught the replay of yesterday’s Chelsea-Bolton match, and thought I’d at least give the starting formation and a few thoughts.

Chelsea v. Bolton Starting Formations

– This matchup of Bolton’s 4-4-2 and Chelsea’s 4-3-3 leads to the typical 3-on-2 central midfield matchup, where the two CM’s (in this case, Stuart Holden and Fabrice Muamba) would be outmanned by the three CM’s in the 4-3-3 (Frank Lampard, Ramires, and Michael Essien). This is misleading, though. Throughout much of the match, Frank Lampard was well-advanced into the attacking quadrant, nearly leading Chelsea’s formation to be a 4-2-3-1 a la Arsenal. I’m not sure if this was Carlo Ancelotti’s attempt to generate scoring, but the announcers remarked at the effectiveness of Holden and Muamba, and I think this is partly because of the shape of Ancelotti’s midfield as much as the workrate of the two Bolton center midfielders.

– Bolton’s defense was predicated on a high line, trying to force advanced forwards Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka offside as much as possible. This was very effective in the first half. Chelsea started the game without much verve or focus, especially moving forward. That changed after halftime. One problem with trapping offsides is that it takes discipline on the backline. Another is that the assistant isn’t perfect, and could miss a call. On Chelsea’s goal, one, the other, or both were a factor. As Essien made a gifted run through the midfield in the 61st minute, Drogba fell behind Zat Knight and Gary Cahill. Unfortunately for Bolton, right back Sam Ricketts reacted to a false break by left wing Florent Malouda, and had not held the high line. Regardless of this error, it was not completely clear whether Drogba remained onside. The linesman ruled him legal. Drogba gathered the through pass, delivered it in front of a streaking Malouda, and the Frenchman drove home the deciding goal.

– As Bolton began to tire, especially the midfield, they still had an opportunity to squeeze an away point from Chelsea. The Blues never looked particularly comfortable offensively, but the Trotters’ direct, aerial attack was ineffective throughout the endgame. Owen Coyle removed Matthew Taylor (78th minute) and Stuart Holden (82nd minute) in the final stages. From the Taylor substitution, Bolton completed 23 of 47 passes, less than 50 percent. They could not maintain any kind of forward momentum to get quality chances in the final third.

– Finally, to add to the previous point, the aerial attack is predicated on the strength of the forwards winning challenges. In the second half, Bolton were 2 for 9 in offensive half aerial challenges. Add to this the poor results from passing in open play, and they had little opportunity to challenge Petr Cech in the last 15 minutes of play. Their best opportunity in the 77th minute, when Sam Ricketts crossed a ball into the area and Holden headed a ball on net. Cech swatted the shot over the bar.

This victory for Chelsea should definitely quell some of the unease that has been caused by their recent play. Bolton has been a successful side throughout the first half of the campaign. This Chelsea team still looks like a much different squad than stormed the early part of the fixture list. This is a result they can use to build confidence towards a run at the leaders.

For Bolton, this match showcased the depth issues that may begin to crop up as this busy period continues. Rodrigo was decent against Ashley Cole and Florent Malouda, but the loss of Chung-Yong Lee to the Asian Cup will not be easy to weather. As the fixtures come fast, Coyle will need to manage fitness versus results to hold their position near a European spot in the table.

12 thoughts on “Chelsea 1-0 Bolton: Bonus Match Review”

  1. Nice to have these details to accompany the match. I enjoyed watching the different strategies during the game especially Bolton’s high line. I feel like while Chelsea got the three points they didn’t really deserve them as Drogba looked offsides as you mentioned, and Terry’s handball wasn’t called.

    What’s the chances Bolton adds to their depth in the January Transfer window?

    1. Terry’s “handball” was not a handball at all. His hand was in a natural position, close to his body. It was even tucked in behind his back to try and avoid a handball call. From the distance the ball was struck, also, it was definitely ball to hand and not hand to ball. Even if it was hand to ball, it was not intentional as he was turning away from the shot and had his arms tucked in close to his body. Only Tony Gale thought it was a handball, and his bias is evidenced by his former playing days and listening to him call ANY Chelsea or Arsenal game.

  2. Yet another article claiming goal was offside. On BBC Match of the day, they clearly showed that Drogba was a yard onside, Malouda was level with full back, please try and get it right.

    1. I agree…I don’t understand anyone saying this was offsides or anything close to it. On the only replay I saw on FSC, Drogba was clearly onsides to take the pass that led to the goal. The idiot announcer kept talking about it throughout the game, but it didn’t make him right. I like the honesty of the announcers on normal occasions but they are brutal when they are wrong and are clearly hoping for a different game result (definitely a Spurs fan).

    2. I thought my depiction of that event was pretty fair. I didn’t see the BBC’s replay angle. IMG’s broadcast gave only poor angles. The best angle they gave showed it was a lot closer than one first thought, because of Ricketts’ mistake. If you guys saw an angle that shows Drogba completely onside, then I take your word for it.

      It would be interesting to know if that was a set play to break the high line (Malouda breaking early). If it was, it worked to perfection.

      One last comment…I thought Anelka was dreadful yesterday. I don’t know what others thought. This funk seems to have affected him the most.

      1. Definitely. Anelka was sub-par (yet again) although he was returning from injury. His biggest contribution was his inability to pass to Ramires (who was clear on goal) shortly after Malouda’s. DS23 to start versus Villa.

  3. I’ve seen Bolton twice now – once in this game and in their more recent loss to Liverpool. They haven’t impressed me at all, and I’m struggling to imagine how they’ve been successful so far. Can anyone who’s watched them more than I have tell me what they’ve been lacking in these two games that they had before? Is it Lee Chung-Yong?

    1. I think Johan Elmander has been inconsistent. Earlier in the season he was really putting in goals and creating. Lately, it seems like he’s either been targeted more effectively, or just hasn’t put together the effort to get on the scoresheet.

      They are a very direct team with Lee, and without him it seems to be even more so. I’d characterize Coyle’s strategy as “fly it towards Davies and pray.” Which I don’t quite understand…it seems to me like Holden and Taylor do well bringing the ball forward, but a lot of times they seem more willing to abandon a smoother route to the final third and instead let the backs smack it long and hope Davies and Elmander hook up.

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