Beesotted contributors The Gowler and Paul Kowalczyk (@BeesBreakdown) give us the tactical and statistical lowdown of Brentford’s win at Stamford Bridge.
Thomas Frank switched to a 3-5-2 as he typically does against Big 6 sides. This sent Maupay and Onyeka to the bench, with Roerslev and Hickey coming back into the starting XI. Brentford deployed Hickey and Roerslev at wingback, with Ajer, Pinnock, and Collins the centrebacks. No surprises seeing the usual midfield trio of Janelt, Nørgaard, and Jensen. Maupay had a fantastic performance against Burnley, but Thomas Frank chose Wissa and Mbeumo to start as the front 2.
Pochettino was forced into making some changes of his own, with Fernandes and Mudryk picking up slight injuries. They stuck with a 4-2-3-1 with Poch’s preferred back 4 of Cucurella, Silva, Disasi, and Colwill. Gallagher and Caicedo in a double pivot with Madueke, Palmer and Sterling ahead of them. New signing Nico Jackson got his first start up top since September 24th and looked to improve his poor finishing record.
The difference with Brentford in their low block rather than setting up their man marking system is it allows creative players like Palmer to get on the ball. Brentford can’t afford to man mark Palmer when in a low block or it would open up too much space. However, opponents still need to find ways to break down Brentford’s low block.
Possession: Chelsea 69% – 31% Brentford
xG: Chelsea 1.9 – 2.2 Brentford
xGOT: Chelsea 0.75 – 1.14 Brentford
Shots: Chelsea 17 – 7 Brentford
Shots on Target: Chelsea 2 – 5 Brentford
Clearances: Chelsea 13 – 34 Brentford
PPDA: Chelsea 6.03 – 20.77 Brentford
Other Brentford stats:
Aerial duels won: 12 (48%)
Brentford built out of the back in order to pull Chelsea out of position and open up space in-behind. Whenever Brentford did this, it allowed Chelsea to quickly counter which led to some close calls.
Chelsea created most of their xG in the first half, but Brentford were able to weather the storm. It’s so important to not concede an early goal when facing a Big 6 side when using Thomas Frank’s tactics. By not conceding in the first half, Thomas Frank was able to make those second half adjustments to give his squad a bit more freedom going forward.
One notable change in tactics was Brentford’s lack of high press. The Bees still used short stoppages in play, such as throw-ins or goal kicks, to try to implement their press, but overall they had their highest Passes Per Defensive Action (PPDA) of the season at 20.77. This means they generally sat back in their mid or low-block and allowed Chelsea to keep possession.
On the other end, Chelsea ended with 6.03 PPDA which was the 2nd lowest against the Bees so far this season (Tottenham recorded 5.87). The difference was Brentford’s plan to deal with Chelsea’s high press. The Bees were able to pass out of pressure and progress the ball without relying on long passes.
Thomas Frank is starting to shift away from relying solely on counter attacks and direct long balls against Big 6 sides. There was a clear attempt to play through Chelsea’s press, which partly could be from missing Raya and Toney, but Thomas Frank’s evolving tactics will be beneficial for Brentford’s long term development.
One statistic that may surprise some is that Mark Flekken recorded 0.84 xGBuildUp. This means that he was heavily involved in possessions that led to creating xG. This goes to show how much Brentford relied on building out of the back, which started with Flekken drawing in Chelsea’s high press and then passing out of it.
Ajer had another phenomenal performance, recording three shot-creating actions. He seemed to be even more dangerous from a LCB position as teams don’t expect his underlapping runs. Nathan Collins led the squad with 5 tackles and interceptions, while Nørgaard cleaned up everything else with 9 ball recoveries. Pinnock won 5 out of 6 aerial duels and led the squad in clearances as always.