As Unai Emery and Mauricio Pochettino met this Sunday with their respective sides Chelsea and Aston Villa, it was another meeting between both esteemed coaches and they go way back from Pochettino’s days in Espanyol and Emery’s in Valencia to being North London Rivals with Arsenal and Tottenham respectively.
In what was a crunch game for both teams following Villa’s defeat in Conference League to Legia Warszawa and Chelsea coming off a draw to Bournemouth and a defeat before that to Nottingham Forest, a lot was riding on both coaches in which Emery reigned supreme ultimately. So let’s get down to the finer details of the game on how Villa secured an important victory.
The 1st Half: Emery’s Low Block and Numerical Overloads, Pochettino’s variations in buildup
Pics 2, 3, 4, 5: Chelsea’s Buildup shapes and Villa’s Numerical overloads in midfield and final 3rd
With Emery clear that he wanted to entice Chelsea to take take control, Villa initially sat off in a 4-4-2 midblock marking Chelsea’s pivots firm and keeping a narrow width (Pics 2 and 3). Pochettino’s starting of Colwill in the Leftback role meant that he was prepared to make switches in the Buildup with initially starting in a 4-2 (Pic 2) and push 4v4 in the final line with Villa (Pic 3) to a 3-2 (Pic 5) with Enzo dropping to support and have a chance to push 5-6 players high against Villa’s final line.
Because Emery didn’t budge from his 4-4-2 to drop into a 5-3-2 or a 5-4-1 to counter this, it became an advantage for Villa as we see in Pic 5 that it allowed Villa to make 4v3 overloads in midfield and Chelsea had to rely more in wing-play to produce chances where they lacked a lot of cutting edge once Enzo was taken out of the game.
In the other half, Villa’s attacking shape was much better than their opponents and despite Pochettino’s efforts to keep a 4-5-1 defensive shape (Pic 4), Villa overloaded Chelsea’s last line 5v4 and Pochettino didn’t wanna risk dropping his winger too deep as a 5th defender and with his Matty Cash was lucky to get some great 1v1’s to engage Chelsea’s defenders who did maximum to keep the game 0-0.
Pic 6, 7: Emery’s constant adjustment of OOP (out of possession) Shape meant Pochettino’s strategies were nullified
Emery was very smart to adjust his defensive shape well according to what Chelsea adjusted. In Pic 6 we can see Caicedo drop deep to make a 4-1 buildup in the hope of keeping Gusto high and giving a chance to overload 4-5 players in the last line. In response, Emery deployed a 4-1-4-1 where Kamara could drop deep to make a 5-4-1 and keep numerical balance. This meant Chelsea still struggled to break Emery’s defensive shape.
The 2nd Half: Watkins Dagger, Chelsea’s Braver but suicidal approach
Pc 8.9: Chelsea’s structure until Gusto’s Red Card
Chelsea’s halftime adjustment included Pochettino relying on a more conventional 4-3-3 with Enzo Fernandez playing as an 8 as opposed to being a 10 in 1st half. Villa were content to sit in their 4-4-2 block and continue to play a game on transitions and as such until the hour mark, there weren’t really some great opportunities for either team until Malo Gusto earned a straight Red which turned the game in Villa’s favor.
Pic 10: Chelsea’s push for a goal with a 4-1-4 shape
After the Red Card, Pochettino threw everything at Villa instead of employing a block by going for an aggressive 4-1-4 formation trying to pin Villa’s backline. Emery was calm and instead of pressing Chelsea more, waited to bait Chelsea’s players forward and kill the game with on transition as in the 73rd Minute, Watkins Goal essentially sealed the game.
Vid 1: A Matter of one transition for Villa was enough to seal the game
Villa waited for the right moment and once the ball was won as Chelsea pushed all their players high, Diaby and Watkins ensured they did their best with a finish that’s bound to bring some criticism onto Robert Sanchez as to whether he could have done better as it was a very tight angle for Watkins to finish and letting the ball through legs easily could have been circumvented.
The Red Card incident was important but whether it was decisive can be debatable this has brought upon another loss for Chelsea as they continue to increase their victory count over the past 1 year since the departure of Thomas Tuchel.
For Unai Emery, this culminates in a straight-second victory for Aston Villa in Stamford Bridge, with his team able to put the defeat to Legia Warsawa Midweek behind them and earn a Victory against one of their older football rivals.