West Ham keep Chelsea at a distance
Whenever Chelsea burst forward the Hammers retreated in numbers, quickly erecting claret and blue barricades. A five-man midfield threw a blanket of protection in front of the back four; with no way through, the home side were forced to shoot from distance.
The Blues had 39 shots on goal, but 23 of these efforts were from outside of the box. Shots crashed against the bodies of desperate West Ham defenders – the Hammers racked up 16 blocks, with almost half of them (7) coming from Matthew Taylor. If a shot found its way through the wall, a combination for the woodwork and Adrian kept the ball out.
Everyone expected the east Londoners to defend this way, but few would have expected them to keep it up for 90 minutes. Mourinho can criticise West Ham for their lack of ambition, but he must (and did) respect their resilience.
The Hammers only had 27% of the possession. When a team sees so little of the ball players can be tempted to break rank and chase it, but Big Sam’s troops stayed loyal to the system and shut out the space, rather than players.
Samuele Allardici is a tactical mastermind (self-proclaimed)
Jose Mourinho called it football from the “19th century” and that the only thing he could have done to break down the wall was bring his Black & Decker drill. Sam Allardyce said, “I don’t give a shite. He can't take it that we've out-tacticked him. It's brilliant when you get a result against him. Good old Jose, moaning again.”
Dudley’s finest tactician loves nothing better than out-manoeuvring a thinker from overseas. Mourinho changed the personnel and then the system and still he couldn’t find a way through Allardyce’s tightly compressed 4-2-3-1. After 63 minutes he brought off John Obi Mikel for Frank Lampard and Cesar Azpilicueta for Nemanja Matic, with Ramires dropping to right-back and Branislav Ivanovic switched to the left.
Nobody knows what’s happened between Mourinho and Ashley Cole, but surely the England defender would have ben a better replacement than Matic for Azpilicueta? The Spanish defender made 11 successful passes in the attacking third – all but three were backwards and none of them were into the box.
Bereft of a competent left foot, Azpilicueta doesn’t feel confident enough to get beyond Eden Hazard and whip in crosses: he has to come back on to his right and by that time the opportunity is lost. Surely having Cole’s pace and ability to hit the byline would have stretched a tiring Matt Jarvis and Joey O'Brien even more.
With 10 minutes left, Mourinho brought on Demba Ba for Oscar. The Brazilian, deployed behind lone striker Samuel Eto’o, had been forced to drop deep in search of the ball thanks to West Ham’s impenetrable roadblock – only 60% of his passes were in the attacking third. With Ba on, Chelsea went 4-4-2 – a tactical switch that had worked against Crystal Palace, but not the Hammers.
For his part, Allardyce withdrew a tiring Kevin Nolan and Andy Carroll for Antonio Nocerino and Carlton Cole. Having squeezed what he could out of his first-choice pair, he brought on fresh legs at just the right time. In conclusion Mourinho is clearly a tactical no hoper and Big Sam is a tactical genius. All hail Sam Allardici!
Samuel Eto’o’s failure to gamble proved costly in the box
On the few occasions Chelsea did find a way to get in behind West Ham’s deep-lying back four, Eto’o wasn’t alert to the opportunity. The home side managed to get five crosses into the box – not one found a player in a blue shirt. There were two occasions in the second half when the ball flashed across the face of goal and Eto’o was nowhere to be seen.
The former Barcelona and Inter Milan hitman was dominated by James Collins in the box. The Welsh centre-back made 13 clearances, four tackles and two blocks. When the Cameroonian did find space he couldn’t find his range in front of goal. All but one of his four attempts were off target, and Adrian's fine save denied his only goalbound strike.
Eto’o only made 14 successful passes all night and failed with all four of his attempted dribbles. When space was at a premium, Chelsea needed more from their attacking spearhead.
Matthew Taylor is a hit in the holding role
Taylor is known for having a left foot that can supply devilish deliveries and wonder goals; he’s less renowned for tenacious displays in the heart of the battle, but that’s what he delivered on Wednesday night at Stamford Bridge.
The 32-year-old, more accustomed to playing out wide, made 7 blocks – 5 more than James Collins in second place. He also seized upon 5 loose balls – bettered only by Ramires and his old Bolton team-mate Gary Cahill.
When Taylor wasn’t throwing himself in the way of shots and competing for the second ball, he was putting his foot in, winning 3 of his 6 attempted tackles. He deserves praise for this selfless display, full of industry and discipline – and so does Allardyce for seeing his potential in this position.
Andy Carroll can’t do it all on his own
West Ham earned a point because they executed their defensive game plan to perfection, but had they been a little more adventurous at times they might have stolen all three. They conceded 72% of possession, had 1 shot on goal to Chelsea’s 39 and only managed to complete a dismal 63% of their passes. How often can they afford to play so poorly in attack?
Earning a point at Stamford Bridge is a fantastic result for the Hammers, but they’re still in the bottom three and if they’re going to survive they’re going to need to play with a bit more adventure. And Carroll, who has missed half of the season, is going to need a lot more support as he tries to find his match sharpness – which was certainly missing when he produced an air-kick in front of goal with Petr Cech stranded.
Too often Carroll was left isolated up front on this own. West Ham’s passing in the final third was abysmal – they only completed 31 of their 70 exchanges in Chelsea’s defensive territory, a success rate of 44%. Adrian to Carroll was West Ham’s most prolific pass combination, with the goalkeeper finding the striker 9 times. The 6ft 3in Geordie won 9 of his 13 aerial duels, but this was often in vain with this team-mates still camped on the edge of their 18-yard-box, waiting for the next wave of attack.