What Does the Chelsea vs Hull Heat Map Tell Us?

Alonso in the “Garysitter” role, Kante playing holding mid in the attacking third, and Hazard is afraid of land sharks…

I’ve been pondering the heat map from the Hull match in light of the ESPN FC story on who wins and who loses in Conte’s alleged 3-4-3 system. I say alleged because for the moment the roles still strike me as … fluid.

You can find all the heat maps for the game at WhoScored.com. I have tried to sort of turn that data into a digestible abstract of the detailed maps, although I admit up front there might be places where my map is a bit misleading (due to the fact that players run around a lot).

So here’s my graphic:

Chelsea vs Hull heat map

Right away we notice some things.

  1. Chelsea avoided the left half of Hull’s zone like it was full of sharks.
  2. Look at Alonso. It’s almost like Conte pulled him aside before the match and said “I am trusting you neutralize Hull’s most dangerous attacking threat.” “Who, Snodgrass?” “No, Cahill.”
  3. Whereas in previous matches we have seen Matic pushed father up the field as a holding 10, versus Hull he was deployed in a very traditional holding role, with Kante patrolling just outside the final third. Does this mean that Conte has taken note of the fact that Kante distributes the ball really well? Is it rather a concern with the fact that he was less effective against Arsenal’s mid that may have been hoped? Or maybe it’s a sense that Hull was going to have trouble possessing the ball and getting out of the back, and in that case there might be value in having your disruptor playing more closely in support of your attack?
  4. Costa is still playing way deeper than I think is ideal, but if the ESPN FC analysis is correct we’re just going to have to live with it. It was worth noting that Hull allowed Costa a lot more space on the ball than he has seen this season. As a rule, when Costa picks the ball up in the corner or deeper in the midfield, that’s a turnover. Opposing teams press and reacquire the ball because despite all his talent, Costa simply isn’t very good with the ball at his feet. He lacks the finesse to dribble through the defense and he lacks the speed to go past it, which is why he’s at his most dangerous lurking in the box and leaving the playmaking to others. But Hull let Costa pick the ball up, turn and rampage forward when he felt like it. We should not expect future opponents to be so cavalier about this.

As noted, my schematic doesn’t tell the whole story. For instance, here’s Moses:

Victor Moses heatmap vs Hull

As you can see, he was very active in providing cover for Dave, and was also effective at getting to and turning the corner in the attack (although his passing left something to be desired). I encourage you to visit the site and have a look at the heatmaps and see what you notice.

The right-shift in the attack may say something about the perceived quality of the Hull defense – I haven’t seen enough of them to have an informed opinion. In any case it seems unlikely that we’ll be avoiding the left flank regularly. I mean, that’s where Hazard lives, and Alonso is solid with the cross from that side.

Best guess for the future? Cahill out as soon as Zouma returns (heading to China or MLS in January, hopefully, or better yet to Spurs), more left/right balance up front, and Matic continuing to be deployed in a way that allows Kantelele to wreak havoc further up the pitch.

If this is the way of the future, what we’ll see is probably less a 3-4-3 and maybe something that behaves more like a 3-2-4-1. Or something?

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