|Jeremy Mathieu Posed A Constant Threat on the Left against Barcelona|
Chelsea will play Valencia at the Mestalla next Wednesday for the group stage of the Champions League. In preparation for my usual Chelsea Opposition Scout Report (COSR), I watched yesterday's encounter between Valencia and Barcelona, which ended in a 2-2 draw. I think for our purposes, it is important to note that the majority of Valencia's chances came from their left hand side and one player in particular played a major role in nearly all of them.
It was an exciting game to watch: both sides had plenty of chances. There were some beautiful goals and some ugly misses. Valencia went ahead twice but Barcelona were able to came back both times -- the second equalizing goal came at 77 minutes. [Note: You can watch the full highlights here, unless it is taken down for copy right reasons. And you can read the tactical break down of the game by Michael Cox here.]
Valencia scored both of their goals in the first half. It would have been three if the on form striker Roberto Soldado didn't miss from close range with goal gaping. All three of these chances look almost identical.
All of them started with penetrating runs on the left wing by Jeremy Mathieu. The French man is primarily a left fullback but he can also play on the wing (think Yuri Zhirkov), which was where he played in this game against Barcelona. Mathieu effectively exploited the space in behind forward-running Danni Alves and whipped in some dangerous crosses -- creating the three clear cut goal scoring opportunities for Valencia. Here is the photo analysis of the three instances.
|Picture 1.1 Mathieu (yellow circle) Runs onto a Through-ball on the Left|
|Picture 1.2 Mathieu (yellow circle) Puts In A Curling Low Cross|
As you can see in Picture 1.1 and 1.2, Jeremy Mathieu makes a smart run in behind the Barca defense on the left and collects a clever through-ball. From there, he powers forward before firing a low cross into the middle. In his attempt to defend the cross, the unfortunate Eric Abidal deflected the ball into his own net.
|Picture 2.1 Mathieu (yellow circle) Collects Another Through-Ball on the Left Wing|
|Picture 2.2 Mathieu's Cross Found Pablo (red circle) in the Barcelona's Penalty Box|
Valencia's second goal was almost a carbon copy of the first one. Mathieu, once again, found himself on the left wing receiving another defense splitting pass. His low cross found teammate Pablo, unmarked at the far post, who finished with a calm shot pass Victor Valdes.
|Picture 3.1 Mathieu (yellow circle) Makes A Good Run Down the Left|
|Picture 3.2 Soldado (red circle) Met Mathieu's Low Cross But Missed from Close Range|
After a clever turn, Mathieu collected a long ball from the back and made another forceful run down the left before slipping a cool, low pass for Soldado to tap in. But the Spanish striker, just like the one playing in London, missed with an open goal at his mercy.
Part of the reason for Mathieu's successful runs down Barcelona's left is that Danni Alves, the Barca "right back", plays very high up the pitch. It only needs a good pass find someone, like Mathieu, running into the space left by Alves. This is not something new: Mathieu has done this kind of damange against Barcelona in the past.
However, one should not take away the intelligence that Mathieu has shown in making these runs at the right time. Furthermore, his ability to make powerful runs and provide precise crosses is evident in these examples. Jose Bosingwa will most likely start as right back against Valencia. The Portuguese does not stay as high up the pitch as Alves does for Barca, but he does, as we all know, like to bomb forward. The Chelsea right back should be aware of Mathieu's threat on the left wing. It would be wise to mark Mathieu closely come Wednesday.
[Note: Usually, I would have left this to include in the upcoming Chelsea Opposition Scout Report (COSR) but I felt that it will need a space of its own to really get the point across. Part of this post will probably feature in the COSR: Valencia, which should be up before Wednesday.]
Carefree, wherever you may be...