Chelsea 1 Crystal Palace 2: How Chelsea might have won at Stamford Bridge and avoided shock defeat

ANALYSIS: We've teamed up with Sports Interactive, the makers of Football Manager, to re-run one of the weekend's key games to see how the losers might have prevailed had they done things differently

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The Independent Online

Chelsea lost 2-1 at Stamford Bridge to Crystal Palace in the shock result of last weekend. The victory for Alan Pardew's side inflicted just the second Premier League defeat on Jose Mourinho in 100 home games. But how might it have gone differently?

THE RE-RUN

With Crystal Palace's formation remaining the same, Sports Interactive simulated the game over again with various Chelsea line-ups and tactics until it produced an alternative result.

Formation: 4-2-3-1

Line-up: Courtois, Ivanovic, Zouma, Cahill, Azpilicueta, Fabregas, Matic, Pedro, Willian, Hazard, Falcao (one change from real starting eleven – Falcao in for Costa. Crystal Palace remain unchanged)

Final Score: Chelsea 3-0 Crystal Palace (Scorers: Hazard, Falcao (2))

Radamel Falcao rediscovers some of his goalscoring form to help Chelsea overcome a spirited Crystal Palace side at Stamford Bridge. The Colombian rounds off an impressive display with two goals and the Man of the Match award.

Falcao is the focal point for the vast majority of Chelsea’s attacks and is instructed to sit on the shoulders of the Palace centre-backs and get as many shots away as possible. The fact that he has fifteen shots at goal and only attempts thirteen passes shows just how diligently he sticks to this instruction. He enjoys particular success when running off the shoulder of Scott Dann and onto Eden Hazard’s through balls. This is Chelsea’s most frequent form of attack with Hazard supplying five key passes to Falcao and it’s this combination that leads to the first of his goals.

Falcao may put the finishing touches on Chelsea’s attacking play but the match is really won by their midfielders. Matic and Fabregas do an excellent job of retaining the ball in the centre of the park with a combined average pass completion rate of sixty-seven per cent. The creativity of Pedro, Willian and Hazard forces McArthur to drop deeper to assist the back four which leaves Palace short in midfield on the occasions where they do win the ball and want to launch a counter-attack. Even that is not enough to prevent Hazard from getting on the scoresheet with a curled effort from the edge of the box after Palace were slow to close him down.

 

Mourinho instructs his team to send play down the flanks in the first half, utilising the speed of Pedro and Hazard to good effect. In the second half and with a 2-0 lead in the bag, he switches tactics and elects to focus passing through the middle of the pitch to bring Fabregas into play. The Spaniard sees much more of the ball as a result and plays three more key passes in the second half as he did in the first, including the assist for Falcao’s second.

As a result of their dominance, Chelsea face very few Crystal Palace attacks. Courtois is forced into making a save on only two occasions and Cahill and Zouma deal with seventy-seven per cent of the long balls that are played forward by Palace. Cabaye’s creative play is stymied by a mix of Matic’s excellent defensive work and a lack of support from McArthur and the wingers. Palace struggle to see the ball in the latter stages as Chelsea run down the clock after a dominant display.

Football Manager uses a vast database - compiled by approximately 1,300 researchers across the world (including real-life scouts) - to blend reality and fiction. So impressive is the information that it has become a tool used by real life managers. The painstakingly detailing simulation of club management, which allows players to control every aspect of a manager's role, from scouting new player to tactics and training, has sold millions of copies worldwide.

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