The FA Cup 2018 final took place between Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United and Antonio Conte’s Chelsea on 19th May and as we know Chelsea came victorious with a margin of 1-0 courtesy to an Eden Hazard penalty, thereby giving Conte his second trophy in second season and Mourinho a trophy less season. Let us take a look at the tactical set up and analysis of the match in a nutshell .
Manchester United fielded a asymmetric 4-3-1-2/4-3-2-1 . Why asymmetric is that , the three forwards i.e. Rashford , Sanchez and Lingard played close to each other with Rashford on the right, Lingard in centre and shifting to left and Sanchez in left shifting to centre, thereby making it a narrow asymmetric attack which is markedly different from the expansive 4-3-3 or 4-3-1-2 with a false 9. United definitely was going to miss Lukaku’s presence up front since he was rushing back to fitness and not in a condition to play the entire match.To compensate Jose planned to use on the pace and nimbleness of the three fielded forwards, Sanches, Lingard and Rashford. Behind them, Pogba was manning the LCM, Herrera the RCM with an added responsibility to mark Hazard , Matic shielded the defence. Valencia and Young were the selected fullbacks with Smalling and Jones pairing before De Gea. Why Bailey was not fielded by Jose will remain a mystery since Bailey has been the best CB for United this season.
Conte fielded his trade mark 3-5-2, with a flat midfield of Bakayoko-Kante-Fabregas flanked by Alonso and Moses. Rudiger-Cahill-Azpi sat before Courtouis and up front Hazard was given a free role from left behind the focal point Giroud.
Previously, Jose’s ploy to man mark Hazard using Herrera has proven to be fruitful.Herrera marked Hazard in RB position when he tried to cut in from left and subsequently Herrera returned to his RCM position to take part in midfield buildup. This time Hazard was trying to nullify this zonal routine of Herrera by trying to drag him to other side of the field , from left to centre to right. In first few cases Herrera followed him, but with Alonso pushing up and Valencia also pushing up, Herrera had the knack to return to his right side zonal position so that the midfield as well as right flank did not got flooded with Chelsea attacks. Chelsea was looking to attack via flanks as usual and Hazard was their creative hub up front. Kante and Bakayoko kept things steady with Fabregas too staying deep and ensuring circulation of the ball. United on the other hand also tried to play via their full backs, Young and Valencia, since thier RCM already was covering the RB zone. Both Matic and Pogba were trying to take advantage of the advanced wingback positions by playing over the top balls so that Sanchez or Rashford could latch on to them running from channel to channel. United surely missed Lukaku’s strength and presence, since all three of United’s forwards failed to hold or trap the chipped passes from midfield. Instead, Hazard was successful in his attempt to disrupt the zonal marking of united, his attempts were either to drag Herrera to right to allow Alonso and Giroud to take advantage of the United right side, or let Herrera remain in right side so that Hazard could remain free and attack the weak link in United’s defence i.e. Jones in a one vs one.
During one of those right channeled runs of Hazard , Herrera decided not to follow Hazard, and Hazard trapped a deep pass from Chelsea midfield in a one vs one against Jones. This led to a penalty for Chelsea which Hazard calmly converted. The remaining of first half remained uneventful and continued as such. In second half United came out roaring , they changed their ploy of playing from wings and instead tried to create through the centre of the pitch. Since Chelsea were now sitting deep, United’ fullbacks bombed up with one of their forwards dropping deep to create a 4 vs 3 overload in midfield. With numerical superiority in middle, united started creating chances and rallied on waves of attacks. Chelsea also created some good chances via counter attacks, but it was United who were more dominant in second half. However Chelsea defended superbly and Courtuis made some good saves too.Jose threw in Martial and Lukaku and their attack continued but Chelsea held strong. A special mention should be made of an open header which Pogba missed. In the end, United’s second half resurgence proved fruitless and Chelsea finished the game victorious with a 1-0 margin. It was a good match with both sides playing compact and with good pace and rhythm. But Conte defeated Jose in his own game and clinched the FA cup, the first one of his career.