What a game. If you missed this one, seriously, go back and watch the explosion of emotions and hard-felt performances across the pitch in Chelsea’s narrow 3-2 win over Manchester City. The Citizens were dominant on the day going forward, yet Chelsea kept pushing and probing to take the lead not once, not twice, but three times. Their relentless goal-scoring when the odds seemed stacked against them ensured City always had an uphill battle to climb, and eventually became too big of a task for Gareth Taylor’s team. Here is our match analysis of the 2022 Women’s FA Cup Final between Chelsea and City.
In typical Emma Hayes fashion, Chelsea set up in a tactically complex formation, with fluctuating shapes, rotating personnel, and small tweaks between the phases. Out of possession, they pressed City from the front in a 3-4-1-2 shape, with Jess Carter joining Guro Reiten in the quest to track City’s full-backs. This allowed Hemp some breathing room to seek space in behind, particularly as City compounded matters by bringing Weir and Stokes over to the left in tandem – drawing the attention of Carter. Hemp could then use her brilliance in 1v1 situations – including her electric pace and exceptional footwork in tiny spaces. Millie Bright had to be up to the task every step of the way, but Hemp dominated her duels down the left.
Hemp’s involvement from a City perspective also became amplified due to Chelsea’s narrowness. In their 3-4-1-2, they narrowed the width of the pitch and attempted to limit City’s ability to find progressive passes directly into their striker (either Khadija Shaw or Ellen White). The likes of Greenwood and Walsh were still able to find the gaps in between Cuthbert and Ingle to play through, and the narrowness only worked against them in stopping Hemp and Kelly (later the energetic Hayley Raso) from getting on the ball in the wide areas. Luckily for the Blues, they handled crosses into the box reasonably well, with the likes of Aniek Nouwen and Ann-Katrin Berger commanding the penalty area. As the match wore on, they stuck on the more defensively sound Jonna Andersson in place of Reiten to make their defensive shape more of a 5-2-1-2, which aided in Magdalena Eriksson’s quest to tame Raso.
In possession, the Blues operated with a lopsidedness down the left that failed to truly break through City’s system. Three goals aside, they only had a few sound moments of disruption to City’s back-line, even despite their attempts to overload the left. With Sophie Ingle sitting in and acting both as an ‘Anchor’ and ‘Deep-Lying-Playmaker’, Cuthbert could have ventured forward more into right half-spaces to link up with the front line, and Jessica Carter could have potentially taken more moments to gallop up the right and allow Ingle to switch play to the other side. Instead, much of Ingle’s passes were diagonal ones back to the left, where Pernille Harder and the two strikers shifted to the side of the ball.
Their best moment of the game did however come down that side, with Guro Reiten playing a swift pass into the penalty area for Bethany England to bounce back to Erin Cuthbert. Cuthbert’s first touch was extraordinary, taking it away from Caroline Weir, but also perfectly setting herself up for the shot without needing to take an extra step.
After Bethany England and Pernille Harder made their way off the pitch, the Blues struggled to get Sam Kerr involved in attacking phases, and lacked in their support to the Australian in transitional moments. The goal-scoring hero even had to do it all on her own for Chelsea’s third of the day – when Alanna Kennedy stepped too far out and hung Greenwood out to dry. Chelsea’s clinical verve and relentless energy is what ultimately won them the match, even despite City’s attacking verve going the other way.
MANCHESTER CITY: 4-3-3
Gareth Taylor’s team operated in their traditional 4-3-3, showcasing an abundance of firepower and energy going forward. Lauren Hemp dominated the left-side with her raw physicality and strength, and brilliantly took her goal to equal the score just before half-time at 1-1. Keira Walsh also stood out for her role in possession, oozing class in tight spaces and playing a nice mix of progressive passes and short but sweet ones. Lucy Bronze meanwhile intermixed between inverting in central areas and galloping down the right to deliver crosses.
But recognizing Chelsea’s intense threat on the break – particularly in handling Sam Kerr, City often operated with all of their defenders back in a 4+1 rest defense. This then allowed Stanway and Weir to join the front three and arrive late to the party, where Weir in particular had her moments to find the back of the net. The directness of Hemp and Kelly could then cause dire defending from Emma Hayes’ team in their own third, as they had to throw their bodies in the way time and time again to stop shots from finding the back of the net.
Further, Khadija Shaw played a nice role in linking up as a target for progressive passes, even despite Chelsea’s attempts to limit central penetration. With her raw strength and hold-up ability, she rolled Aniek Nouwen a few times, bringing others into the game.
That’s exactly how Hemp was afforded so much time and space in the box for her goal, and she later inverted into half-spaces to draw Chelsea out of position, allowing Weir and Stokes to shift wide instead.
Out of possession, Gareth Taylor’s team set up in a 4-1-4-1 high to mid-block, with Alex Greenwood sweeping in behind Alanna Kennedy. Unfortunately, this caused great concern as they threw numbers forward in extra time, abandoning their normal rest defense structure. The likes of Walsh and Kennedy found themselves far too tired to catch Kerr’s electric pace on the break, and Greenwood didn’t make up her mind quick enough in closing Kerr down and angling the potential pass away from Jessie Fleming.Embed from Getty Images
But for the majority of the match, both Alanna Kennedy and Alex Greenwood handled defensive situations extraordinarily well. The Australian contested duels in the air well and used her physicality to stop Chelsea’s forwards from growing into the match, while Greenwood was always excellently positioned to clear the danger away or recycle back to Ellie Roebuck. City were unlucky on the day not to see out the game and achieve all three points, having put together the most fervid attacking moves in the match. Unfortunately for them, Emma Hayes’ women were far too clinical going forward, and made their moments count in claiming victory.Embed from Getty Images
In the end, it was a brilliant match to watch, and a great representation of the depth in quality from two of England’s top clubs. Victory for Emma Hayes’ Chelsea secures them an impressive double, remaining England’s best team for another year.
So there it is! A match analysis of the Women’s FA Cup Final between Chelsea and City. Be sure to check out more of our Women’s Football articles, and follow on social media @desmondrhys to never miss an update. Thanks for reading and see you soon!
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