Breaking down Chelsea's substitutes' impact in Nottingham Forest clash

Discover how Chelsea's substitutes turned the game around against Nottingham Forest, analyzing their tactical impact and game-changing contributions.
Nottingham Forest v Chelsea FC - Premier League
Nottingham Forest v Chelsea FC - Premier League / Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/GettyImages

Drama and entertainment are never short at Chelsea Football Club, with the latest action-packed episode against Nottingham Forest providing a thrilling 3-2 comeback victory that sealed three crucial points to assist their chase for European football.

Although Cole Palmer provided a piercing pass that opened the home team's defense for Mykhailo Mudryk to burst through and score, the tie swung the opposite way immediately.

Willy Boly comfortably netted the equalizer after Forest won a freekick, and former Cobham graduate and Chelsea player Callum Hudson-Odoi gave his team the lead with a gorgeous right-footed curler that found the bottom corner.

Although the City Ground was bouncing in jubilation, Chelsea had other plans, as they stopped the early celebrations with two quick goals that turned the game on its head, prompted by timely and clever substitutions by Mauricio Pochettino.

In this article, we analyze how Chelsea's bench players supplemented an electrifying comeback.

Energy and intent

Having started the same line-up for three games in a row, which has not often happened in the injury-riddled 2023-24 season, there was understandably fatigue kicking in that was evident in the first half and especially the second.

There was very little movement and rotations from the Chelsea players as they looked to break down a robust 5-4-1 low-block. The compact defensive shape denied central progression, so Chelsea had to look at their wingers to provide the offensive spark.

Mudryk supplied that vitality through his intelligent run for the first goal, and Noni Madueke showed intent early in the game to do the same. However, such moments were very rare.

Moreover, the two wide forwards contributed very little creativity through dribbles, which Madueke has delivered in the last few games.


Dribbles Attempted

Successful Dribbles

VS West Ham United



VS Tottenham



VS Aston Villa



To Chelsea's benefit, Raheem Sterling, who was substituted, provided the missing one-versus-one prowess that immediately paid off.

Similar to Hudson-Odoi's goal, Sterling found the space after cutting into the right and curved an accurate shot into the bottom corner.

Tactical alteration

For all of the skepticism surrounding Pochettino's tactical flexibility this season, against Forest, his decision to change the team's shape after going down 2-1 influenced the final proceedings.

Pochettino did so by overloading the Forest backline by attacking with six players against the defensive unit of five. Moreover, with Nuno Espírito Santo shifting his team to a back four after Sterling scored the equalizer, it was a six-versus four in the final third that Forest's defensive line had to cope with.

It yielded dividends by producing Chelsea's third goal, where the opposition left-back, Harry Toffolo, jumped to Malo Gusto, who positioned in the half-space, leaving James isolated in the right flank.

With time and space to pick a pass, the Chelsea captain flawlessly found Nicolas Jackson, who cleverly peeled off to the back post in anticipation of the cross before finishing an exquisite attacking move.

Chelsea supporters are aware of the injury crisis that has, once again, plagued the club. One of the effects of the long absentee list is that it hinders Pochettino's ability to make such game-changing tactical tweaks.

The data corroborates the same. According to FBref, Chelsea ranks fifth-lowest for substitutes used (134) and third-lowest for minutes per substitute (17) in the Premier League before the match against Forest.

With key personnel like Gusto, James, Levi Colwill, and Christopher Nkunku returning, Pochettino will be equipped with the necessary firepower in the remaining two games as they chase much-needed European football.