Chelsea just cannot seem to catch a break. After a horrendous start to the season, the Blues seemed to have recovered after winning two and drawing in the first three weeks of October. However, then came a home defeat against Brentford, which once again left the team with more questions than answers. To make matters worse, their next game was against their city rivals, Tottenham Hotspur, who were at the top of the table and were undefeated in the league.
Chelsea, though in the most Chelsea way possible, decimated the table toppers 4-1 away on the road. While they were helped by the two red cards given to Christian Romero and Destiny Udogie, these were the results of some brilliant attacking play by the Blues.
However, such has been the inconsistency of Mauricio Pochetinno’s side that even such a morale-boosting victory doesn’t guarantee that his team might go on a long run of victories.
However, what do the stats say? Have Chelsea been that bad, or has a high involvement of luck or players not gelling together as quickly as was expected of them? We explain.
Chelsea’s attacking metrics
A look at their stats in the attacking third proves one thing: Chelsea should be at least in the top six, if not higher. Data from Soccerment shows that the players have been brilliant at getting the ball near the goal. The club are the best in the league when it comes to Gegenpressing Intensity, which shows that they play an attacking style of football.
Chelsea also have a 63.59 per cent rating in Field Tilt, which measures the amount of possession a team has in the opposition’s half. They back these possession advantages by being the second-best team in playing one-twos and the fourth-best in terms of successful dribbles.
On top of that, they also have the third-best passing accuracy. However, it is what Chelsea do when they get into a scoring chance that has been the main reason for their downfall. While Nicolas Jackson dropped a masterclass by scoring a hattrick against Tottenham, we must remember it came against a nine-man team who were playing a high line in search of a goal.
Jackson has an expected goal (xG) rating of 6.72 but has only scored five, three of which came against Tottenham. And not only Jackson but any player across the frontline have failed to find the finishing touch. Before the Tottenham game, the club’s top scorer was Raheem Sterling, with only three goals.
The xG difference is even more stark when taking the entire team into account. While Chelsea have scored 17 goals, on the xG metric, they were expected to score 22.64 goals. According to the Premier League won website, the Blues have missed 22 big chances, the second-most in the league.
While Chelsea have splurged money to improve their options in the midfield (Enzo Fernandez, Moises Caicedo) and defence (Marc Cucurella, Wesley Fofana), Jackson is good but not world-class.
What Pochettino must do to keep Chelsea in form?
What is affecting Chelsea is their lack of mental fortitude, especially when it comes to seizing particular moments of the game. And this is one of the hardest things to teach, even to world-class players. One great example was the clash between Liverpool and Newcastle, where Jurgen Klopp’s men scored two goals despite being down to ten men and securing victory, which Klopp called the best in his Liverpool career.
Other top clubs such as Manchester City, Real Madrid, and Bayern Munich are also experts at these. Chelsea have been playing well, and with more time and players returning from injury, the quality is only going to improve, but will they be able to seize those moments is a question only time will tell.
However, with Mauricio Pochettino, they have the perfect man for this job. This is the same person who developed brilliant players at Southampton and took Tottenham to a Champions League final with minimal resources.
And this is true for all the positions in the team. On paper, even Chelsea’s defence ranks among the best in the league. They have conceded the fifth-least goals in the league, the third-least shots in the league, and the fifth-least on-target shots conceded.
However, just like their attack, they have conceded on back-of-school-boy errors, especially in crunch situations. And whether they have discovered some sort of mental strength will be discovered soon enough. Chelsea’s next four games come against Manchester City (away), Newcastle United (away), Brighton (away) and Manchester United (home).
While this represents one of the toughest challenges for Chelsea, they have at least made a strong start. Now, it is up to them to sustain the momentum.