Chelsea under Rafa Benitez at home and away are two completely different propositions at this current moment in time. At home Chelsea look tentative, slow and ponderous, while Chelsea at away look expansive and break on the counter. So, what’s the problem? Chelsea are given much less space at home than they are away, however, as the statistics prove, they are creating the chances at home and aren’t converting them.
As we can see from the images below, which compare two home and two away games, there is a marked difference in the way in which Chelsea convert their chances. Against QPR Chelsea had 15 shots, 13 of which were not on target with 0 goals and a shooting accuracy of 13%. Compare this to Stoke away, where there were 8 shots, Chelsea scored 4 and had a shooting accuracy of 75% and chance conversion rate of 50%. Similarly, in the Everton game, Chelsea had 9 shots, with a shooting accuracy of 56% and chance conversion of 22%. Compare this to a 25% shooting accuracy and 17% chance conversion against Southampton.
The stats are clear, Chelsea need to start converting their chances at home otherwise they face falling even further off the pace of the top 2. Not only is the chance conversion a problem, as the stats show. The way that Chelsea play at home and away is markedly different.
As we can see from the average positions of the players in the games away (Chelsea in red) against Stoke and Everton, Chelsea have a good shape, especially against Everton. Although Fernando Torres played quite deep, Ramires, Eden Hazard and Juan Mata were quite advanced for the three behind the striker as well as having clearly defined roles and positions. From initially being a 4-3-3, we changed our formation to a 4-2-3-1 after getting overran in midfield in the opening first half an hour. As we can see, Ashley Cole and Cesar Azpilicueta maintained quite advanced positions for full backs away from home, while David Luiz and Frank Lampard remained central and protected the centre back pairing of Gary Cahill and Branislav Ivanovic.
Against Stoke, Cesar Azpilicueta and Ashley Cole were advanced again, while Ryan Bertrand stayed wide. Eden Hazard and Juan Mata drifted in to support Demba Ba. Although the shape isn’t quite there in the game against Stoke, the width is, which is clearly lacking in the home games.
Against QPR and Southampton, Chelsea (in blue), especially against Southampton lacked any width. Eden Hazard, Oscar and Mata all occupied the same positions. While Ashley Cole was pushed back by the positive Nathaniel Clyne, who clearly kept Cole busy. On the right Cesar Azpilicueta couldn’t advance as Guly do Prado and Luke Shaw occupied the space, in fact it was Shaw’s great run which resulted in Southampton’s second goal.
At home against QPR – Chelsea couldn’t make the breakthrough play against a very deep QPR side, who got 11 men behind the ball, defended well and took their solitary chance. Chelsea couldn’t break through and lacked ideas. Although Azpilicueta and Ryan Bertrand were very advanced, the supporting three of Oscar, Victor Moses and Marko Marin occupied the same space.
What both home games show is that the three behind the front-man, whether it be Demba Ba or Fernando Torres need to stop occupying the same space. It restricts Chelsea to go through the middle, and when a team defends so deep, like QPR it then becomes difficult. Against Southampton Chelsea went in to a 2-0 lead and then sat back, with Shaw and Clyne pushing on, both of whom were important in their side’s goals. The approach at home and away from home is remarkably different.
The two cup games in between, the 2-0 loss to Swansea at home and the 5-1 drubbing of Southampton away, highlight the remarkable difference that Chelsea have in their home and away form. Away from home, Chelsea clearly use the space to their advantage, however at home when sides drop deep like QPR they have no answer. Chelsea need different options, the 4-2-3-1 can be advantageous, especially away from home with the three players getting more space supporting the front man. However, at home, especially when you’re playing Hazard, Mata and Oscar, the occupation of the same space results in a lack of width which in turn plays in to the opposition’s hands by going centrally, where they keep their shape and get men behind the ball.
Against Southampton Chelsea looked complacent in the second half, they gave the ball away too often and let them back in the game, against QPR they couldn’t be creative enough and have enough different ideas. The problem for Rafa Benitez is to find out the solution and remarkably fast, as the discontent at Stamford Bridge continues.