With 11 games played so far, Chelsea have made an indifferent start to the season. It could be said but to everyone involved within the club, they will be disappointed with how things have panned out at the beginning of the 2013-2014 campaign. Chelsea are currently sitting in 4th place in the league table behind Arsenal, Liverpool and Southampton. However, being still ahead of the likes of Man Utd, Spurs and Man City even with poor performances – especially away from home – they will hope to put these games behind them and kick-start their campaign leading into the busy Christmas/New Year schedule. Within the article I will be discussing Chelsea’s season so far, looking at their defence, passing, creativity and attacking statistics as well as comparing their start to the first 11 games of last season to highlight the differences to the corresponding fixtures to see how results have differed.
Starting off with two wins out of two at the beginning of the season, both at home to Hull City and Aston Villa, Mourinho’s first year back at the helm seemed to be going to plan. However, their away results and especially performances have lacked creativity and cutting edge, even with their star-studded midfield leading to points being dropped and fans being clearly frustrated. Having lost to both Everton and Newcastle after lacklustre displays, they can take positives from the fact that they have played Man Utd and Spurs away from home and avoided defeat, as well as winning against Man City with a crucial goal from Fernando Torres in the dying embers of the match, after an error in the City defence. An amazing statistic that Chelsea and their manager can hold to their name is that Mourinho is yet to lose at Stamford Bridge in the Premier League after 66 games during both his tenures at the club. Having won 51 and drawn 15, the latest game against West Brom almost bought the record to an end but for a very contentious penalty in the last minute scored by Eden Hazard.
Overall defensively, Chelsea will not be too concerned at the moment as its probably the area that is performing the best with only 10 goals conceded so far, 1 less than this time last year. They will take comfort in the resurgence in form of John Terry, who was not first choice under Rafael Benitez but has been reinstated into the middle of Chelsea’s back four since Mourinho’s return. During his first tenure at the club, Mourinho and Terry enjoyed success after success and he has kept faith in the long-serving centre back who has not disappointed so far. Having one goal and an assist so far this season, he also has had success in all 81 of his clearances (54 of these headed clearances) which shows how reliable he has been thus far.
Terry and Branislav Ivanovic have been the two only two ever-presents within the Chelsea back line this season and they have proved their worth so far with impressive stats. Ivanovic’s tackling numbers stand out mostly with 89% of his tackles being successful as well as 58% of his ground duels, better than Terry, Cole and Cahill.
Most people would agree that Terry, Ivanovic and Cole, so far, are right to occupy three of the four slots in defence. The dilemma that Mourinho has at the moment is who should partner John Terry in central defence. We have two candidates, Gary Cahill and David Luiz. Gary Cahill is now firmly part of the Chelsea family since making his move from Bolton and has been fairly consistent and assured whenever he has been given the opportunity. David Luiz on the other hand, having moved from Benfica a few seasons back now, can be a hit or miss at times. No one can doubt his ability as a defensive player with star performances both for Chelsea and Brazil in recent times, as well as having the ability to score a wonder goal or two with a long range shot or free kick. However, he can be seen as a liability at times. With defensive lapses due to his casual nature, fans must be frustrated knowing that they have a player that is capable of being a key member but is suffering due to his naive style of play. Last season under Benitez, Luiz flourished in a defensive midfield role, dictating play from just inside his own half and showing that talent that we all know he possesses. On the other hand, since Mourinho has been back, he has preferred Luiz back in defence but errors such as the one against Cardiff have led to him being dropped from the side again.
When comparing both their stats so far, Cahill has started 6 games to Luiz’s 5 and in those games Cahill has a pass completion rate of 88% compared to Luiz’s 84%. However, Luiz has a 100% tackle success compared to Cahill’s 67%, but the most telling stat is that in the games that David Luiz has played, he is yet to keep a clean sheet whilst Cahill has 3 clean sheets to his name already. Although this isn’t caused by just Luiz himself, it seems for the moment that Cahill will be first choice. And, even if Mourinho was considering moving Luiz into midfield, with the options he has in that part of the field, it will be difficult to find a place for him.
Overall Chelsea have made a mammoth 5737 passes so far with an 82% completion rate. This can be broken down into zones with 94% completion rate within the defensive zone and 75% in the attacking zone and finally a 70% completion for final 3rd passes.
John Terry has made the most passes in the team with 650 and 596 of them being accurate. Defensively, he has been the key passer, with 407 accurate passes made in his own half. When looking forward into the attacking areas, we see that Eden Hazard has made 320 accurate passes in the attacking half of the pitch and 220 successful passes in the final third area with 80% accuracy rate.
When sifting through the different statistics within the passing aspects, we can see that as well as Hazard, we have Frank Lampard and especially Ramires who have excellent passing numbers.
In terms of passes made, Lampard has 537 passes with an 84% accuracy and Ramires with an accuracy of 86% after 639 passes. Long range passes are the one of most difficult to execute but these two players have rates of 60% (Lampard) and 74% (Ramires) after 50 and 68 long balls played respectively. Both players have an attacking mentality and the majority of their passes are aimed forwards with 91 of Lampard’s passes played into the final third whilst he’s in other areas in the pitch. Ramires has 104 passes into the final third with 2/3 accurate through balls into the box. Oscar has also impressed in the final third with 35 penalty area entries.
Ramires’ impressive stats continue within all areas of the pitch, with an accuracy of 92% with his passes in his own half, 80% in the attacking half and 70% in the final third outlining his importance to the team and the reason why he has started all 11 games so far.
Creativity is where Chelsea have, oddly enough, been lacking this season. With the amount of talented players within their ranks who can unlock opposition defences, no-one has stood out so far within in the team. Chelsea have been involved in some tight affairs and haven’t been able to use their firepower to their advantage. That is also one of the reasons why they haven’t been as clinical this season and that has led to them dropping points which would normally not be the case. One issue I feel that is a cause for concern is that Mourinho chops and changes a lot within the midfield area and does not know his strongest group of players. Only Hazard and Ramires have made more than 10 appearances so far this season within the midfield and constant changes in personnel has led to inconsistency and a lack of fluidity which Chelsea normally have in abundance.
If you look at the creativity stats above, the numbers aren’t impressive, with no player playing to their full capacity so far. Lampard seems to have the best statistics out of the players above with 8 clear cut chances created and 2 assists to his name. The worrying stat there is that no one has produced more than 2 assists so far which is far from good enough for a team of Chelsea’s stature.
The key dilemma in the attacking midfield area is who to choose between Oscar and Mata? Mata had a fantastic season last year and is clearly a fan’s favourite but since Mourinho has returned, he has signified that Oscar is likely to be his first choice, highlighting Mata’s defensive frailties and his lack of tracking back. He has made it clear that he’s unlikely to play both within the same team, and Mourinho may say that his decision to play Oscar has paid dividends with 4 goals to his name so far. However, after a good start to the campaign, Oscar’s form has dipped slightly, giving Mata an opportunity to work on the defensive side of the game and make his way into the team again. We shall see how things unfold within that area in the weeks to come, and although it gives the manager different options, he needs the creative players firing if they are to mount a challenge for the title this season.
Since Didier Drogba departed the club, Chelsea have had void in the striking area that they are yet to fill. With Chelsea’s clear cut chance conversion rate at only 52%, they need to improve their clinical nature in front of goal in order to kill off matches in which they would normally win comfortably. Games against Norwich and West Brom have shown how they have left it very late to put pressure on teams in order to force a result and although it may have favoured them in both games, it will not be successful every time.
Goals will come from midfield for Chelsea as this is where most of their attacking play is produced but if they also have their strikers on form, they will be a nightmare for any team to deal with.With the acquisition of Samuel Eto’o this summer, fans had been hopeful that he would being some much needed firepower up front as well as improve the fortunes for both Fernando Torres and Demba Ba. However, none of these have yet to develop with 3 goals having been scored between all three strikers, which is simply not good enough. Hazard and Oscar are the club’s leading goal scorers with 4 goals each but no one else in the team has more than 2. Although there have been goals from all over the pitch with 18 in total so far, you feel that they need to have at least one of their front-men firing if they are to mount a challenge. In recent weeks, Chelsea fans would have seen some signs of encouragement from the likes of Eto’o, who seems to be slowly adapting to the style of the Premier League, and Torres, who has shown glimpses of what he is capable of from his Liverpool days.
With Chelsea’s clear cut chance conversion rate at only 52%, they need to improve their clinical nature in front of goal in order to kill off matches in which they would normally win comfortably. Games against Norwich and West Brom have shown how they have left it very late to put pressure on teams in order to force a result and although it may have favoured them in both games, it will not be successful every time. Goals will come from midfield for Chelsea as this is where most of their attacking play is produced but if they also have their strikers on form, they will be a nightmare for any team to deal with.
Comparison to last season
In the first 11 games of last season, they had 24 points to their name which 3 more than they have at the moment. Some may say they have had a tough start to the season and have done well to accumulate the points that they have but they also had a difficult start last year as well with matches against Man Utd, Liverpool, Arsenal and Spurs resulting in 7 points out of 12. They also scored 23 goals in the same amount of games last year compared to the 18 they have now but they have conceded 10 this time round which is 1 less than at this time last year.
In terms of the corresponding fixtures last season, excluding the results against Hull City and Cardiff who have been promoted, Chelsea were 4 points better off from the same 9 fixtures last year. Having accumulated 19 points compared to the 15 this year, they have scored 7 less and conceded 1 more this season as well.
Overall, with the fixtures that have been played and some of the so-called bigger teams out of the way, there is no reason to panic at this moment in time. With only 4 points between them and 1st place Arsenal, Chelsea will feel that if they become more clinical in front of goal and play with the same creativity that we are used to seeing with the calibre of players they have, they will be contesting for the league title come the end of the season. Mourinho and his team will no doubt be working on improving the team after the international break and if he can find a set team with his most influential players, this team is destined to do well.