The beginning of April this year, at the Britannia Stadium, Stoke v’s Chelsea. 97 minutes came and went, and what did we get. Chelsea dominating, Stoke staying strong, and one goal apiece. Should Chelsea have won? Were Stoke lucky, or just very good? Of course, the answers to these questions are in stats…
Stoke City Line Up – Begovic; Wilson, Huth, Shawcross, Higginbotham; Pennent, Delap, Whelan, Etherington; Walters (Yellow) (Goal), Jones.
Chelsea Line Up – Cech; Bosingwa (Yellow), Terry, David Luiz, Cole (Yellow); Lampard, Essien, Ramires; Malouda, Drogba (Goal), Anelka.
Chelsea, as is usually presumed, had the higher possession, with 65.4% to Stokes 34.6%, whilst also beating them on total shots (18-11) and having one more shot on target (5-4). Chelsea managed 261 more passes than Stokes 293, and not surprisingly, having 401 accurate passes to Stokes 176. The pass completion rate also falls badly for Stoke, who had only 60% of their passes completed to Chelsea’s 74%. Stoke only won 5 corners to Chelsea’s 12, and of Stokes 11 scoring opportunities, 6(54%) came from set plays, while only 16.6% (3) of Chelsea’s 18 chances came from set plays.
So was it Stokes defensive prowess, or Chelsea’s attacking flaws which caused the draw? Well, Stoke registered 3 more tackles in the game, won 6 more possession duels, were slightly better in the air, winning 1 more ‘battle’ than Chelsea and had 12 more interceptions – with 7 coming inside the box. They also made 57 clearances, more the double that of Chelsea, and made 10 blocks to Chelsea’s 3. These are all signs of a team on the back foot, but as the scoreline shows – they did all of these things effectively.
In attack, you can turn the defensive analysis on its head. Chelsea, as mentioned, had more shots/possession/passes than Stoke. On the other hand, Chelsea had 11 of their shots off target to Stoke’s 6, and Stoke managed 3 more successful dribbles than Chelsea’s 4. Chelsea made more defensive and attacking half passes, by near double in both categories – (80-146) and (186-357) respectively. Stoke also fell short in total touches, with Chelsea racking up 249 more touches than Stoke’s 516 touches.
Despite Stoke’s tag of being a long ball team, Chelsea racked up 29 of them to their 25, and surprisingly, they entered Chelsea’s final third 27 more times, at 69 times to Chelsea’s 42.
So, it was a combination of Stoke’s defence, and Chelsea’s poor attack that contributed to the draw. Stoke City clearly had a game plan, and stuck to it, while at the same time proving they ‘have something about them’. Chelsea just proved… well, that they’re started to lose that ‘something about them’.
What can be learned? If Stoke City have a bit more creativity whilst keeping their defensive strength, then the sky – or the Europa League, is the limit.
Stoke City fans must then question, what if we had a couple of players capable of something a bit special. A Scholes/Gerrard/Silva/Nasri/Naismith type player, who can push to turn draws into wins, and losses into draws, to create a couple more chances for Jones, who Stoke fans obviously love.