So the AVB era has started off being frustrating, halfway through the season we see Chelsea not improving as much as Chelsea fans would like to since the Portuguese manager took over last summer. In fact, before the games against Wolves, Villas Boas had an identical record to his predecessor Carlo Ancelotti, winning 10, drawing 4 and losing 5. So, can we draw any positives from this season and what has changed since last season?
Firstly, the defence has been worse for a start. With a team being in transition, the squad has had to adapt to a system which is more attacking, thus leaving Chelsea more vulnerable at the back. In the last two seasons Chelsea conceded 32 and 33 goals respectively, this season the defence has already leaked 25 goals. Many would blame a high line but is this really the case? A lot of goals have, rather than a high line, been due to individual mistakes.
Take, for example, the game against Aston Villa where Chelsea lost 3-1, the second goal was poor positioning from David Luiz and the last was a poor pass from Frank Lampard. In fact the stats suggest that Chelsea are better defensively in some areas, although it has to be considered that only 20 games have been played compared to the 38 of of last season, however this season there is a 77% tackle success rate, 57% of aerial 50-50s are won and there is 173 minutes per every defensive error.
This, in comparison to last season is favourable, with 74% tackle success rate, 55% of aerial 50-50s are won and there were 150 minutes between each defensive error. However only 3 last man tackles have been won in comparison to last season’s 20. Overall, the stats may be favourable in areas however with the key stat, goals conceded, Chelsea have been far worse than previous seasons, it’s a far cry from the Mourinho era where only 19 goals were conceded within a whole season.
The midfield is an area where Chelsea have seemed to improve, last season the midfield seemed slow and ponderous at times, although recently when Chelsea have been in a slump the same can be said, however at the start of the season there was renewed energy as well as calm. Oriol Romeu and Ramires have easily been the best, Romeu has brought calm to the Chelsea side, being the holding defensive midfielder he has done well, protecting the back four and distributing the ball fantastically, with a 90% pass accuracy throughout this season. Ramires on the other hand has brought a drive, he has scored 4 goals this season so far and it looks like he has improved further on his good form last season.
The third midfield spot has been contested by Meireles and Lampard, Meireles has been more consistent than outstanding this season, he has only scored the one goal this season (albeit an important one against Manchester City), like Romeu he is a good passer of the ball however doesn’t provide the attacking intent that Lampard would. Lampard’s season has been a mixed bag, from being substituted at half time at Old Trafford to scoring a hat-trick at Bolton. He has scored 8 goals and provided 4 assists this season, despite him coming off the bench or being substituted in a fair few games this season. The problem is that Lampard, at 33, isn’t as good as he used to be and as he ages it may be a good idea for him being more of a squad player, like Giggs and Scholes at Manchester United. The only problem has been that when Chelsea haven’t been able to break teams down there hasn’t been a creative player from midfield who can open the door, Juan Mata is used as a winger in a front three however it is arguable that he would be better operating centrally in midfield and having a natural winger in a front three to cause defences problems.
In terms of attack, Chelsea, very much like the rest of the team and season have been a mixed bag. Mata and Sturridge have been superb, coming up with goals and assists which change games. Mata has scored 4 goals and provided 7 assists while Sturridge has provided 9 goals and 2 assists, so together they have been involved in 22 of Chelsea’s 39 goals scored this season, over half of the goals. Compare this to Chelsea’s central strikers; Fernando Torres and Didier Drogba. Drogba has scored 3 goals and has 1 assist while Torres has scored 2 goals and has achieved 2 assists. These stats are remarkable considering that these are the main strikers and should be getting the majority of chances.
It also shows the lack of confidence Fernando Torres has, aswell as the slow decline of Didier Drogba from his best. However, in terms of Torres at least, the stats are improving and he is slowly getting to his best, the stats against Wolves prove that, he was lively and linking play up, he was pivotal in the crucial winning goal and his pass completion rate of 90% shows how good he was that day. The only problem is that Torres comes back to get the ball and distribute rather than being in the box and finishing off chances, again, this may be due to his lack of confidence. Torres has been in the shadow of Drogba since his arrival, with Drogba leaving for the African Cup of Nations then this may be Torres’ time to shine.
So, all in all, Chelsea have been consistently inconsistent in all areas. At times they have looked good defensively, Man City being the main case in point however have been utterly inept in a lot of games, games against Man United, Aston Villa, Arsenal and Liverpool have shown massive defensive frailties and unfortunately the negatives outweigh the positives, however in other areas Chelsea have improved. In midfield Ramires and Romeu have been excellent while up front Juan Mata and Daniel Sturridge have been a constant threat. There are obvious areas for improvement and like last season, it has proved to be a frustrating season so far with some good performances, City at home and Spurs away being the highlights. Chelsea’s aim for this season is to finish in the top 4, Villas Boas was brought in for the long haul and bringing his own style of football and signings, it is key to be patient even if times are difficult.
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