Analysis

The Debrief: Full-backs on the attack and Ziyech cutting through against the Blades

Having enjoyed victory at home this weekend, our analysis of the match stats shows that Hakim Ziyech continues to provide what has been described by his manager as an extra edge but in addition, the threat is coming from all across the pitch…

Chelsea’s potency from the flanks with Reece James playing behind Ziyech on the right and Ben Chilwell producing on the left with, in recent games, Timo Werner ahead of him, was a topic of conversation before Saturday’s match against Sheffield United.

‘At the moment we are getting praise for the sides of the pitch but as we move forward we can get better at it in terms of our execution and finishing in the box as well, but it is something I am happy with and we want to keep working on it,’ Frank Lampard said on Friday.

That the boss then labelled the 4-1 victory against the Blades, the first Chelsea win against Chris Wilder’s side under his management, as the best performance of the season indicates the team have indeed very quickly got better at the wide play, and the statistics from the game back that up.

Though quite rightly the football on the right, for which Ziyech was overwhelmingly voted man of the match, received much attention, the attacking importance of the left side cannot be ignored.

Remarkably, despite being the Chelsea left-back, Ben Chilwell had the highest number of shots on target in the game. All three of his attempts were directed at the net, including of course the one that put his team 2-1 ahead before half-time. Chilwell provided two key passes as well, the measure of how many times a player provides a ball that leads to a team-mate having an attempt on goal without scoring.

Tammy Abraham had the most shots, with two of his four on target including the first Chelsea goal, and the centre-forward played four key passes but that impressive total was second to Ziyech and his six, and when it came to producing the goods for goals, the Moroccan supplied two assists, for Chiwell to make it 2-1 and the corner which Thiago Silva headed in for 3-1.

He was also the most fouled player in the game, illegally impeded four times. Important given the Chelsea improvement from set-pieces this season. We scored from two in this game.

As impressive as Ziyech was, it was not all about his left foot on the right flank, as James with his right boot was just behind his team-mate when it came to most crosses played in the game – six and five between them. Mason Mount was third for Chelsea with four crosses.

As the touch map below shows, with the momentum in the game mostly with Chelsea despite Sheffield United’s good start, our right-back was able to be involved on the ball more often in the opposition half than in the Chelsea one.

Thiago Silva is off the mark for Chelsea with his header for the third goal and we have become accustomed to the Brazilian dominating the passing stats this season. Again he was top for most passes played (117). Contrast that with the 42 for United’s highest, John Lundstram, and it emphasises our grip on the game.

However Thiago Silva was beaten for accuracy in passes when looking at outfielders who began the game. The best at that was James who managed a 93.5 per cent success rate for balls he played. Edouard Mendy in goal was slightly higher with 93.6 per cent accuracy.

N’Golo Kante was at his destructive best yesterday, with only Sheffield United’s Max Lowe matching his five tackles won. Kante also intercepted the ball twice. Mason Mount and the Blades’ Chris Basham were joint top in that category.

Looking at the team overall, the Blues managed 20 shots to six for Wilder’s team. We had 70 per cent of the possession and won more tackles than our opponents. Our run of five consecutive clean sheets came to an end early in the game when Sheffield United scored from a corner but we did successfully defend six other corners and from the six we had, scored two goals.

Lampard’s men have won the past four games with 14 goals scored and our unbeaten run is now eight games since we were eliminated on penalties by Tottenham in the Carabao Cup. Our only defeat in 90 minutes this season remains the one against Liverpool, the second match. 
 

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