Analysis

The Debrief: Our season so far

With the final international break of the year providing us with an opportunity to pause and reflect on club matters so far in 2020/21, we’ve taken a look at what the statistics say about Chelsea’s start to the season, as well as some other trends we’ve spotted…

The first barometer of success is always the league table (even if it is a little too early to draw conclusions) and the Blues currently sit fifth after the opening eight games of the campaign, having won four, drawn three and lost one. 

Our recent form offers encouragement; after four points from our first three matches in the Premier League, we currently have 11 from the past five, a haul bettered only by Tottenham and Southampton (13).

In the Champions League, things are also looking positive for Frank Lampard’s men, who sit top of Group E at the halfway stage, level on points with Sevilla. Our progress to the last-16 could be wrapped up on matchday four if we win in Rennes and the Spaniards beat Krasnodar at home.

Attacking with intent

An upturn in form, performances and results has been instigated by a coming-together of the attacking components of the team. The Blues are currently the Premier League’s top scorers with 20 goals and have found an encouraging blend in recent matches, with Hakim Ziyech operating menacingly from the right, Timo Werner ever-threatening on the opposite flank and Tammy Abraham honing himself into a prime reference point centre-forward.

The statistics also support the view that the team are firing on all cylinders in attack.

Part of the reason behind significantly outperforming our xG so far this season has been a ruthlessness in front of goal, which is borne out by having the joint-best goals per shot ratio in the division.

The new signings have also been instrumental in adding new avenues of attack to our offensive game, with Ben Chilwell providing balance on the left and Ziyech’s wand of a left foot dissecting opposition defences in recent games. Those two have eight goal contributions between them in the Premier League (three goals, five assists), bettered only by Werner (5), who has played quite a lot more minutes.

Abraham’s role in the team has also taken on greater prominence in the last few matches, with Lampard recently praising his all-round game in terms of linking play and stretching defences. The 23-year-old has two goals in his last two appearances and ranks highly for goals and assists per 90 minutes this term.

Squad strength

In this convoluted of seasons, strength in numbers will surely be key and Lampard himself has talked at length about the importance of the group over the coming weeks and months. The boss has used 24 players already in the league, the second-highest amount behind Everton’s 25 and just three less than in the entirety of 2019/20.

Less than a quarter of the way through the Premier League campaign, only two players (N'Golo Kante and Werner) have featured in all eight games, providing a further indication that rotation could be the recipe for success this term.

Settled signings starting to shine

Ziyech’s introduction may have been delayed by a knee injury sustained in our one and only pre-season friendly but the Moroccan is quickly making up for lost time with an eye-catching repertoire of passing, crossing, finishing and assisting.

The 27-year-old has three assists and two goals in his four Chelsea starts to date. He’s created 13 chances in the Premier League despite only playing 191 minutes of action. He’s currently chipping in with a goal or assist every 48 minutes in the Premier League.

However, it’s not just the Wizard’s spell-binding performances earning rave reviews. All six of our summer signings have settled quickly and are making an impact. Edouard Mendy is currently conceding a goal every 360 minutes, while Thiago Silva has brought personality, organisation and calmness to the defence.

Werner has eight goals in 12 appearances, while Chilwell’s impact as an energic full-back has been widely praised and Kai Havertz threads play together neatly in a roaming role throughout attacking areas.

The young ones

For those who spent the majority of last season screaming that Chelsea would achieve nothing with kids, Lampard has clearly been taking little notice as he continues to assemble a young, hungry group of players.

The Blues have given players aged 21 or under a total of 1791 minutes of Premier League football this season, more than any other club in the league.

That is not a mere snapshot of a clutch of youngsters getting a runout here and there either; of our 11 most-used players in the league, five are aged 23 or under – Chilwell, Abraham, Havertz, Mason Mount and Reece James – while only West Brom and Aston Villa have an average age younger than Chelsea’s so far this season.

However, crucial experience has been added in key areas, namely 36-year-old Thiago Silva at the back, which means Lampard’s side are slightly older than their average age throughout last season (24.63). Has that made all the difference?

Altered approach

Those who watch the Blues in action closely might have spotted a slight shift in possessional approach this season. Lampard lamented his side’s inability to move the ball quickly from one side of the pitch to the other last season, citing it as a major factor in the team proving unable to break down stubborn opposition defences at home. 

Think back to those dropped points against Southampton, Bournemouth, West Ham, Sheffield United and Leicester City. While we are attempting more passes than last season overall, third-highest in the league behind Manchester City and Liverpool, it is the type of pass that has been noticeable.

No team in the Premier League switches the play more than Chelsea, on average 21.3 times a game. Chilwell has helped by adding balance on the left, while Mount in a deeper position has been able to spray the ball much more freely, as has Thiago Silva when stepping forward from central defence.

It means Lampard’s men have been able to shift opponents around the pitch more and disrupt the compact shape they seek to sit in at Stamford Bridge. With the full-backs providing the overlapping width, our wide forwards can drift more centrally, finding pockets of space in between defenders and the lines of midfield and defence. 

Even though our possession is actually down on last season, what we are doing with it is making all the difference and bodes well for the busy weeks ahead.

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