Having enjoyed a winning return to domestic duties following the final international break of the year, our analysis of the post-match statistics show how N’Golo Kante is thriving in a deeper midfield role and our attacking impetus continues to improve.
Chelsea made it five wins on the spin in all competitions as an own goal and a second-half strike from Tammy Abraham sealed all three points in Newcastle on Saturday lunchtime. Here, we take a look at the numbers and the tactics behind the victory…
Kante key as defensive destroyer
Frank Lampard’s 4-3-3 has provided a solid platform for our improved performances and results in recent weeks, with the full-backs encouraged to get forward and join the attack. However, the system relies heavily on a defensive base and Kante’s deployment as the deepest, single-pivot holding midfielder has been key to that.
No player won more tackles (4) or made more interceptions (3) than the lively Frenchman at St James’ Park, with his efforts acting as an essential screen in front of Toni Rudiger and Kurt Zouma. The centre-backs were also the only players who completed more passes than Kante.
Yet it wasn’t just in our own half that the 29-year-old excelled, as the heat map of his afternoon’s work shows.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the Blues’ performance on Tyneside was the suffocation inflicted on the hosts whenever they won back the ball. While our possession statistics were dominant, with a 71.1 per cent share of the ball and 90 per cent pass completion, the counter-press was effective and Kante led that effort by picking up second balls all over the pitch.
He was voted man of the match by fans on the 5th Stand app and few could disagree with that!
Attacking from all angles
Following our 4-1 victory over Sheffield United last time out, Hakim Ziyech stole the headlines for an all-action display but this performance demonstrated the holistic nature of Chelsea’s attack. Our attacking avenues were split fairly evenly – 34 per cent down the right, 36 per cent on the left and 30 per cent through the centre – even though 80 per cent of our shots were from the middle third.
Abraham had a game-high three of the team’s 14 goal efforts, one of which was tucked inside the post to double our lead in the 65th minute, and two of our three on target.
The other was an effort from Timo Werner, who put in a lively performance down the left and set up Abraham’s goal with a brilliant run, even if he didn’t have the most clinical day in front of goal himself.
The German fired a blank for the first time in five matches for the Blues but has now been involved in 10 goals (seven of his own plus three assists) in his last eight games at club level. Abraham, meanwhile, has 23 goals since the start of last season, more than any other Chelsea player.
In control on Tyneside
The Blues made it a dozen games unbeaten in fairly comfortable fashion, enjoying one of our highest possession statistics of the season, with nobody spending more time on the ball than Rudiger (10 per cent). Next were Zouma (9.9 per cent) and Reece James (7.3 per cent). Mason Mount had more touches of the ball (91) than any non-defender on the field.
Six of our 14 goal attempts were off-target and five were blocked. We scored the opener without registering a shot as Federico Fernandez bundled into his own net from close range, under familiar back-post pressure from Ben Chilwell.
We restricted Newcastle to just one shot on target, although they did hit the crossbar through Sean Longstaff with the score at 2-0.
Zouma won a game-high nine aerial duels, four more than anyone else on the pitch, and had a 96 per cent pass completion rate, the most of any starter.
Edouard Mendy has seven clean sheets in his nine appearances for Chelsea, with four in five Premier League games. He is currently averaging a goal conceded every 405 minutes. Four successive away clean sheets in all competitions is our best run since February 2014.