The Debrief: Battling Blues run out of steam

It was a draw that felt like a defeat as Chelsea desperately clung on to a slender lead against Brighton for over an hour before ultimately surrendering two precious Premier League points. Here, we take a closer look at the match statistics and all the talking points…

Despite starting brightly and establishing a lead inside 30 minutes through Romelu Lukaku’s pinpoint header, Thomas Tuchel was rarely content on the touchline as his side registered less possession, fewer shots and efforts on target than our visitors from the South Coast.

In fact, not since Aston Villa’s visit in gameweek four of the season has an away side had more goal attempts in SW6, though Brighton succeeded where the Villans couldn’t by turning that into a useful point.

Chelsea were also left bemoaning more bad luck with injuries as both Andreas Christensen and Reece James exited the action before the second half resumption, the latter leaving the field very gingerly with what Tuchel later diagnosed as a hamstring injury.

A game of three acts

The balance of the contest swung in both directions throughout the 90 minutes, sometimes subtly but often drastically. The Blues dominated before Lukaku’s breakthrough goal, with six shots to Brighton’s two and four on target to zero from the Seagulls, while we also passed more accurately (87 per cent completion) and won more duels (70 per cent in the air, 75 per cent on the ground) during that period.

Yet Brighton’s response to falling behind was impressive, their energy and intensity often overwhelming Tuchel’s side in midfield. From the half-hour mark to the 70th minute, they out-shot us 14-0, five of those bringing saves from Edouard Mendy in the Blues goal, outplayed us with 55 per cent possession (our passing accuracy also dropped to 72 per cent) and outfought us as our duels win percentage fell to 53 per cent. 

It echoed a common refrain from Tuchel that his team are struggling to manage match situations when they go in front, though that was not aided on this occasion by losing two key defenders to injury.

Crucially, the one metric that mattered hadn’t changed and Tuchel’s switch to 3-5-2 with the introduction of N’Golo Kante helped steady a faltering ship in the final 20 minutes. In that last period, we conceded just one effort on goal before the equaliser and appeared to have ridden out the storm, though perhaps the writing had been on the wall all along.

Brighton have won more points than any other team in the Premier League by scoring in or after the 90th minute this season. Chelsea have dropped 11 points from winning positions in our 20 league matches this term, more than in the whole of 2020/21.

Mount hitting numbers

Mason Mount’s fifth league assist of the season came with a teasing set-piece delivery for Lukaku’s opener, the outswinging corner struck with perfect flight and precision for the Belgian to power in a front-post header. 

It was the 12th Premier League goal the 22-year-old has been involved in this season (seven goals, five assists), matching his best-ever tally from a single campaign in 2019/20.

The midfielder is also currently our most productive attacking outlet, averaging 0.93 goals or assists per 90 minutes in the league this season. The next best are wing-backs Reece James and Ben Chilwell with 0.73 and 0.67 respectively.

Mount hassled and harried throughout the game in his typical manner, winning four tackles (third most on the pitch), playing four key passes (second most) and accounting for two of our 11 chances in the match. 

He might have had another goal had referee Mike Dean not penalised him for a foul on Joel Veltman as the ball trickled over the goal-line, a decision that left Tuchel particularly frustrated.

Set-pieces to savour but harmful home form

In our 20th league game of 2021/22, Lukaku’s was our eighth headed goal of the campaign, more than any other side in the division. 

Meanwhile, no team has more than our seven goals scored from corners this term, both clearly owing to thorough planning and extensive work on the training pitches at Cobham, as well as precise deliveries and aerial prowess.

Yet two more points dropped at home leaves us trailing league leaders Manchester City by a worrying eight, with Liverpool next up at the Bridge on Sunday before further January tests against the champions and Tottenham on the horizon.

Such patchy home form must quickly be addressed after just one win in five and seven points from the last 15 available. Even though our points per game at the Bridge is narrowly better than last season (1.9 vs 1.74), it is still way down on the fortress-like dominance of our last title-winning campaign in 2016/17 (2.68), a marker of what is required in order to return to that ruthlessness.

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