Chelsea were defeated on penalties in the Carabao Cup final, but the statistics back up Thomas Tuchel’s claim that the result could have gone either way after a thrilling 120 minutes of football.
With a trophy on the line, cup finals at Wembley can sometimes become stale affairs with neither team wanting to take risks, but not on this occasion as Chelsea and Liverpool went toe-to-toe at the national stadium.
It resulted in a highly entertaining match that was big on quality, for which both teams can be proud of their performance, with the biggest surprise being that it ended goalless after extra time.
No goals… somehow
The expected goals statistics underline how surprising it was that the game ended goalless, with a 2-2 draw seeming more likely by that method, although Liverpool just about edge it with their chances.
Despite neither team finding the back of the net until the shoot-out, there were a total of 31 shots during the game. Although they were weighted towards the Reds, who had 20 of them, the way they were distributed differently for the sides tells a more rounded story. Only 11 of Liverpool’s 20 came from open play, with the rest via set-pieces, while all 11 of Chelsea’s were created in open play.
Both teams were quite patient when waiting for those opportunities, too, with 82 per cent (Chelsea) and 81 per cent (Liverpool) of them coming from inside the penalty area.
Of course, those statistics are slightly skewed by the fact that both teams did actually put the ball in the back of the net, only to see them ruled out for offside by a combination of referee Stuart Attwell and VAR, with Chelsea suffering that pain on no less than three occasions. That explains why Kai Havertz managed to beat goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher twice, but is listed as not having attempted a shot on the official statistics.
That inability of either team to take advantage of the chances they produced during the 120 minutes of football made it even more surprising when the complete opposite happened once the match went to a shoot-out. The first 21 spot-kicks all found the back of the net before Kepa Arrizabalaga became the unlucky man to see his effort miss the target.
With all 11 players from each team being called upon to take a penalty, including the goalkeepers, that makes it comfortably the longest competitive shoot-out ever involving Chelsea’s senior team, surpassing the UEFA Super Cup win over Villarreal earlier this season and the 2008 Champions League final defeat to Manchester United, which were both decided by the seventh penalty takers.
The number of chances that came and went without being converted were as much about defensive resilience as attacking profligacy, though, certainly when it came to Chelsea’s back line.
Liverpool may only have got six of their 20 attempts on target, with only Luis Diaz finding the target more than once for the Reds, but that was partly down to the fact that 10 of their shots, fully half, were blocked by a Blues defender, Trevoh Chalobah leading the way with three blocked shots to his name.
We also made Liverpool work incredibly hard for the chances they managed to create, with our defenders competing for every ball. Thiago Silva’s 12 clearances were twice as many as any Liverpool player managed, with Antonio Rudiger (nine) and Marcos Alonso (seven) also topping anyone from the opposition.
The Blues worked tirelessly to punish any loose passes from Liverpool, in both midfield and defence. That was particularly true of Chalobah, who made seven interceptions, and N’Golo Kante with five. No other player on the pitch recorded more than three.
The relentless way we pressured Liverpool into errors, especially in the final third, is evident in the fact that their starting front three of Diaz, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane lost possession 15 times, compared to just nine times for our own Kai Havertz, Christian Pulisic and Mason Mount.
Exploiting the channels
It was clear throughout the game that Chelsea were targeting the left channel, behind Liverpool’s attacking right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold, as an area we could find space to launch dangerous attacks during the Carabao Cup final.
Havertz often drifted towards the left to get closer to Mount on that side, while Alonso and Mateo Kovacic were pushing noticeably higher than their counterparts Kante and Cesar Azpilicueta on the other side.
That perhaps explains why it was Mount who had four of our shots, twice as many as anyone else in Blue, while Alonso delivered four crosses and Mount three, compared to one each for Azpilicueta and Pulisic on the right.
However, the importance of Havertz’s movement in creating space and ability to occupy Liverpool’s centre-backs cannot be overstated. The German’s four successful dribbles were twice as many as anyone else on the pitch, while he was also the only Chelsea player to be credited with more than one key pass, racking up an impressive five.
Havertz didn’t do a bad job of the traditional centre-forward role, either, given he was up against the formidable presence of Virgil van Dijk, with Thiago Silva (six) the only Chelsea player to win more than Havertz’s four aerial duels.