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Jason

Super Frank Thread

Started by Jason,

2,801 posts in this topic
On 3/9/2020 at 7:48 PM, Jason said:

Bless you.

People would have sympathy for Mourinho if he had tried everything (e.g. playing Parrott) and nothing is working. Instead, the second Son got injured as well to go with Kane's injury, he started moaning and giving excuses, like it's the end of the world. It's predictable and tiresome. Mourinho 1.0 would probably be ashamed of Mourinho 2.0. 

I have never watched Parrot play,i only know from him from last year fm. But to start as main striker at 18 in epl, imo either you have to be physically strong or really fast otherwise you will suffer. 

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What is Chelsea’s best centre-back pairing?

https://theathletic.com/1665272/2020/03/11/chelsea-centre-back-tomori-rudiger-christensen-zouma/

Antonio-Rudiger-and-Kurt-Zouma-scaled-e1583855262842-1024x683.jpg

There are just over two months left of this season and still nobody can say with any certainty which is Chelsea’s first-choice pairing at centre-back.

Kurt Zouma and Antonio Rudiger appear to be in favour after back-to-back clean sheets in the past week, but a glance at Frank Lampard’s selection policy over his first campaign in charge suggests another change will come sooner rather than later.

Not including the eight occasions when Chelsea have employed a back three, there have been six different partnerships in the middle of the defence across all competitions since that opening fixture away to Manchester United in August.

In fairness to head coach Lampard, some of the adjustments have been caused by a player sustaining an injury as well as the natural inclination to bring back a more experienced player, Rudiger for instance, after recovering from one.

But there is going to be a lot at stake over the run-in with Chelsea having realistic targets to achieve — qualifying for the Champions League via a top-four finish (or top five, depending on Manchester City’s appeal against their UEFA ban) and winning the FA Cup for a ninth time in club history. So the time has surely come to settle on one main pairing. The question is: who should get the nod?

The Athletic has studied the records of all the possible variations (when they have been played in a back four) in an attempt to find the answer…

Kurt Zouma and Fikayo Tomori 

Stats: P 11 W 7 D 2 L 2 (all competitions)

Best game: Ajax 0 Chelsea 1. The duo combined superbly to shut out the 2018-19 Champions League semi-finalists on their own patch in October for what proved to be a crucial victory in qualification for the Champions League last 16.

Worst game: Chelsea 4 Ajax 4. While there were others at fault for some of the goals Ajax scored on the way to building a 4-1 lead in the reverse fixture just two weeks on from the Amsterdam meeting above, Zouma and Tomori were run ragged until the visitors had a couple of players sent off midway through the second half.

Arguments for: The number of positive results alone give a very convincing argument about prioritising this pair. Chelsea’s most consistent form of the season from September 25 to November 9 (W 9 D 1 L 1) came as Zouma and Tomori started together in eight of those fixtures, although Lampard had little choice but to select them because Andreas Christensen and Rudiger were out injured for almost that whole run. Zouma’s physical presence stands out — he leads the way at Stamford Bridge with an average of 2.4 headed clearances a game in the Premier League, while he has the third-most interceptions in the squad and most among defenders (2.1 a match). Tomori has the second-best tally of interceptions (1.53 per game) of the four centre-halves and his extra pace makes for a good combination.

Arguments against: Both have faults in possession, particularly Zouma. The France international has a pass accuracy of 87.29 per cent, but it dips to 75.26 per cent when attempting something more ambitious in the opposition half.

Tomori, who is in his first season as a senior player at Stamford Bridge, was strong in all departments initially but increasingly began to show lapses in concentration as the strain of the schedule kicked in. His tackle success rate of 55.17 per cent is the worst of Chelsea’s centre-back quartet.

Kurt Zouma and Andreas Christensen

Stats: P 7 W 2 D 3 L 2

Best game: Chelsea 2 Liverpool 2 (UEFA Super Cup). One of Chelsea’s finest displays of the season, considering the strength of the opposition. Granted N’Golo Kante was providing a lot of protection from midfield, but Zouma and Christensen defended stoutly throughout and Lampard’s side were unfortunate to lose on penalties.

Worst game: Everton 3 Chelsea 1. That season-opening 4-0 loss away to Manchester United could have been chosen too, but the pair were bullied so terribly on the ground and in the air by Dominic Calvert-Lewin that this has to be the pick. The fact they haven’t played together in a back four since that loss in December speaks volumes.

Arguments for: With Christensen’s ability to read the game, it makes for a combination of different strengths. The Dane is more consistent in possession and relieves the pressure from his partner to play out from the back. He has the highest passing accuracy (90.06 per cent) of Chelsea players with a minimum of nine Premier League appearances this season, and a healthy 80.9 per cent completion rate when he crosses the halfway line.

Arguments against: Chelsea haven’t kept a clean sheet in any of the seven matches they’ve started together and despite having good moments in games, opponents seem to find a way to exploit a weakness, especially from crosses or passes from wide into the box. Seven of the 14 goals conceded on their watch have come in this fashion.

Kurt Zouma and Antonio Rudiger

Stats: P 6 W 3 D 1 L 2*

(* Zouma shares the home loss to Manchester United with Christensen, who had to go off at half-time with the score 0-1)

Best game: Chelsea 2 Liverpool 0. Jurgen Klopp may have rotated his side, but Chelsea still restricted Liverpool to very few chances over the course of the FA Cup fifth-round tie. Significantly, the visitors didn’t have a shot on goal for the last hour.

Worst game: Chelsea 0 Bournemouth 1. Lampard’s men fell for the sucker-punch, but the manner in which Zouma and Rudiger defended on the game’s only goal from a corner left a lot to be desired. Neither seemed to be marking anyone particularly closely and it was Zouma who played Dan Gosling onside before he found the net.

Arguments for: They give Chelsea a lot more strength when on the pitch. There is no doubt that both men can provide the kind of robust tackling the crowd enjoys too. The duo have the best tackle success rates among Chelsea centre-backs in the Premier League this season (Rudiger 62.5 per cent, Zouma 57.1) and both will be full of confidence after holding Liverpool and Everton scoreless in the club’s last two matches. Their ability to offer a goal threat — they have scored 22 between them in club football (Zouma 12 and Rudiger nine, whereas Tomori has four but only one for Chelsea and all of Christensen’s seven came while he was out on loan) — shouldn’t be underestimated either.

Arguments against: The partnership is raw, having played just five-and-a-half games, and so they still give chances away. Even in the game against Everton on Sunday which Chelsea dominated, Zouma got tackled upfield and Rudiger was outpaced by Calvert-Lewin, who put a shot wide. Rudiger can be accomplished on the ball in his own half (passing accuracy 92.5 per cent) but on the whole, these two can give it away cheaply under pressure when playing it further forward. Like Zouma, the Germany international’s level drops significantly, in his case to 74.6 per cent.

Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen

Stats: P 5 W 1 D 2 L 2 *

(* Christensen shares the 2-0 loss to Manchester United with Zouma, after playing the first half)

Best game: Chelsea 3 Burnley 0. Most pundits expected the visitors to dominate up front because they had both been exposed at various times in the season when dealing with crosses into their penalty area. But Christensen and Rudiger impressed, keeping Chris Wood subdued.

Worst game: Newcastle 1 Chelsea 0. This was one of the most disappointing defeats under Lampard due to the quality of the opposition and the timing of the winner, coming four minutes into added time. The defending from a set-piece once again led to Chelsea’s downfall, with Rudiger outjumped too easily by matchwinner Isaac Hayden.

Arguments for: Besides their strengths highlighted above, they are also arguably the most experienced combination of the lot. Rudiger has played in the top divisions in England, Germany and Italy, Christensen has over 100 games in the Premier League and Bundesliga on his resume. One tackles aggressively, the other relies on neat timing to get in front of his man.

Arguments against: Despite that display against Burnley, there remains a question over how each of this pair copes with the threat from set-pieces and open play. Rudiger has the lowest duels success rate of 57.3 per cent among the four (compared to Zouma’s quartet-leading return of 66.2) and also the fewest interceptions per 90 minutes at 0.72. Meanwhile, Christensen boasts the fewest recoveries (79, compared with Rudiger’s 94, Tomori at 96 and Zouma with 117). Both are good defenders in their own right, yet there is a doubt over how good an understanding they share.

Andreas Christensen and Fikayo Tomori

Stats: P 4 W 2 D 1 L 1

Best game: Chelsea 2 Brighton 0. Lampard’s team were in control of this September win for long periods, which was partly due to the solid base provided in defence. Christensen and Tomori kept Chelsea’s first clean sheet of the season, although they were relieved when an unmarked Dan Burn sent a header against the crossbar when the score was still 1-0.

Worst game: Bournemouth 2 Chelsea 2. Unfortunately for their hopes of playing regularly, this game at the end of last month will still be fresh in Lampard’s mind as he mulls his line-up for the run-in. Tomori, who had mysteriously not played any Premier League football in the previous two months, struggled most of all and was substituted shortly after Bournemouth scored twice in four minutes early in the second half.

Arguments for: Playing at their best, both men make tackling look easy and can glide around the pitch. That one defeat on their record came against European, now world and soon to be domestic champions Liverpool. Yet their work in open play was very impressive back then, with Tomori negating Mohamed Salah to much acclaim. Both are comfortable in possession, as shown in Christensen’s passing stats (see Zouma/Christensen entry above) and the fact Tomori has touched the ball 1,348 times in the top division, which is 344 times more than the Denmark international despite playing only 36 more minutes (1,293 to 1,257) in the same number of appearances (15 each).

Arguments against: Neither is the loudest talker on the pitch, which is not ideal for your centre-backs as Lampard wants his players to communicate during games. Tomori has lost the highest percentage of aerial challenges (54.8 per cent, 28 out of 62) among our four candidates and Christensen has been beaten in 40.5 per cent of his 84 (Zouma’s loss rate in this metric is only 25.6 per cent, while Rudiger’s is a whisker better than Christensen’s at 40.3). The fact they have had just four appearances together in a back four all season suggests Lampard prefers fielding them alongside someone else.

The only other pairing used this season was Zouma and Marc Guehi, now on loan at Swansea City of the Championship, in two Carabao Cup ties — winning once and losing once. Tomori and Rudiger have only been played together in a three-man defence.

Conclusion: As Lampard has obviously found, there is no easy resolution.

It should be pointed out there have been other factors in Chelsea’s porous defence throughout the campaign like the form of first-choice goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga, although he has shown signs of improvement since returning from his January benching last week.

All four defenders have strengths and weaknesses in equal measure and buying a more domineering character is on the summer wish-list. Zouma and Rudiger deserve to keep their places after successive clean-sheet victories, but it wouldn’t be surprising if the rotation continues until that final game against Wolves in May.

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Frank Lampard putting pressure on Chelsea chiefs to change mind on one first-team player

Chelsea head coach Frank Lampard wants Willian to stay with the Blues beyond this season.

https://www.express.co.uk/sport/football/1253876/Chelsea-news-Frank-Lampard-Willian-contract-transfer

Image result for shoot  me now gif

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Chelsea injuries explained: last season’s legacy, bad luck and reliance on youth

https://theathletic.com/1669134/2020/03/12/chelsea-injuries-frank-lampard/

NGolo-Kante-Chelsea-scaled-e1583950273400-1024x746.jpg

Two big victories at Stamford Bridge within the space of five days have changed the complexion of a defining stretch of Chelsea’s season. Had they gone out of the FA Cup to Liverpool and fallen out of fourth place with more dropped points against Everton, anxiety would likely have become the prevailing mood — and much of the inquest around the team’s struggles would focus on injuries.

Frank Lampard is unable to call upon top scorer Tammy Abraham (ankle), N’Golo Kante (thigh), Christian Pulisic (thigh), Callum Hudson-Odoi (hamstring) and Mateo Kovacic (achilles soreness), while Mason Mount has been receiving treatment at Cobham for a knock to the knee sustained in Sunday’s win.

When you factor in Jorginho’s suspension and that Ruben Loftus-Cheek is still being carefully managed back to peak condition after a serious achilles rupture, Chelsea are saddled by a list of absentees comparable only to Bournemouth (10 players out), Newcastle United and Tottenham Hotspur (seven each) among Premier League clubs.

Jose Mourinho memorably said Tottenham’s injury problems made him wish he could fast-forward to July 1 after their loss at Stamford Bridge last month. Lampard has struck a more upbeat tone in public, stressing that “injuries mean opportunities” after the Everton win, but behind the scenes he is every bit as frustrated.

Chelsea emerged from their February break with a longer injury list than the one they had entering it, and the situation was made worse when Hudson-Odoi aggravated a hamstring injury during his first training session back with the squad last Thursday. The winger faces another spell on the sidelines while he waits for the muscle to heal.

Hudson-Odoi became the third Chelsea player this season to suffer a re-injury after Pulisic and Emerson, who started a league match against Liverpool in September just a fortnight after picking up a thigh problem on Italy duty only to have to be replaced with 15 minutes played. Pulisic has been out for more than a month since attempting to return to more intense training having not played since New Year’s Day.

These cases have led some outside Chelsea to question the approach of the club’s fitness and medical staff, but the reality of the players’ differing situations is much more complex.

Emerson posted on social media after his enforced substitution in the eighth minute of Italy’s 2-1 win over Finland in September to reassure the fans his thigh injury was not serious, and insisted he felt good in the lead-up to that Liverpool game. Assessment from Chelsea’s medical staff backed up his confidence, and Lampard took both into account when picking his team that day.

Pulisic, 21, felt ready to increase his workload at Cobham by the end of January. Having suffered a similar adductor muscle (found in the thigh) injury during his playing career, Lampard was aware of how difficult the problem can be to shift. The American’s subsequent negative reaction to training wasn’t regarded as a setback, but rather as a young player learning about his body’s recovery rate.

Hudson-Odoi was kept out of action for more than a month before the decision was taken to bring the 19-year-old back into training last week, and there is an acceptance that recovery from hamstring injuries is always a delicate process with considerable variance in recovery time. The particular setback is not expected to sideline him for much longer.

Lampard is not pointing fingers. “I haven’t seen that, and I wouldn’t label it on any one department,” he insisted when asked about criticism of their injury record.

The numbers do suggest Chelsea are suffering more injuries than in previous seasons.

Data compiled by injury analyst Ben Dinnery of premierinjuries.com shows they have suffered 25 separate injuries or illnesses this season, a number surpassed only by Manchester United (26) among the traditional ‘Big Six’ clubs.

That said, most of their rivals have been comparably affected: Tottenham and Liverpool have had 24 injuries, Arsenal 23 and Manchester City 19. In terms of days lost to injury or illness, Chelsea (614) have been less affected than any of the ‘Big Six’ except City (548).

These figures only account for injuries or illnesses significant enough to result in at least one game missed, and injuries carried over from last season are not included — arguably the biggest contributor to Chelsea’s injury problems this term, and the factor that is impossible to lay at the feet of Lampard.

Tammy Abraham Chelsea

“When we came into this club the injuries that were overlapping from last season were huge,” Lampard said last week. “N’Golo Kante, Toni Rudiger, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who is yet to kick a ball, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Willian, who had an injury from the start of the season after the internationals. They were there from last year, it has definitely been an issue.

“Now we have another bulk. Christian Pulisic has been out for two months, N’Golo Kante has played 50 per cent of our games when he generally plays 100 per cent. It has been slightly looked at differently with us, with the transfer ban or youth. It has been a big issue for us without a doubt.

“For me, to lose N’Golo Kante, one of the greatest midfielders in the world and Ruben Loftus-Cheek, one of the most exciting English midfield players in the Premier League, is a huge loss for us.”

Kante has played in just 22 of Chelsea’s 42 matches this season, by far the biggest sustained run of injuries of his career. The knee injury that hampered his preparations for last season’s Europa League final disrupted his pre-season, and the knock-on effects are believed to have contributed to the ankle, hamstring and adductor muscle problems he has had since.

Rudiger has featured 16 times this season across all competitions, having undergone knee surgery in the final stretch of the 2018-19 campaign. In his first game back, in the 5-2 win against Wolves at Molineux in September, he slipped on a metal grate by the touchline and aggravated a groin injury that had first troubled him last season under Maurizio Sarri, leading to another three months on the sidelines.

Hudson-Odoi and Loftus-Cheek both sustained achilles ruptures in the final weeks of Sarri’s tenure, while Reece James picked up a serious ankle injury on England Under-20 duty in June. Caution was the guiding philosophy of the rehabilitation process in each case, which is part of the reason why, 10 months on from his injury, Loftus-Cheek is yet to make a first-team comeback.

Chelsea’s injury record in recent seasons had been excellent. They have had fewer injuries or illnesses and endured fewer days lost than their Big Six rivals in three of the last five seasons, including the 2014-15 and 2016-17 campaigns that brought Premier League titles.

There has been considerable turnover in the first-team coaching staff during that period of course, but Paco Biosca, the club’s medical director, has been in his post since 2011. Chris Jones initially became a first-team fitness coach in March 2012 and stayed until Lampard convinced him to join his Derby County staff last season, then brought him back when he succeeded Sarri in the summer.

Lampard credited Jones’s methods with helping him to continue playing at a high level for Chelsea into his 30s, and Jones worked under Mourinho and Antonio Conte as part of a team that oversaw a relatively low injury rate. The club’s large sports science department, led by Tim Harkness, has remained largely constant through several coaching changes, as have the club’s physios.

Among the few new faces this season are Andy Kasper, a highly-regarded performance nutritionist hired last summer to work with the first team, while strength and conditioning coach Adam Burrows came from Derby with Lampard and Jones. Burrows was credited with helping Mount navigate his first Championship campaign while on loan last season.

Chelsea’s first-team squad train on the same pitches at Cobham and use similar equipment to when their injury record was the envy of many of their Premier League rivals — and while Lampard favours intense training sessions, they are no more physically taxing than when Mourinho or Conte were in charge.

Lampard wants his players to train as they play, believing this intensity to be the only way Chelsea can hope to close the vast gap that Manchester City and Liverpool have opened up to the rest of the Premier League. He does, however, stress that sessions should be varied and fun.

Players responded well to Lampard’s approach when it was first introduced, and all the indications are that it is still more popular than the repetitive drills favoured by Conte and Sarri.

“Training was very regimented,” former reserve goalkeeper Rob Green told The Athletic when asked about Sarri’s approach this season. “I remember Olivier Giroud and I sat down and figured out how many times we’d done exactly the same session. We worked out that, over a course of the season, there were only 18 days where we hadn’t done the same thing.

“I can understand why people in the squad who just love and want to play football were thinking, ‘What’s the point of this?’”

Chelsea’s injury issues are regarded internally as a legacy of last season, partly plain bad luck and partly an inevitable consequence of competing across several competitions with a squad deprived of significant reinforcement in the last two transfer windows, leading to greater reliance on young players who are still adjusting to this level of physical workload.

There is hope that the injury list will shorten considerably as the final stretch of the season approaches.

No blame game is taking place — only Lampard continuing to preach that standards are maintained and opportunities to impress are taken.

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You know, if this season becomes null and void...

United’s first ever double against us suddenly becomes null and void too... 

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Not to sound extremely selfish but any decision the FA makes goes in our favor?

Season is null and void, we are still in the CL. 

Season ends how it is, we are still in the CL. 

Only the matter of whether there will be a summer window 

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14 minutes ago, MoroccanBlue said:

Not to sound extremely selfish but any decision the FA makes goes in our favor?

Season is null and void, we are still in the CL. 

Season ends how it is, we are still in the CL. 

Only the matter of whether there will be a summer window 

They will have to come to some form of decision in my opinion because I don't see this season resuming anytime soon, as the virus in this country is only going to get worse over the coming weeks.

I can't see how it's possible to resume the season or have it still operating after June. Clubs, including ourselves, have players out of contract at that point who are under no obligation to continue playing for us beyond that point. We also have the Ziyech deal already in place so are we going to continue a season whilst the transfer window is open?

I've heard some rumours that there's a rule in place that the final places stand if the league is 75% or more complete and cannot be finished. This would mean 29 games played which most have, but in some cases teams have only played 28 games.

Whatever they decide to do, some teams will be affected in a negative manner and I believe with the amount of money riding on things, there will be legal battles to follow in some circumstances.

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Summary of Skysports article

An emergency Premier League meeting is set to take place on Thursday when football chiefs will decide what happens next.
If the season is not completed then these are some of the possible scenarios:
Give the title to Liverpool and have no relegations this season. Next season there would be 22 teams in the Premier League - with West Brom and Leeds promoted from the Championship


The season is declared null and void and next season begins with the same 20 teams - unlikely, especially because Liverpool are 25 points clear at the top of the table and have all but won their first title for 30 years


The table as it stands now is the final table - unlikely, because it would be unfair to relegate Bournemouth, Aston Villa and Norwich after only 29 matchdays and Villa have played 28

 

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As long Wolves remain in the Europa League, this "5th" place is in jeopardy. If Wolves win the EL, they get automatic qualification for CL.

Meaning whoever ends up in "5th" place, will not get CL next season unless Wolves end up 3rd or 4th.

Remember, only 4 English teams can enter the CL per season, not 5.

I don't like voiding the season, but voiding it does benefit us, as nothing this season is benefiting us.

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25 minutes ago, Mana said:

As long Wolves remain in the Europa League, this "5th" place is in jeopardy. If Wolves win the EL, they get automatic qualification for CL.

Meaning whoever ends up in "5th" place, will not get CL next season unless Wolves end up 3rd or 4th.

Remember, only 4 English teams can enter the CL per season, not 5.

I don't like voiding the season, but voiding it does benefit us, as nothing this season is benefiting us.

Unless UEFA have suddenly changed the rules again, you're wrong. Up to 5 teams from a single country can qualify for the Champions League.

https://www.premierleague.com/european-qualification-explained

If City's ban does stick, then 5th will be a Champions League spot. If Wolves finish in the Top 5 AND win the Europa League, then yes, only teams in the Top 5 (excluding City) will qualify for the Champions League. HOWEVER, if Wolves do not finish in the Top 5 BUT win the Europa League, then they will qualify for the Champions League along with the teams in the Top 5 (excluding City).

If City's ban gets overturned, then just replace 5th with 4th and Top 5 with Top 4 above.

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852344378f04a1c0a3cd098abc6ec4ff.png

Straight Outta Cobham

The Athletic's experts on Chelsea - Simon Johnson, Liam Twomey and Dom Fifield are alongside Matt Davies-Adams to take you behind the scenes at Stamford Bridge and bring you the very best insight on all the latest goings on at Chelsea Football Club
 
Re-Injuries & A Losing Battle For Bellingham
 
Plenty of new still coming 'Straight Outta Cobham' as Matt Davies-Adams and The Athletic's Chelsea experts reconvene to discuss the injury concerns beyond the Coronavirus, the losing battle to sign teenage sensation Jude Bellingham & Jorginho's future...
Plus, Liam Twomey, Simon Johnson and Dominic Fifield also reminisce about this week's cult hero: The Flying Dutchman, Arjen Robben!
 

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What is Lampard’s best Chelsea XI when everyone is fit?

https://theathletic.com/1689889/2020/03/20/lampard-chelsea-starting-xi-injuries/

chelsea-starting-xi-scaled-e1584728459759-1024x682.jpg

The sudden shutdown of English and European football has had significant consequences for Chelsea. The first-team squad are still self-isolating at home after Callum Hudson-Odoi tested positive for coronavirus, Cobham remains in partial lockdown and operations at Stamford Bridge have been scaled back to such a degree that stadium tours have been suspended until at least next month, while the Millennium Hotel has been made available to accommodate NHS hospital staff.

It could be some time before Frank Lampard is able to work normally with his players again. When he does, however, the one sliver of a silver lining is that Chelsea will not be required to navigate the defining stretch of the Premier League season with one of the longest injury lists in the division.

Hudson-Odoi (hamstring), N’Golo Kante (adductor), Tammy Abraham (ankle), Mateo Kovacic (achilles) and Christian Pulisic (adductor) should all be good to go if the Premier League resumes in early June, while Ruben Loftus-Cheek will feel the benefit of several extra weeks to improve his fitness after a serious achilles rupture.

More options means more decisions. What is Lampard’s best starting XI? The Athletic has decided to risk your ridicule by proposing a team.

But just before we begin, a couple of disclaimers:

1) Hakim Ziyech does not feature in this list. Even if this Premier League season runs beyond June 30, under the current rules, he would not be able to be registered in Chelsea’s 25-man squad for the competition. He can be left for next season’s debate.

2) Willian, Pedro, Olivier Giroud and Willy Caballero are all set to become free agents on July 1 but, for the sake of simplicity, all are assumed to be eligible for the duration here.

With that in mind, here we go…

The formation

Lampard has alternated between 4-2-3-1, 4-3-3 and 3-4-2-1 at different times this season, in response to both the tactical challenges posed by Chelsea’s opponents and the form or fitness of his own players. All three have yielded mixed results but, as written earlier this month, 4-3-3 has produced the highest consistent level of performance — a conclusion reinforced by convincing back-to-back home wins against Liverpool and Everton immediately prior to the coronavirus shutdown.

It makes most sense, then, to arrange this team in a 4-3-3 formation, mindful of the fact that doing so will count against certain players who function best in different systems (apologies in advance, Marcos Alonso). And with that, on to the selections…

Goalkeeper

Kepa’s struggles this season have been very well documented, from his startlingly poor advanced save metrics to his at times shaky distribution with the ball at his feet and command of his area. Lampard ran out of patience following the 2-2 draw with 10-man Arsenal in January, benching the Spaniard for Chelsea’s next six matches.

Willy Caballero came in and performed solidly enough but Kepa is still the clear pick here. While his form since arriving at Stamford Bridge has not justified the “world’s most expensive goalkeeper” tag, he has a far higher performance ceiling and, at 25, has room to grow. Caballero, at 38, does not.

Kepa’s impressive displays upon regaining his place against Liverpool and Everton also suggested his time on the bench may have succeeded in refocusing his mind.

Defence

Alonso’s eye for goal has helped reinvigorate Chelsea’s attack at a crucial stage of the season, and in terms of intelligence, anticipation and execution, he might be the most talented goalscoring defender in the club’s history. But he is a wing-back, not a full-back. He cannot be consistently relied upon to defend his position without the safety net of a centre-back patrolling the space behind him.

Emerson has all of the physical and technical tools for the left-back job but his body of work at Chelsea has been largely disappointing. He is too frequently caught upfield in key moments but without offering much of a threat to actually break down opposition defences.

Cesar Azpilicueta is a far superior one-on-one defender than both and still offers a reasonable crossing threat from the left, even if the need to cut back onto his right foot does occasionally hinder the team’s attack. Just as importantly, shifting him to the position where he won the Premier League title in 2014-15 also allows Reece James to come in at right-back.

James is special. An athlete with the technical comfort level on the ball of a midfielder, his spectacular crossing ability will be a key weapon in Chelsea sides for years to come. In this team, his frequent forward surges can be offset by Azpilicueta dropping in from the opposite flank to form a three-man defence with the two centre-backs.

The middle of the back four is considerably trickier. Lampard has tried six different centre-back partnerships across all competitions this season — not including the matches when Chelsea have lined up in a back three — and none have staked an overwhelming claim. Kurt Zouma, Antonio Rudiger, Andreas Christensen and Fikayo Tomori are all talented defenders with different individual strengths and weaknesses but the chemistry of a partnership also has to be taken into account.

Zouma has played more Premier League minutes than any of the others, and it’s easy to see why. In a worryingly-small Chelsea team, he is the only player who could legitimately be classed as aerially dominant, winning 74.4 per cent of his duels in the air. That physicality is the main reason he has to be in this team, in spite of his occasionally erratic positioning and clumsy style in possession.

Rudiger, Christensen and Tomori all have relatively equal cases to start alongside him, but Zouma-Tomori was the partnership that provided the foundation for Chelsea’s best run of form this season in the autumn, punctuated by a brilliant 1-0 defeat of Ajax in Amsterdam. Tomori has fallen out of favour in recent weeks and endured a horrible day against Bournemouth last month. But at his best, his speed across the ground, sound defensive instincts and solid passing complement Zouma well.

Midfield

No other area of Lampard’s squad has so many high-quality options, so collective fit is vital here. The three most high-profile Chelsea midfielders are Jorginho, Kante and Kovacic but a season beset by stodgy attacking performances under Maurizio Sarri provided ample evidence that playing all three together does not give the team enough creativity or threat in the final third.

At the other end of the spectrum, Billy Gilmour’s two masterclasses against Everton and Liverpool have catapulted him into a conversation that would not have even included him a month ago.

His intelligence, passing range and general poise are all incredible for an 18-year-old and he also showed hugely-encouraging defensive understanding of the No 6 position across both games. Ultimately, 180 minutes is too small a body of work for Gilmour to push his way into this team but, make no mistake, with everything he has shown so far, it would not be a surprise if he made his omission here look very silly very soon.

Kante is Chelsea’s only world-class player and has shown on the rare occasions when he has been fit this season that he can still profoundly impact matches at the highest level. Kovacic has arguably been the most consistently impressive performer under Lampard this season, frequently getting the team on the front foot with his remarkable ability to slalom through an opposition press.

Both need to be in this team, which means Jorginho cannot be. Kovacic is more than capable of setting the tempo of Chelsea’s passing as a No 6, while Jorginho’s physical and defensive limitations offset the rare quality he brings to the team with the ball at his feet. Kovacic has his own problems reading danger but that is why Kante is beside him.

The presence of Kante and Kovacic also means the goal threat from Chelsea’s midfield must come from the third member of the trio. Mason Mount and Ross Barkley have each shown flashes of being able to supply that, and both were on sparkling form with and without the ball either side of Gilmour in Chelsea’s 3-0 win against Everton earlier this month.

But cast your mind back to last season and an even better candidate emerges. Loftus-Cheek blossomed into one of Chelsea’s most important players in the final months of Sarri’s tenure, breaking from midfield to score against Cardiff, Brighton, Watford and Eintracht Frankfurt — strikes that saw him break into double figures for goals in the campaign.

Loftus-Cheek’s unique blend of physical and technical attributes complete this midfield and his intelligent runs into the opposition penalty area offer what Kovacic and Kante mostly cannot. It has been a long time since he was able to show it but at his best, he gets into this team.

Attack

Olivier Giroud’s return to form has come at a key time for Lampard and, for the first time this season, created a genuine debate about Chelsea’s best No 9 — particularly in light of the fact that Tammy Abraham’s star has not shone quite so brightly since the turn of the year.

Abraham’s dip in production cannot easily be separated from the freak ankle injury he sustained colliding with an advertising hoarding during the Arsenal draw, however. He remains Chelsea’s top scorer with 13 goals in the Premier League and his expected goals per 90 minutes (xG90) rating of 0.61 is still significantly better than that of Giroud (0.45).

Giroud’s best attribute is his ability to make those around him better with smart hold and link-up play, so it is no surprise that his expected assists per 90 (xA90) of 0.20 is better than Abraham’s 0.13. But goals are the main requirement for a striker in this Chelsea team, so Abraham gets the nod. The less said about Michy Batshuayi’s form this season, the better.

On the left of the front three, Christian Pulisic is a no-brainer. The American ranks behind only Abraham in xG90 (0.51) among regular Chelsea starters, providing a much-needed secondary punch to the attack. His ability to move dangerously with and without the ball is unrivalled among Lampard’s wing options, and he is also a perfect fit for a high-intensity pressing style.

The opposite flank presents tougher choices. Hudson-Odoi is a tantalising talent who has shown exciting flashes in tandem with an overlapping James, and he is gradually learning how to incorporate the incisive runs that Pulisic regularly makes into the six-yard box into his own game. But he is also yet to truly blossom in the Premier League, his development slowed by injuries.

Pedro does not merit serious consideration on either flank because, on the rare occasions he has played this season, he has generally looked a shadow of the wide forward who proved so dangerous in Antonio Conte’s best Chelsea team. That leaves Willian, forever trusted by his managers and forever divisive among supporters.

The pure goal and assist numbers have always been underwhelming for Willian, but his other qualities make him a sensible choice to complete this team. His 2.38 key passes per 90 minutes (KP90) mark him out as more creative than any of Chelsea’s other wing options, and his dribble success rate of 65 per cent also marks him out as the most reliable ball carrier.

Out of possession, Willian’s defensive contribution offers some tactical balance. He has the best duel success rate (59.3 per cent) and tackle success rate (61.5 per cent) of Chelsea’s wingers. Hudson-Odoi may be ready to take his spot as soon as next season but for now, the Brazilian remains one of the experienced heads in a team not short on youth.

Chelsea best XI

Full team (4-3-3): Kepa; James, Zouma, Tomori, Azpilicueta; Kante, Kovacic, Loftus-Cheek; Willian, Abraham, Pulisic

What do you think of these selections? Let me know in the comments below — and please be kind!

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My midfield for next season would be:

Kova-RLC-Billy G

                                                                                                                                                                                                   

Vesper likes this

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6 hours ago, Vesper said:

ugh

Azpi at LB and Kante rammed in

hard pass

Plus Tammy over Giroud and Tomori over Rudiger.

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On 3/21/2020 at 9:58 PM, Vesper said:

What is Lampard’s best Chelsea XI when everyone is fit?

https://theathletic.com/1689889/2020/03/20/lampard-chelsea-starting-xi-injuries/

chelsea-starting-xi-scaled-e1584728459759-1024x682.jpg

The sudden shutdown of English and European football has had significant consequences for Chelsea. The first-team squad are still self-isolating at home after Callum Hudson-Odoi tested positive for coronavirus, Cobham remains in partial lockdown and operations at Stamford Bridge have been scaled back to such a degree that stadium tours have been suspended until at least next month, while the Millennium Hotel has been made available to accommodate NHS hospital staff.

It could be some time before Frank Lampard is able to work normally with his players again. When he does, however, the one sliver of a silver lining is that Chelsea will not be required to navigate the defining stretch of the Premier League season with one of the longest injury lists in the division.

Hudson-Odoi (hamstring), N’Golo Kante (adductor), Tammy Abraham (ankle), Mateo Kovacic (achilles) and Christian Pulisic (adductor) should all be good to go if the Premier League resumes in early June, while Ruben Loftus-Cheek will feel the benefit of several extra weeks to improve his fitness after a serious achilles rupture.

More options means more decisions. What is Lampard’s best starting XI? The Athletic has decided to risk your ridicule by proposing a team.

But just before we begin, a couple of disclaimers:

1) Hakim Ziyech does not feature in this list. Even if this Premier League season runs beyond June 30, under the current rules, he would not be able to be registered in Chelsea’s 25-man squad for the competition. He can be left for next season’s debate.

2) Willian, Pedro, Olivier Giroud and Willy Caballero are all set to become free agents on July 1 but, for the sake of simplicity, all are assumed to be eligible for the duration here.

With that in mind, here we go…

The formation

Lampard has alternated between 4-2-3-1, 4-3-3 and 3-4-2-1 at different times this season, in response to both the tactical challenges posed by Chelsea’s opponents and the form or fitness of his own players. All three have yielded mixed results but, as written earlier this month, 4-3-3 has produced the highest consistent level of performance — a conclusion reinforced by convincing back-to-back home wins against Liverpool and Everton immediately prior to the coronavirus shutdown.

It makes most sense, then, to arrange this team in a 4-3-3 formation, mindful of the fact that doing so will count against certain players who function best in different systems (apologies in advance, Marcos Alonso). And with that, on to the selections…

Goalkeeper

Kepa’s struggles this season have been very well documented, from his startlingly poor advanced save metrics to his at times shaky distribution with the ball at his feet and command of his area. Lampard ran out of patience following the 2-2 draw with 10-man Arsenal in January, benching the Spaniard for Chelsea’s next six matches.

Willy Caballero came in and performed solidly enough but Kepa is still the clear pick here. While his form since arriving at Stamford Bridge has not justified the “world’s most expensive goalkeeper” tag, he has a far higher performance ceiling and, at 25, has room to grow. Caballero, at 38, does not.

Kepa’s impressive displays upon regaining his place against Liverpool and Everton also suggested his time on the bench may have succeeded in refocusing his mind.

Defence

Alonso’s eye for goal has helped reinvigorate Chelsea’s attack at a crucial stage of the season, and in terms of intelligence, anticipation and execution, he might be the most talented goalscoring defender in the club’s history. But he is a wing-back, not a full-back. He cannot be consistently relied upon to defend his position without the safety net of a centre-back patrolling the space behind him.

Emerson has all of the physical and technical tools for the left-back job but his body of work at Chelsea has been largely disappointing. He is too frequently caught upfield in key moments but without offering much of a threat to actually break down opposition defences.

Cesar Azpilicueta is a far superior one-on-one defender than both and still offers a reasonable crossing threat from the left, even if the need to cut back onto his right foot does occasionally hinder the team’s attack. Just as importantly, shifting him to the position where he won the Premier League title in 2014-15 also allows Reece James to come in at right-back.

James is special. An athlete with the technical comfort level on the ball of a midfielder, his spectacular crossing ability will be a key weapon in Chelsea sides for years to come. In this team, his frequent forward surges can be offset by Azpilicueta dropping in from the opposite flank to form a three-man defence with the two centre-backs.

The middle of the back four is considerably trickier. Lampard has tried six different centre-back partnerships across all competitions this season — not including the matches when Chelsea have lined up in a back three — and none have staked an overwhelming claim. Kurt Zouma, Antonio Rudiger, Andreas Christensen and Fikayo Tomori are all talented defenders with different individual strengths and weaknesses but the chemistry of a partnership also has to be taken into account.

Zouma has played more Premier League minutes than any of the others, and it’s easy to see why. In a worryingly-small Chelsea team, he is the only player who could legitimately be classed as aerially dominant, winning 74.4 per cent of his duels in the air. That physicality is the main reason he has to be in this team, in spite of his occasionally erratic positioning and clumsy style in possession.

Rudiger, Christensen and Tomori all have relatively equal cases to start alongside him, but Zouma-Tomori was the partnership that provided the foundation for Chelsea’s best run of form this season in the autumn, punctuated by a brilliant 1-0 defeat of Ajax in Amsterdam. Tomori has fallen out of favour in recent weeks and endured a horrible day against Bournemouth last month. But at his best, his speed across the ground, sound defensive instincts and solid passing complement Zouma well.

Midfield

No other area of Lampard’s squad has so many high-quality options, so collective fit is vital here. The three most high-profile Chelsea midfielders are Jorginho, Kante and Kovacic but a season beset by stodgy attacking performances under Maurizio Sarri provided ample evidence that playing all three together does not give the team enough creativity or threat in the final third.

At the other end of the spectrum, Billy Gilmour’s two masterclasses against Everton and Liverpool have catapulted him into a conversation that would not have even included him a month ago.

His intelligence, passing range and general poise are all incredible for an 18-year-old and he also showed hugely-encouraging defensive understanding of the No 6 position across both games. Ultimately, 180 minutes is too small a body of work for Gilmour to push his way into this team but, make no mistake, with everything he has shown so far, it would not be a surprise if he made his omission here look very silly very soon.

Kante is Chelsea’s only world-class player and has shown on the rare occasions when he has been fit this season that he can still profoundly impact matches at the highest level. Kovacic has arguably been the most consistently impressive performer under Lampard this season, frequently getting the team on the front foot with his remarkable ability to slalom through an opposition press.

Both need to be in this team, which means Jorginho cannot be. Kovacic is more than capable of setting the tempo of Chelsea’s passing as a No 6, while Jorginho’s physical and defensive limitations offset the rare quality he brings to the team with the ball at his feet. Kovacic has his own problems reading danger but that is why Kante is beside him.

The presence of Kante and Kovacic also means the goal threat from Chelsea’s midfield must come from the third member of the trio. Mason Mount and Ross Barkley have each shown flashes of being able to supply that, and both were on sparkling form with and without the ball either side of Gilmour in Chelsea’s 3-0 win against Everton earlier this month.

But cast your mind back to last season and an even better candidate emerges. Loftus-Cheek blossomed into one of Chelsea’s most important players in the final months of Sarri’s tenure, breaking from midfield to score against Cardiff, Brighton, Watford and Eintracht Frankfurt — strikes that saw him break into double figures for goals in the campaign.

Loftus-Cheek’s unique blend of physical and technical attributes complete this midfield and his intelligent runs into the opposition penalty area offer what Kovacic and Kante mostly cannot. It has been a long time since he was able to show it but at his best, he gets into this team.

Attack

Olivier Giroud’s return to form has come at a key time for Lampard and, for the first time this season, created a genuine debate about Chelsea’s best No 9 — particularly in light of the fact that Tammy Abraham’s star has not shone quite so brightly since the turn of the year.

Abraham’s dip in production cannot easily be separated from the freak ankle injury he sustained colliding with an advertising hoarding during the Arsenal draw, however. He remains Chelsea’s top scorer with 13 goals in the Premier League and his expected goals per 90 minutes (xG90) rating of 0.61 is still significantly better than that of Giroud (0.45).

Giroud’s best attribute is his ability to make those around him better with smart hold and link-up play, so it is no surprise that his expected assists per 90 (xA90) of 0.20 is better than Abraham’s 0.13. But goals are the main requirement for a striker in this Chelsea team, so Abraham gets the nod. The less said about Michy Batshuayi’s form this season, the better.

On the left of the front three, Christian Pulisic is a no-brainer. The American ranks behind only Abraham in xG90 (0.51) among regular Chelsea starters, providing a much-needed secondary punch to the attack. His ability to move dangerously with and without the ball is unrivalled among Lampard’s wing options, and he is also a perfect fit for a high-intensity pressing style.

The opposite flank presents tougher choices. Hudson-Odoi is a tantalising talent who has shown exciting flashes in tandem with an overlapping James, and he is gradually learning how to incorporate the incisive runs that Pulisic regularly makes into the six-yard box into his own game. But he is also yet to truly blossom in the Premier League, his development slowed by injuries.

Pedro does not merit serious consideration on either flank because, on the rare occasions he has played this season, he has generally looked a shadow of the wide forward who proved so dangerous in Antonio Conte’s best Chelsea team. That leaves Willian, forever trusted by his managers and forever divisive among supporters.

The pure goal and assist numbers have always been underwhelming for Willian, but his other qualities make him a sensible choice to complete this team. His 2.38 key passes per 90 minutes (KP90) mark him out as more creative than any of Chelsea’s other wing options, and his dribble success rate of 65 per cent also marks him out as the most reliable ball carrier.

Out of possession, Willian’s defensive contribution offers some tactical balance. He has the best duel success rate (59.3 per cent) and tackle success rate (61.5 per cent) of Chelsea’s wingers. Hudson-Odoi may be ready to take his spot as soon as next season but for now, the Brazilian remains one of the experienced heads in a team not short on youth.

Chelsea best XI

Full team (4-3-3): Kepa; James, Zouma, Tomori, Azpilicueta; Kante, Kovacic, Loftus-Cheek; Willian, Abraham, Pulisic

What do you think of these selections? Let me know in the comments below — and please be kind!

Kovacic as lone holder is a sackable offense. What is Kovacic strength? Ability to carry ball forward. Is he a great long range passr? Nope. For emergency purpose sure he can play as holdrr, but as besr 11,nope.

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On 21/03/2020 at 3:04 PM, killer1257 said:

My midfield for next season would be:

Kova-RLC-Billy G

                                                                                                                                                                                                   

:)

killer1257 likes this

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Hopefully I can see lineup of

CHO - Tammy - Puli 

            Mount

I want to see how we play with that very young front line

 

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The 10 Commandments of football analytics

https://theathletic.com/1692489/2020/03/23/the-10-commandments-of-football-analytics/

the-10-commandments-stats-analysis-scaled-e1584979984298-1024x683.jpg

Last year, The Athletic’s Ben Baldwin wrote a piece detailing the 10 Commandments of numbers-based analysis of the other football. The one with the funny-shaped ball. The beautiful game lends itself to plenty of analysis using numbers, too but just because the data is there, it doesn’t mean that it’s always used correctly.

This guide will give you a better appreciation of the context required when talking about teams and players, which numbers to focus on and how to better question what you’re seeing.

Here are The 10 Commandments.


1) Thou shalt not use save percentage to evaluate a goalkeeper’s shot-stopping ability

Example: “Martin Dubravka has been the eighth best shot-stopper in the Premier League this season with a save percentage of 73.9 per cent”

Why it’s misleading: The equation for save percentage is shots saved/total shots faced. Straight away, there’s no accounting for the difference in the type and quality of shots that a goalkeeper faces, which will have a large impact on his ability to make a save, and therefore, his save percentage.

Goalkeeper X facing 10 shots from inside the six-yard box is going to have a tougher time making saves compared to Goalkeeper Y, who’s facing all of his ten shots from 30 yards out or more.

Expected Goals and its cousin, Expected Goals on Target, tell us that shots from further away are less likely to result in a goal and shots that are either right at the keeper or down the middle are more likely to be saved. Anyone reading who has watched enough football will, of course, tell you the same thing.

By equally weighting each shot to calculate save percentage, we are doing a disservice to Goalkeeper X and making Goalkeeper Y look better than they actually might be.

What to use instead: Comparing the quality of on-target shots by using Expected Goals on Target (or Post-Shot Expected Goals) to the number of goals conceded, which I’ve written about previously here, adds much needed context to a goalkeeper’s numbers.

Goals Prevented tells us how many goals a goalkeeper saved given the quality of shots he’s faced, compared to the average goalkeeper. Through doing this, Martin Dubravka looks far better than his save percentage says he is, and Vicente Guaita looks like a world-beater:

gk_gp_save_table-1-679x1024.png

2) Thou shalt not use distance or sprint stats to indicate effort

Example: “Mesut Ozil has run more than any other player for Arsenal today, clocking up 11.2km”

Why it’s misleading: Premier League clubs have had access to tracking data since 2013-14 and, as part of that deal, the media get access to derived outputs too. Up to this point, all we’ve really seen is distance and speed statistics.

The reality is, these numbers are some of the most contextless around, yet they’re used frequently when analysing teams and players. The reasons for not using are plentiful.

Firstly, there’s no correlation between the distance you run and your likelihood of winning a game. The amount of distance covered in a finite amount of time is only useful in a time trial, which football is not. From last year’s UEFA Technical Report on the Champions League, Shakhtar Donetsk ran the furthest on average of all 32 teams in the competition, yet finished third in their group and crashed out of the Europa League in the round of 32. Manchester United ran the second-least on average, yet were still able to reach the quarter-finals. Distance doesn’t really tell us much.

Secondly, distance and sprints are going to be stylistic, as in, the numbers that players rack up will be linked to what’s asked of them, the system they play in, how the opposition sets up, game state, and various other factors. Without controlling for — or at least mentioning — these other factors, these numbers don’t give us much insight.

Finally, there’s also some evidence to suggest that running less actually can be beneficial — just ask Lionel Messi. Most players have the fitness levels to last a full game but the manipulation of space is what matters. Similarly, there have been plenty of quick players to have played the sport but the very best know when to use their pace. Very rarely do players need to beat another in a foot race but it’s quick bursts of speed to get past someone or latch on to the end of a loose ball that are key.

There’s value in this data but it’s on the athlete-management side and ensuring that the players are in the right condition to be playing. Football is a game of space and time, and the current tools to measure these are too blunt to be interesting right now.

What to use instead: There’s not really a great substitute here. Either these numbers need to be framed properly before using or we’re probably better off without them.


3) Thou shalt not use possession as an indicator of quality

Example: “Tottenham had 79.8 per cent possession in their 0-1 defeat to Newcastle; the second-highest figure for a losing side in the Premier League since 2003-04.”

Why it’s misleading: As Marti Perarnau puts it in Pep Confidential (my pick for The Athletic’s list of favourite football books) “possession is only a means to an end. It’s a tool, not an objective or an end goal.” Leicester City won the league averaging 42.6 per cent of possession in 2015-16. Manchester City won the league last season averaging 67.7 per cent of the ball. In essence, it doesn’t matter how much you have — it’s what you do with it.

Winning the possession battle doesn’t really tell us that much beyond how teams stylistically set up to play and in-game, can be entirely dictated by the scoreline. Take Atletico Madrid’s 1-0 victory recently against Liverpool in the Champions League. After a fourth-minute goal, Atleti set up shop, having just 27 per cent of possession. That figure may have looked entirely different had Atleti not scored early on.

What to use instead: Possession is still a useful nugget of information to understand which side had more of the ball — but just don’t use it to win any arguments that one team is better than another. Expected Goals is a far better indicator of the quality of a team, so if you want to argue about quality, see how good your team is at creating and preventing goalscoring chances.


4) Thou shalt not judge a player’s defensive ability on the number of tackles and interceptions they make

Example: “Ricardo Pereira is the best defender in the Premier League, making 119 tackles this season”

Why it’s misleading: Not all the defending that a player does is tangible and the measurable output that can be counted is often biased by team style. Logically, if a team has less possession, they have more opportunities to defend, and vice versa.

For that reason, tackle and interception numbers are better indicators of defensive style (i.e. is the player passive or active) and not necessarily the defensive quality of a player. Virgil van Dijk attempts just 0.76 tackles per 90 minutes, yet no one would make the case that that makes him a poor defender.

In addition, because these defensive numbers are at the mercy of the style of team that a player plays in (mainly the frequency of time they are out of possession and therefore are called into action), it’s hard to compare one player to another.

What to use instead: To combat this, we can adjust defensive statistics for the number of times that they make these actions for every 1,000 touches that an opponent makes when on the field of play — an interpretable method of getting all players on a level playing field. Jordan Henderson’s 2.6 tackles per 90 is 15th best in the league but, when adjusting for possession, he jumps to 4.6 per 1,000 opponent touches, the fifth most defensively-active midfielder in the league.

Possession-adjusted defensive numbers give a more rounded view of defensive activity but these still only show style and not overall quality.


5) Thou shalt not use tackle win-rate to judge a player’s tackling ability

Why it’s misleading: I’m going to let you into a secret: tackles lost and tackles won are practically the same thing and ignore two other key outcomes when trying to make a tackle.

Tackles are usually split into two categories — those that are won and those that are lost. Winning a tackle consists of a player winning back possession when challenging for the ball, while losing a tackle sees a challenge take place but the ball isn’t won back. Losing a tackle could be due to the ball being poked out for a throw-in for the opposition, the ball knocked loose for the opposition to recover, or some other reason.

Tackle win-rate is currently defined as tackles won/(tackles won + tackles lost). What this currently tells us is the proportion of tackles that a player makes where his team wins the ball back.

What’s the problem? Well, this currently ignores times when a player attempts a tackle and gets bounced off the player currently in possession, or when attempting a tackle, commits a foul. Of full-backs in the Premier League with the highest tackle win-rate, Martin Kelly is the best with 80 per cent of tackles won. The eye test tells us Aaron Wan-Bissaka should be amongst the top players, yet he’s only 11th. What gives?

What to use instead: True tackle win-rate can help avoid this error by incorporating these two missing categories, with the equation of total tackles/(total tackles+challenges lost+fouls when attempting a tackle). Through this metric, Wan-Bissaka is top with a 78.9 per cent true tackle win rate, and Martin Kelly is down in 29th — much better.

true_tackle_win_rate_table-1.png

6) Thou shalt not use goals minus expected goals as an indication of finishing ability in small samples

Example: “Roberto Firmino has only scored eight goals from 12.7 xG, therefore he’s a poor finisher.”

Why it’s misleading: When it comes to understanding goalscoring ability, there are two crucial elements that need to be considered and judged in isolation. The first is a striker’s ability to generate chances for himself. Goals are a striker’s main currency and to score goals, strikers need to take shots. To measure the quality of these shots, we use expected goals. If a player consistently gets into good goalscoring positions, over time, goals will come.

It’s one thing taking shots, it’s another thing to finish them. In small samples — such as a whole season — a player’s goals and xG may not match up. Take Roberto Firmino. This season, he’s scored fewer than you’d expect given the chances he has but it is his best in terms of getting into great goalscoring positions.

firmino_xg_table-1024x510.png

Firmino’s three prior seasons at Liverpool have seen him score above, below and on expectation. This isn’t enough data to give any concrete conclusions on his finishing ability.

What to use instead: Comparing expected goals (the chances players have) with expected goals on target (what they do with those chances) is one method of considering finishing quality in a very basic way. Even over larger samples, use with caution, and consider at least several hundred shots.

There’s a lot of debate in football analytics circles of whether finishing is a repeatable skill, though, so until there’s a proper answer, go ahead and rely on expected goals’ indication that, over time, most players score in line with their xG.


7) Thou shalt not judge a team’s performance with or without a given player

Example: “Arsenal’s win percentage this season without Mesut Ozil is higher without him (40 per cent) compared to with him (28 per cent)”

Why it’s misleading: With or without you (or WOWY, as it’s known in sports analytics circles) stats are intended to isolate the impact of a single player in a team to see how results change with that player involved compared to when they’re missing.

These stats can work in sports with smaller segments to analyse such as basketball, which has more line-up changes and is far higher-scoring. In football, however, there are just way too many moving parts for this to be a good way of analysing if a player’s any good or not. There’s too much out of Ozil’s control that he gets penalised for in both situations.

Here’s just a sample of things that ideally should be taken into account but aren’t with WOWY: What was the quality of the opposition? What was the quality of the other players playing alongside Ozil? Was there a red card? Was Ozil subbed on?

Equally, you have the Burnley problem. Ben Mee and James Tarkowski have both played every minute of Premier League football this season. Which is better? We’ll never know.

What to use instead: It’s better to analyse players within the context of their position and focus on just what they can control. For Ozil and other creative midfielders, that’s chance creation, for strikers, it’s goalscoring and so on. Leave WOWY stats to sports played by big lads indoors.


8) Thou shalt not judge a player’s pass ability on his passing accuracy

Example: “Phil Bardsley is the worst full-back at passing in the Premier League, completing just 63.6 per cent of his passes”

Why it’s misleading: The degree to which a player’s passing is accurate or not depends a lot on what they’re being asked to do, and the choices they make when on the ball. Some teams, such as Manchester City, play the ball very short and in certain areas of the field, under little pressure. Due to this, they’ll have a high pass-completion rate. Others, like Burnley, look to hit the channels and user longer passes instead of shorter ones — passes that are, on average, less likely to be completed.

The passes may be, by the definition of the data, inaccurate, but that doesn’t tell the whole picture. Consider the example below, from a recent Leeds United game:

https://cdn.theathletic.com/app/uploads/2020/03/22085743/costa_pass_example.mp4?_=1

Here, Helder Costa’s pass goes down as a failed pass into the area but it’s largely due to the excellent recovery run of the Hull City defender. Here, we should care about possession retention and the progression that Costa has enabled. There are various other times when this situation takes place — possession being retained but the pass incomplete — which players get unfairly judged on.

What to use instead: I’ll write more on other options on this in future, as currently I don’t think that there are many metrics that properly cater to this issue. Expected Pass completion rates may give a more rounded view of why a player’s pass completion rates are low but that data is relatively sparse in the public domain.


9) Thou shalt not judge players if they fail a lot

Example: “Trent Alexander-Arnold has made more unsuccessful passes than any other outfielder in the Premier League”

Why it’s misleading: The Athletic’s Michael Cox wrote at length back in January on what being a “failure” in the Premier League means, so I won’t go into too much depth here. The Golden Boot winner every season will fail to score more times than they succeed in doing so. But if we want to find out the most clinical finisher, we’d look at conversion rate and therefore need goals.

What to use instead: In most cases, if the focus is on how many times a player has failed, it’s worth turning that into a percentage to add more context. Have they failed a lot, or is it that they’re tried something far more than other players?


10) Thou shalt not compare players with differing numbers of minutes played

Example: “Trent Alexander-Arnold and James Maddison are the joint second-best chance-creators in the league, with 75 each”

Why it’s misleading: Players who play more minutes have more chances to do things on the field that are counted. By not putting all players on a level playing field in terms of minutes played, it means that those who have played less will nearly always look worse.

I’m probably building some sort of a reputation for always fighting Emi Buendia’s corner but by adjusting for minutes played, Buendia is actually the second-best chance-creator in the league on a per 90 basis (3.3 per 90).

chances_created_table-1024x900.png

What to use instead: By adjusting stats per 90 minutes played (that is, dividing the stat by minutes played/90), players who have played differing numbers of minutes can have their numbers compared, and more fair comparisons can be made.

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