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13 hours ago, Tomo said:

Out of these two options what would you prefer at Fulham? Another drab performance but we win 1-0 through an Oli header or we draw 2-2 but play excellently going forward, create a lot and lose two points due to wastefulness in front of goal and/or a heroic performance by Areola?

I genuinely think i'd prefer the latter, we need a performance to give us hope going forward even if dropped points accompany it.

Not both, if we create many chances but we also concede many against Fulham then it is not a progress. 

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I can't actually believe how well coached we are. Puts it in further perspective when you see the garbage United and Arsenal are spewing. I love the fact Frank isn't so stubborn to try and do it

Our pressing game was superb, and made all the difference today! 4-3-3 with Mount and Havertz to harass opponents and Kante to sweep up behind...that's the way to go. And we have two bombing

Very confused, can only assume the ones being somewhat negative did not watch the game? Aside from Dave and Zouma, I thought we played really well against the European Champions. I was shocked at time

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On 04/01/2021 at 6:31 PM, DDA said:

On reflection, I don't think Stevie G would be a good choice right now.. but keep an eye on him... I bet he ends up going to the scouse scumbags after Klopp and has them playing for titles.

Oh bruv that's a guaranteed  certainty.:(

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Werner woes, struggling Kante and poor pressing: what’s going wrong at Chelsea?

https://theathletic.com/2303208/2021/01/06/chelsea-lampard-tactics-werner/

Appointing a relative rookie like Frank Lampard creates a dilemma for Roman Abramovich.

On one hand, if you appoint an inexperienced manager who is learning on the job, you don’t expect a quick fix — it’s more likely he’ll encounter some poor runs of form, which must be tolerated in the belief the manager will prove successful over a longer period.

On the other, if Abramovich pulled the trigger midway through the season and sacked World Cup winner Luiz Felipe Scolari, Europa League winner Andre Villas-Boas, European Cup winner Roberto Di Matteo and three-time Premier League winner Jose Mourinho, then why does Lampard deserve more time than those who have proved themselves at the highest level?

With Chelsea currently sitting ninth in the Premier League, discussions about Lampard’s future are inevitable but what have been Chelsea’s specific issues this season?


Goalkeeping problems haven’t been resolved

Chelsea’s major problem in Lampard’s first season was unquestionably in goal, where Kepa Arrizabalaga endured a terrible campaign. By the end of the season, Chelsea had allowed chances with an expected goals against value of around 41 but had conceded 54 times. That was the largest difference in the Premier League, pointing to Kepa’s inability to keep the ball out of the net.

Lampard was desperate to secure the services of a new goalkeeper, particularly after Kepa’s woes continued in the opening games of this season. Edouard Mendy arrived from Rennes and initially seemed to have improved things dramatically — he saved eight of the first nine shots he faced and Chelsea kept five straight clean sheets for the first time in a decade.

But Mendy’s form has dropped off since then. He rushed out too quickly for a Patrick Bamford opener in Chelsea’s eventual 3-1 victory over Leeds at Stamford Bridge and then did the same to concede a penalty in the 1-0 loss at Everton. Errors in possession have also crept into his game, notably when almost skewing the ball into his own net on a windy evening at Old Trafford and passing straight to Arsenal’s Alexandre Lacazette in a 3-1 loss at the Emirates before atoning for his mistake with a decent save.

Overall, the statistics aren’t particularly convincing. Chelsea have clearly improved on Kepa but Mendy’s numbers are average rather than spectacular when you assess Opta’s expected goals on target (xGOT) figures, which account for the placement of a shot (as well as where it was struck from). Mendy has conceded 10 goals from positions where you would expect 9.3. He’s ranked ninth in the league for goals prevented (the difference between xGOT and goals conceded) of the 20 regular Premier League goalkeepers.

mendy_gk_stats.png

That’s not disastrous but early optimism about Mendy might have been slightly misplaced. This graph shows the number of goals he’s conceded in relation to the quality of shots over the course of his Chelsea career so far and while, in his opening matches, Mendy was outperforming expectations, now he’s slipped behind them. These numbers also don’t account, for example, for that needless concession of a penalty at Everton.

mendy_cumulative_xg_adj.png

That’s not disastrous, of course, and this is a small sample of games, and the margins are thin — but that’s still important, given one extra save can turn a loss into a draw or a draw into a win.

Overall, Chelsea have conceded 21 goals having faced chances worth 17.5 xG. Some of this is a hangover from Kepa’s continued presence in goal in the opening matches of the campaign — and Willy Caballero’s only appearance resulted in three concessions at West Brom.

Overall, though, the goalkeeper position has remained a problem. Chelsea have gone from the biggest underperformance last season to the second-biggest this season, behind Brighton. Mendy is an improvement on Kepa but for the second consecutive season, Lampard can justifiably be frustrated by the number of goals his goalkeepers have conceded.


Kante is struggling in big games

Lampard’s switch to 4-3-3 at the end of October reopened the debate about the identity of Chelsea’s holding midfielder. This was originally an issue under Maurizio Sarri, who controversially opted for his old Napoli comrade Jorginho, asking N’Golo Kante to play in more of a box-to-box role.

When Lampard played 4-3-3 last season, he often followed Sarri’s approach but since switching to that shape this season, on nine of the 11 Premier League matches, he’s fielded Kante as his defensive midfielder — on the other two occasions, Jorginho has played there, with Kante shifting right again.

Neither have performed particularly well this season but Kante’s performances in 3-1 defeats to Arsenal and Manchester City have been particularly concerning. The France international has been sluggish when receiving possession on the turn, sloppy with his distribution and far too clumsy in terms of conceding fouls. That was noticeably problematic against Arsenal when Granit Xhaka stepped up and smashed a resulting free kick home.

His decision-making also cost Chelsea a goal against City when he received the ball following a Chelsea corner as the last man back, attempted to find a team-mate and conceded possession. He was bypassed by Raheem Sterling, whose shot bounced back for Kevin De Bruyne to make it 3-0. It was reminiscent of Kante stumbling on the halfway line in a similar situation to allow Arsenal’s Gabriel Martinelli to net an equaliser at Stamford Bridge last season.

Jorginho doesn’t offer Kante’s ball-winning skills and has sometimes been criticised for his cautious distribution, but his classic whipped around-the-corner pass assisted a goal for Timo Werner against Southampton (when Lampard was using them together in a 4-2-3-1) and that type of incision has been badly lacking from Kante when playing deep.

Kante’s best contributions this season have come when he’s pushed on. He burst forward through Leeds’ man-marking, for example, and created a good chance for Werner when driving forward in the 3-0 win over West Ham just before Christmas, only for the Germany forward to hit his shot against the crossbar.

It’s become somewhat sacrilegious to suggest it at Stamford Bridge but Kante might be better used in a more energetic role. Lampard doesn’t seem entirely convinced by Jorginho and Billy Gilmour’s half-hour outing against Manchester City, having been introduced in place of Kante, hints that he might be thinking of someone different altogether.


A poorly co-ordinated press

In the aftermath of Sunday’s 3-1 defeat against Manchester City, Lampard pointed to the sudden shift in the narrative around his performance as Chelsea manager. “We went 16 games unbeaten (recently). A month ago, everyone was talking about where we were going to go to, where I was going to go…”

But Chelsea’s impressive performances in October and November were largely reliant upon the quality of opposition. During their unbeaten run, Chelsea’s victories came against Crystal Palace, Burnley, Sheffield United, Newcastle and Leeds — all currently in the bottom half of the table. Their draws came against Southampton, Manchester United and Tottenham — all in the top half of the table. To put it another way, Chelsea haven’t yet defeated anyone above 10th-placed West Ham. When the fixtures have been more difficult, results have been poor.

Of course, to a certain extent, that’s natural, but a common feature of Chelsea’s performance in big games is their lack of organisation without possession, particularly when it comes to pressing in midfield. Overall, pressing across the Premier League has fallen this season. At Chelsea, it’s often seemed like Lampard has asked his players to press but the actual specifics are lacking. Here are three examples from two-goal defeats to Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester City.

Eleven minutes into the game against Liverpool, Alisson has possession and feeds a pass into Jordan Henderson. No-one is in a position to stop the pass, or to prevent him from turning — but, in that area of the pitch, that’s not a huge problem.

Liv1.png

The problem, though, comes when he does turn. Then, we discover that all three of Chelsea’s central midfielders — Mateo Kovacic, Jorginho and Kante — are all trying to shut him down but aren’t close enough to actual dispossess him. Therefore, Henderson has time to turn and prod a pass in behind all three…

Liv2.png

… and onto Sadio Mane, between the lines. Kante desperately tries to get back and stop him, but Mane has the option of a simple square pass to Roberto Firmino.

Liv3.png

Chelsea were too easy to play through.

That has become a common theme of those defeats. Here’s the build-up to the goal scored by Bukayo Saka at the Emirates, which effectively ended that game as a contest. Rob Holding is in possession and Chelsea’s midfielders are again disorganised. Mason Mount is broadly trying to put pressure on Holding. Kante has been higher up the pitch closing down Arsenal’s centre-backs and is trying to drop back and shut down Xhaka — but isn’t in a position to do so — while Jorginho goes racing towards Saka.

Arse1.png

The pass into Xhaka, in oceans of space, is on and from there, Arsenal build a decisive attack down their right, which is eventually finished by Saka. Again, Chelsea are too easy to play through.

Finally, here’s the build-up to Ilkay Gundogan’s opener on Sunday. Again, this pass from Ruben Dias into Rodri is simple. Rodri has started the game nervously, constantly misplacing passes and narrowly avoiding conceding a penalty. A high-energy side would have pressed him relentlessly and created more turnovers.

City1.png

But this time, there’s no pressure on the ball. Rodri has time to amble forward, Kante casually comes out towards him and Rodri is able to feed the ball out to the left, where the goal comes from. The goalscorer, Gundogan, drifts between the lines and wasn’t ever really under pressure before his finish.

City2.png

Lampard can blame individual underperformance in both penalty boxes for Chelsea’s recent slump but he must take responsibility for Chelsea’s openness in midfield.


Werner’s woes

Chelsea’s attacking issues are best incapsulated by Timo Werner, who has failed to replicate the goalscoring exploits that made him so sought after.

First, it’s worth considering that Werner isn’t far away from getting things right. He’s hit the woodwork five times this season, more than any other Premier League player. If two of those five had gone in and he had scored six goals instead of the four he has so far, there probably wouldn’t be so much discussion about his performances. His non-penalty xG per 90 in the Premier League is the 15th-highest in the league at 0.39, yet he’s only scored 0.26 per 90, 43rd-best in the league.

timo_werner_2020-21_all_shots.png

There’s more to being a wide forward in Chelsea’s possession-heavy system than scoring goals, though. Considering data from smarterscout, Werner’s ball retention ability as a left winger is rated at just 31/99, indicative of his inability to maintain possession.

That’s sometimes forgivable if the player is the only turnover-prone option on the team or is trying high-risk, high-reward passes. Sadly, that’s not a caveat applicable to Werner, who is required to stitch Chelsea’s possession together, with a rating of 93/99 for link play.

Combine that with the fact that he rarely looks to pass the ball forward (his progressive passing rating is 21/99) and that he’s relatively inept at progressing the ball too (his xG from ball progression rating is 8/99), and Werner’s overall contributions to the team look very weak.

So why is that the case?

In a positional sense, Werner did have a tendency of cutting in from the left-hand side for Leipzig, although that was more of a ploy to keep himself out of the eyeline of the opposing centre-back and not where he’d be routinely stationed. Seventy-eight per cent of Werner’s domestic minutes last season came with him playing as a striker, with just four per cent at left wing.

positions_timo_werner_2019-20.png

Contrast that with his time so far at Chelsea, with 63 per cent of his minutes coming from that left wing position, a quarter of them up front and the rest on the right.

positions_timo_werner_2020-21.png

A lack of familiarity with the left wing role partly explains Werner’s poor output so far this season but doesn’t tell the whole story. There’s a large and notable difference in how Leipzig last season and Chelsea this season approach games, the former bringing Werner’s strengths to the surface far more than Chelsea’s current system.

The style of play Leipzig employed last season was predicated on a speed and intensity that capitalised on transitions to create chances. They averaged fewer sequences of possession that featured 10 or more passes per game than Chelsea, and also a fewer number of those sequences that reached the opposition penalty area or ended in a shot (build up attacks in the table below).

Leipzig’s games were far less controlled. There was a higher cadence in terms of how often the ball changed hands between teams, as noted by the higher volume of open-play sequences. They also forced more “high turnovers” than Chelsea, which are open-play turnovers which start within 40 metres of the opponent’s goal.

werner_team_styles.png

Leipzig’s high-octane style fit Werner’s lightning pace perfectly, with him often having chances either under minimal pressure, with just the goalkeeper to beat, or both. Werner scored nine goals following a carry — dribbling the ball five metres or more — which was the most of any player in Europe last season. Just look at the number of streams from deep into the box in the graphic below.

165153_22_2019_stats_perform_dark_carrie

Now compare it to this season in the graphic below. With nearly half the season gone, Werner has not scored after a carry and has only had eight shots, all of which have been from wide in the penalty area. The dearth of chances in central areas shows how Werner has struggled to replicate his Leipzig impact against set defences in the Premier League.

165153_8_2020_stats_perform_dark_carries

This season, Werner’s still carrying the ball at similar rates but it’s the end product of those carries which has changed a lot. Last season, in his smidgen over 11 carries per 90, Werner created, shot and scored at far higher rates than he is doing this season. That’s due to the circumstances that he finds himself in when on the ball: Chelsea just don’t create those transitional opportunities that he thrived on at Leipzig.

werner_carrying.png


Underlying statistics are fine but what is Lampard’s long-term plan?

Chelsea’s two core issues are the relatively poor individual performances of new attacking signings and the club’s position in the table after some underwhelming recent results.

With the perceived poor individual performances, there was always going to be a case of diminishing returns. Playing three players in Kai Havertz, Werner and Hakim Ziyech together, who respectively averaged 0.62, 1.06 and 1.06 non-penalty goals and assists per 90 last season, is always going to lead to a drop-off in the attacking output of each.

There’s only one ball, which is why it’s so rare that a team can have an attack consisting of three players putting up such strong individual numbers, unless perhaps you are Barcelona with Neymar, Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi. With all due respect, Chelsea’s new attacking trio aren’t at that level. Inferior individual numbers don’t mean that the team as a whole should be hamstrung; you’d expect Chelsea to still put up good to great xG numbers overall given the shot in the arm of attacking talent.

That so far isn’t the case though — the attacking pieces haven’t scaled very well and collectively, are far worse than the sum of their individual parts. Chelsea’s non-penalty xG per game this season of 1.4 is a joint five-season low (alongside 2017-18, when they finished fifth) and represents a large drop-off compared to last season, in which the attack created 1.76 xG per game with a squad that, on paper, was far weaker.

Chelsea have bought players who previously produced some great attacking stats but there’s no guarantee they’ll all be able to replicate them. There was always going to be a period of bedding-in required for the new recruits to get accustomed to their new surroundings.

So although there have not been any standout individual performances from the new signings, a quick look at the underlying numbers show a team that, despite their eighth position in the table, have the fourth-best expected goal difference (xGD) in the Premier League this season. That’s telling as it’s a good indicator in the long run of how good this team is. Per-game, their xGD is +0.53, ahead of all but Aston Villa (+0.57), Liverpool (+0.8) and Manchester City (+0.88).

Splitting that into defence and attack, it’s also evident that Chelsea have had differing fortunes at both ends so far this season. Scoring 28 from 23.9 xG and conceding 19 from 14.8 xG conceded suggests that a slowdown in scoring and fewer goals conceded was always likely in the long run.

The rolling xG chart below considers the 10-game rolling averages of Chelsea’s xG for and against. Since last season, the attack has worsened slightly over time (blue line) but the defence has improved (red line). This suggests that up until the City game, their defence this season was at its strongest and most consistent that it’s been for quite some time.

chelsea_rolling_xg.png

Picking up four points out of a possible 18 for any title-challenging team over any stretch in a season is cause for concern but Chelsea’s performances weren’t quite as bad as results suggest. Scoring seven non-penalty goals from 8.5 xG and conceding 8 from 6.1 xG looks a little unfortunate.

Fourth-best isn’t the best, though, and for Chelsea, that could prove to be the ultimate reason that costs Frank Lampard his job given the substantial investment that took place in the summer.

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Do we have a leader? A player that is proud to be a Chelsea player, and not just proud to be a player at a big club. A player that really feels connected to this club and wears our DNA. I am aware of the fact that these kind of players are rare, but these are the kind fo players we used to have. A leader like Terry of even Frank himself. These were the kind of players that would fight for our club and for the head of our managers. We don't have the type of players you'll win a war with, which we had with Drogba, Ballack, Carvalho, Ivanovic, Essien and many others. Not necessarily the best leaders, but players that would do anything in their power to win. I also believe the will and hunger to win is very contagious to the rest of the squad. In this squad i don't see a player that has such a big influence on the rest of the squad that i'm trying to sketch.

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Not only us bud Man U who? since Roy Kean, Shitty since Kolo Toure.

LiverVictim do have Henderson.

Us no one, maybe Billy if he can get a game other than that....no! you are correct we have no one.

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3 hours ago, Vincent said:

Do we have a leader? A player that is proud to be a Chelsea player, and not just proud to be a player at a big club. A player that really feels connected to this club and wears our DNA. I am aware of the fact that these kind of players are rare, but these are the kind fo players we used to have. A leader like Terry of even Frank himself. These were the kind of players that would fight for our club and for the head of our managers. We don't have the type of players you'll win a war with, which we had with Drogba, Ballack, Carvalho, Ivanovic, Essien and many others. Not necessarily the best leaders, but players that would do anything in their power to win. I also believe the will and hunger to win is very contagious to the rest of the squad. In this squad i don't see a player that has such a big influence on the rest of the squad that i'm trying to sketch.

That should be Thiago Silva. 

Unless the Brazilians are right and don't respect him that much because they don't see him as a leader? 

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3 hours ago, Vincent said:

Do we have a leader? A player that is proud to be a Chelsea player, and not just proud to be a player at a big club. A player that really feels connected to this club and wears our DNA. I am aware of the fact that these kind of players are rare, but these are the kind fo players we used to have. A leader like Terry of even Frank himself. These were the kind of players that would fight for our club and for the head of our managers. We don't have the type of players you'll win a war with, which we had with Drogba, Ballack, Carvalho, Ivanovic, Essien and many others. Not necessarily the best leaders, but players that would do anything in their power to win. I also believe the will and hunger to win is very contagious to the rest of the squad. In this squad i don't see a player that has such a big influence on the rest of the squad that i'm trying to sketch.

You would expect the academy boys to fill these roles in time, but they need the chance to grow into that. Whilst we could all see Terry was captain material from an early age, he wasn't the same player and leader at 20 - 22 then he evolved into a couple of years later. He had the opportunity to learn off the likes of Desailly, Lebouf, Zola, etc. Not necessarily players that may have been able to teach him about the pride of playing for Chelsea, that should have already been ingrained in him by coming through our academy. But the experience of leading by example, helping and managing different personalities in the dressing room, managing pressure, training and preparation, representing the club properly, etc.

That takes time but there are definitely players in our dressing room who can provide that same experience to our younger group - the likes of Azpilicueta, Kante, Giroud.

Like everything else at the moment, it needs patience which is difficult to accept when the club is struggling so badly in recent weeks.

 

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6 minutes ago, Special Juan said:

people call for patience but there is no progression, the results are shit and the manager and players look like they haven't watched or played football before.

I'm not using it as an excuse, it's clear that at the moment there are big problems and a huge regression in the group that can't just be attributed to needing time and patience.

But I think in situations like this, everything gets analysed and questioned, and in certain aspects (for example leadership) there does have to be some consideration that we have a lot of young players who are hopefully going to be the foundation of the team for many years to come, that do need some time, patience and development before we're going to see such characteristics.

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20 minutes ago, Superblue_1986 said:

I'm not using it as an excuse, it's clear that at the moment there are big problems and a huge regression in the group that can't just be attributed to needing time and patience.

But I think in situations like this, everything gets analysed and questioned, and in certain aspects (for example leadership) there does have to be some consideration that we have a lot of young players who are hopefully going to be the foundation of the team for many years to come, that do need some time, patience and development before we're going to see such characteristics.

if it had been a bit of hit and miss I can handle that, but it's been all miss. The WHU game was horrendous to watch, we won 3-0 but that game masked so many gaping cracks it's scary. I'm digging deep and trying to think of any progression we have made since the season started, and how long do we keep using the excuse of 'oh they are young lads' so they are either young and we can't expect too much or they are in the team and stand up like men when the chips are down.

One image in my head I have from the whole of the season was the last game against City. KdB missed that chance where he was one on one with Mendy, as he goes and gets the ball our players start walking back to set up and all their heads are down, shoulders slumped and look like they could just walk off home.

There are too many players in this team feeling sorry for themselves, not helped by a manager who stands for the whole 90 minutes with hands folded. It's a mess right now, no direction, no progression and no leadership from anyone.

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6 hours ago, Vincent said:

Do we have a leader? A player that is proud to be a Chelsea player, and not just proud to be a player at a big club. A player that really feels connected to this club and wears our DNA. I am aware of the fact that these kind of players are rare, but these are the kind fo players we used to have. A leader like Terry of even Frank himself. These were the kind of players that would fight for our club and for the head of our managers. We don't have the type of players you'll win a war with, which we had with Drogba, Ballack, Carvalho, Ivanovic, Essien and many others. Not necessarily the best leaders, but players that would do anything in their power to win. I also believe the will and hunger to win is very contagious to the rest of the squad. In this squad i don't see a player that has such a big influence on the rest of the squad that i'm trying to sketch.

For better or for worse, modern footballers are built differently from the previous generation. It's hard to look at the modern footballers and pick out those who are genuine leaders.

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37 minutes ago, Special Juan said:

if it had been a bit of hit and miss I can handle that, but it's been all miss. The WHU game was horrendous to watch, we won 3-0 but that game masked so many gaping cracks it's scary. I'm digging deep and trying to think of any progression we have made since the season started, and how long do we keep using the excuse of 'oh they are young lads' so they are either young and we can't expect too much or they are in the team and stand up like men when the chips are down.

One image in my head I have from the whole of the season was the last game against City. KdB missed that chance where he was one on one with Mendy, as he goes and gets the ball our players start walking back to set up and all their heads are down, shoulders slumped and look like they could just walk off home.

There are too many players in this team feeling sorry for themselves, not helped by a manager who stands for the whole 90 minutes with hands folded. It's a mess right now, no direction, no progression and no leadership from anyone.

I'd agree with the West Ham game, it followed the trend of the Wolves and Villa games where instead of gaining confidence from going ahead and killing the game off, we got nervous and tried holding on to a 1-0. The West Ham game could have easily gone the way of the Wolves and Villa games.

I think it's more harsh to say there has been no progress this season. It's easy now to forget we were top a month ago. Whilst the attacking play was still very much a work in progress, we did look like we had goals in us and there was far more intent and pace in our play. Lampard had seemed to address a number of the defensive issues from last year and found a more solid shape for us, and our set pieces at both ends of the pitch had improved significantly upon last year. Both these things seemed to form a more solid base to work from this season but all that good work seems to have been thrown away in a bit of a panic.

The biggest concern for me is as this run has gone on, some of the defensive problems we had last year have come back into our game. As our attack has become almost non-existent we've completely lost our shape too with it, which came to a head against City. That third goal would be comical if it wasn't us suffering it. The City game was set up to sit a little deeper, win the ball around our box and hit the ball early over the top of their high line for Werner and Pulisic to chase. I was sure given the line up, this would be the tactic used. It was baffling to see us try and press and engage high up the pitch, it plays right into their hands and once beating the first press, the defence had no protection whatsoever, a common trend last season.

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8 minutes ago, Superblue_1986 said:

 

The biggest concern for me is as this run has gone on, some of the defensive problems we had last year have come back into our game. As our attack has become almost non-existent we've completely lost our shape too with it, which came to a head against City. That third goal would be comical if it wasn't us suffering it. The City game was set up to sit a little deeper, win the ball around our box and hit the ball early over the top of their high line for Werner and Pulisic to chase. I was sure given the line up, this would be the tactic used. It was baffling to see us try and press and engage high up the pitch, it plays right into their hands and once beating the first press, the defence had no protection whatsoever, a common trend last season.

Actually our defensive problem last season was completely different than this season. Last year it was very2 obvious we had personel problem at gk. Alonso was also too slow for a fb, we pretty much fixed those two. 

This season, our defensive problem occuredmostly against good teams and the problem is pretty obvious. Offensively, as long as Ziyech is fit and healthy we should be fine and Lamp need to stop with puli + Werner combo, way too direct. 

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20 hours ago, Superblue_1986 said:

I'd agree with the West Ham game, it followed the trend of the Wolves and Villa games where instead of gaining confidence from going ahead and killing the game off, we got nervous and tried holding on to a 1-0. The West Ham game could have easily gone the way of the Wolves and Villa games.

I think it's more harsh to say there has been no progress this season. It's easy now to forget we were top a month ago. Whilst the attacking play was still very much a work in progress, we did look like we had goals in us and there was far more intent and pace in our play. Lampard had seemed to address a number of the defensive issues from last year and found a more solid shape for us, and our set pieces at both ends of the pitch had improved significantly upon last year. Both these things seemed to form a more solid base to work from this season but all that good work seems to have been thrown away in a bit of a panic.

The problem with a month ago is that we only beat the bottom half sides. The minute we came up against top half teams, we struggled badly and looked clueless on how to beat them. This is currently our record against top half sides:

L 0-2 Liverpool
D 0-0 Man United
D 0-0 Spurs
L 1-3 Man City
D 3-3 Southampton
L 0-1 Everton
D 1-1 Aston Villa

We'll never get anywhere near the top or even the top 4 if we don't beat those teams. It's also concerning that the only way we seem to know how to attack against these teams is to spam high crosses into the box. It's rather apt that we are currently 9th in the table and behind all the top half sides that we haven't beaten this season (except Leicester).

20 hours ago, Superblue_1986 said:

The biggest concern for me is as this run has gone on, some of the defensive problems we had last year have come back into our game. As our attack has become almost non-existent we've completely lost our shape too with it, which came to a head against City. That third goal would be comical if it wasn't us suffering it. The City game was set up to sit a little deeper, win the ball around our box and hit the ball early over the top of their high line for Werner and Pulisic to chase. I was sure given the line up, this would be the tactic used. It was baffling to see us try and press and engage high up the pitch, it plays right into their hands and once beating the first press, the defence had no protection whatsoever, a common trend last season.

I really have no idea what our game plan was against Man City. As you mentioned, thought the plan was to play on the break, to use the pace of Werner and Pulisic, going by the lineup but then, we tried to press them high up the pitch and the pressing was all over the place again. Every player was just pressing around randomly and there's no cohesion in the pressing (seeing someone like Kante just charging around aimlessly and leaving his DM space vacated was blood boiling!). Even The Athletic pointed out this issue in their analytical piece today and Sunday's game wasn't the first time it's happened this season, never mind the fact that we're still seeing the same pressing problems from last season. I really want to know what tactical stuff Lampard and his coaching staff do in training. We look so badly coached against the other big sides. 

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Frank given enough money no more to be given him have to show he is top manager not buying big player all time. Leicester sell many big players every year but still good team.

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11 minutes ago, Jason said:

It's rather apt that we are currently 9th in the table and behind all the top half sides that we haven't beaten this season (except Leicester).

We wont beat them either.

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The Telegraph

Wednesday January 6 2021

Matt Law's Chelsea briefing

 
Matt Law
43BF6A0859EB38FA1A2A8FBBC1331982.gif

FA Cup offers chance for Hudson-Odoi, Abraham and Gilmour to take the strain

By Matt Law,
Football News Correspondent

Frank Lampard always knew this run of bad form could happen and insisted he was planning for it even when Chelsea were on a 17-game unbeaten run, when this column was leading the calls for him to be rewarded with a new contract.

For the record, it is still the belief of this column that Lampard’s contract should be extended. Doing so would represent an unprecedented show of support from the Chelsea board that would allow everybody to focus on how to fix the problems rather than how long the head coach might get to turn things around.

But that scenario appears unlikely at present, with Lampard more concerned about holding on to his job than about Chelsea extending their commitment to him.

So how does Lampard fix Chelsea’s problems and guide his squad out of a rut in which they have lost four of their past six games? Sunday’s FA Cup tie against Morecambe will offer the chance to test one of the potential answers.

Lampard’s initial success with Chelsea last season came from blooding the club’s youngsters and giving them a platform that previous managers had always been too scared to offer. He has stuck with that policy this season, keeping faith with the likes of Mason Mount and Reece James, despite the £220million summer spend.

But Lampard’s best way to navigate his way out of the current mini-crisis, at least temporarily, may be to go a step further and turn to even more of Chelsea’s academy graduates - some of whom who have already proved their worth to him and others who have shown glimpses of their talent.

One of the more startling statistics of Chelsea’s Premier League season is that the opening-day victory over Brighton remains the only game Lampard’s team have won in which striker Tammy Abraham has not appeared - either from the start or as a substitute, as was the case against Leeds United.

Given that Abraham was Chelsea’s top scorer last season and is only one short of Olivier Giroud this term, the England international looks to be Lampard’s best option while he waits for Timo Werner to settle back down and work through his goal drought.

Games against Morecambe and then Fulham in the Premier League look perfect for Abraham to add to his goal tally and bring some balance to Chelsea’s play from the top of the pitch, which has been sadly lacking in recent weeks.

Either side of his central striker, Lampard has largely picked from Werner, Christian Pulisic and Hakim Ziyech this season, but Callum Hudson-Odoi can now argue that he has done enough to be given a run of games in which to impress.

Hudson-Odoi was Chelsea’s brightest attacking player in the draw with Aston Villa, so could consider himself unlucky to drop back down to the substitutes’ bench for the City game in which Ziyech struggled.

But, rather than sulk or feel sorry for himself, the winger stepped off the bench to score Chelsea’s consolation goal and Hudson-Odoi now looks ready to regularly contribute to games while Pulisic and Ziyech feel their way back to full fitness.

Other than recently struggling to find the right formula in attack, the balance of Lampard’s midfield has been lost over the bad run, with Mateo Kovacic, who was terrible against Manchester City, Jorginho and Kai Havertz failing to prove consistently that they are worthy of a place alongside N’Golo Kante and Mason Mount.

Lampard has been understandably reticent to throw Billy Gilmour straight back into his starting line-up while the Scotsman builds up his match fitness after injury, but the Morecambe game will surely provide him with enough minutes to then start against Fulham at Craven Cottage.

Gilmour had jumped ahead of Jorginho by the time he was injured towards the end of last season and how Chelsea could do with his fearless energy and application to ease some of the burden placed on the often overworked Kante.

Turning back to the academy may only provide temporary relief for Lampard, who, in the long-term, must bring the best out of Chelsea’s expensive signings such as Werner, Havertz and Ziyech, but it could provide him and his out-of-sorts stars with some much-needed breathing space.

Get in touch at @Matt_Law_DT or via [email protected].

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10 hours ago, Jason said:

Werner woes, struggling Kante and poor pressing: what’s going wrong at Chelsea?

https://theathletic.com/2303208/2021/01/06/chelsea-lampard-tactics-werner/

Appointing a relative rookie like Frank Lampard creates a dilemma for Roman Abramovich.

On one hand, if you appoint an inexperienced manager who is learning on the job, you don’t expect a quick fix — it’s more likely he’ll encounter some poor runs of form, which must be tolerated in the belief the manager will prove successful over a longer period.

On the other, if Abramovich pulled the trigger midway through the season and sacked World Cup winner Luiz Felipe Scolari, Europa League winner Andre Villas-Boas, European Cup winner Roberto Di Matteo and three-time Premier League winner Jose Mourinho, then why does Lampard deserve more time than those who have proved themselves at the highest level?

With Chelsea currently sitting ninth in the Premier League, discussions about Lampard’s future are inevitable but what have been Chelsea’s specific issues this season?


Goalkeeping problems haven’t been resolved

Chelsea’s major problem in Lampard’s first season was unquestionably in goal, where Kepa Arrizabalaga endured a terrible campaign. By the end of the season, Chelsea had allowed chances with an expected goals against value of around 41 but had conceded 54 times. That was the largest difference in the Premier League, pointing to Kepa’s inability to keep the ball out of the net.

Lampard was desperate to secure the services of a new goalkeeper, particularly after Kepa’s woes continued in the opening games of this season. Edouard Mendy arrived from Rennes and initially seemed to have improved things dramatically — he saved eight of the first nine shots he faced and Chelsea kept five straight clean sheets for the first time in a decade.

But Mendy’s form has dropped off since then. He rushed out too quickly for a Patrick Bamford opener in Chelsea’s eventual 3-1 victory over Leeds at Stamford Bridge and then did the same to concede a penalty in the 1-0 loss at Everton. Errors in possession have also crept into his game, notably when almost skewing the ball into his own net on a windy evening at Old Trafford and passing straight to Arsenal’s Alexandre Lacazette in a 3-1 loss at the Emirates before atoning for his mistake with a decent save.

Overall, the statistics aren’t particularly convincing. Chelsea have clearly improved on Kepa but Mendy’s numbers are average rather than spectacular when you assess Opta’s expected goals on target (xGOT) figures, which account for the placement of a shot (as well as where it was struck from). Mendy has conceded 10 goals from positions where you would expect 9.3. He’s ranked ninth in the league for goals prevented (the difference between xGOT and goals conceded) of the 20 regular Premier League goalkeepers.

mendy_gk_stats.png

That’s not disastrous but early optimism about Mendy might have been slightly misplaced. This graph shows the number of goals he’s conceded in relation to the quality of shots over the course of his Chelsea career so far and while, in his opening matches, Mendy was outperforming expectations, now he’s slipped behind them. These numbers also don’t account, for example, for that needless concession of a penalty at Everton.

mendy_cumulative_xg_adj.png

That’s not disastrous, of course, and this is a small sample of games, and the margins are thin — but that’s still important, given one extra save can turn a loss into a draw or a draw into a win.

Overall, Chelsea have conceded 21 goals having faced chances worth 17.5 xG. Some of this is a hangover from Kepa’s continued presence in goal in the opening matches of the campaign — and Willy Caballero’s only appearance resulted in three concessions at West Brom.

Overall, though, the goalkeeper position has remained a problem. Chelsea have gone from the biggest underperformance last season to the second-biggest this season, behind Brighton. Mendy is an improvement on Kepa but for the second consecutive season, Lampard can justifiably be frustrated by the number of goals his goalkeepers have conceded.


Kante is struggling in big games

Lampard’s switch to 4-3-3 at the end of October reopened the debate about the identity of Chelsea’s holding midfielder. This was originally an issue under Maurizio Sarri, who controversially opted for his old Napoli comrade Jorginho, asking N’Golo Kante to play in more of a box-to-box role.

When Lampard played 4-3-3 last season, he often followed Sarri’s approach but since switching to that shape this season, on nine of the 11 Premier League matches, he’s fielded Kante as his defensive midfielder — on the other two occasions, Jorginho has played there, with Kante shifting right again.

Neither have performed particularly well this season but Kante’s performances in 3-1 defeats to Arsenal and Manchester City have been particularly concerning. The France international has been sluggish when receiving possession on the turn, sloppy with his distribution and far too clumsy in terms of conceding fouls. That was noticeably problematic against Arsenal when Granit Xhaka stepped up and smashed a resulting free kick home.

His decision-making also cost Chelsea a goal against City when he received the ball following a Chelsea corner as the last man back, attempted to find a team-mate and conceded possession. He was bypassed by Raheem Sterling, whose shot bounced back for Kevin De Bruyne to make it 3-0. It was reminiscent of Kante stumbling on the halfway line in a similar situation to allow Arsenal’s Gabriel Martinelli to net an equaliser at Stamford Bridge last season.

Jorginho doesn’t offer Kante’s ball-winning skills and has sometimes been criticised for his cautious distribution, but his classic whipped around-the-corner pass assisted a goal for Timo Werner against Southampton (when Lampard was using them together in a 4-2-3-1) and that type of incision has been badly lacking from Kante when playing deep.

Kante’s best contributions this season have come when he’s pushed on. He burst forward through Leeds’ man-marking, for example, and created a good chance for Werner when driving forward in the 3-0 win over West Ham just before Christmas, only for the Germany forward to hit his shot against the crossbar.

It’s become somewhat sacrilegious to suggest it at Stamford Bridge but Kante might be better used in a more energetic role. Lampard doesn’t seem entirely convinced by Jorginho and Billy Gilmour’s half-hour outing against Manchester City, having been introduced in place of Kante, hints that he might be thinking of someone different altogether.


A poorly co-ordinated press

In the aftermath of Sunday’s 3-1 defeat against Manchester City, Lampard pointed to the sudden shift in the narrative around his performance as Chelsea manager. “We went 16 games unbeaten (recently). A month ago, everyone was talking about where we were going to go to, where I was going to go…”

But Chelsea’s impressive performances in October and November were largely reliant upon the quality of opposition. During their unbeaten run, Chelsea’s victories came against Crystal Palace, Burnley, Sheffield United, Newcastle and Leeds — all currently in the bottom half of the table. Their draws came against Southampton, Manchester United and Tottenham — all in the top half of the table. To put it another way, Chelsea haven’t yet defeated anyone above 10th-placed West Ham. When the fixtures have been more difficult, results have been poor.

Of course, to a certain extent, that’s natural, but a common feature of Chelsea’s performance in big games is their lack of organisation without possession, particularly when it comes to pressing in midfield. Overall, pressing across the Premier League has fallen this season. At Chelsea, it’s often seemed like Lampard has asked his players to press but the actual specifics are lacking. Here are three examples from two-goal defeats to Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester City.

Eleven minutes into the game against Liverpool, Alisson has possession and feeds a pass into Jordan Henderson. No-one is in a position to stop the pass, or to prevent him from turning — but, in that area of the pitch, that’s not a huge problem.

Liv1.png

The problem, though, comes when he does turn. Then, we discover that all three of Chelsea’s central midfielders — Mateo Kovacic, Jorginho and Kante — are all trying to shut him down but aren’t close enough to actual dispossess him. Therefore, Henderson has time to turn and prod a pass in behind all three…

Liv2.png

… and onto Sadio Mane, between the lines. Kante desperately tries to get back and stop him, but Mane has the option of a simple square pass to Roberto Firmino.

Liv3.png

Chelsea were too easy to play through.

That has become a common theme of those defeats. Here’s the build-up to the goal scored by Bukayo Saka at the Emirates, which effectively ended that game as a contest. Rob Holding is in possession and Chelsea’s midfielders are again disorganised. Mason Mount is broadly trying to put pressure on Holding. Kante has been higher up the pitch closing down Arsenal’s centre-backs and is trying to drop back and shut down Xhaka — but isn’t in a position to do so — while Jorginho goes racing towards Saka.

Arse1.png

The pass into Xhaka, in oceans of space, is on and from there, Arsenal build a decisive attack down their right, which is eventually finished by Saka. Again, Chelsea are too easy to play through.

Finally, here’s the build-up to Ilkay Gundogan’s opener on Sunday. Again, this pass from Ruben Dias into Rodri is simple. Rodri has started the game nervously, constantly misplacing passes and narrowly avoiding conceding a penalty. A high-energy side would have pressed him relentlessly and created more turnovers.

City1.png

But this time, there’s no pressure on the ball. Rodri has time to amble forward, Kante casually comes out towards him and Rodri is able to feed the ball out to the left, where the goal comes from. The goalscorer, Gundogan, drifts between the lines and wasn’t ever really under pressure before his finish.

City2.png

Lampard can blame individual underperformance in both penalty boxes for Chelsea’s recent slump but he must take responsibility for Chelsea’s openness in midfield.


Werner’s woes

Chelsea’s attacking issues are best incapsulated by Timo Werner, who has failed to replicate the goalscoring exploits that made him so sought after.

First, it’s worth considering that Werner isn’t far away from getting things right. He’s hit the woodwork five times this season, more than any other Premier League player. If two of those five had gone in and he had scored six goals instead of the four he has so far, there probably wouldn’t be so much discussion about his performances. His non-penalty xG per 90 in the Premier League is the 15th-highest in the league at 0.39, yet he’s only scored 0.26 per 90, 43rd-best in the league.

timo_werner_2020-21_all_shots.png

There’s more to being a wide forward in Chelsea’s possession-heavy system than scoring goals, though. Considering data from smarterscout, Werner’s ball retention ability as a left winger is rated at just 31/99, indicative of his inability to maintain possession.

That’s sometimes forgivable if the player is the only turnover-prone option on the team or is trying high-risk, high-reward passes. Sadly, that’s not a caveat applicable to Werner, who is required to stitch Chelsea’s possession together, with a rating of 93/99 for link play.

Combine that with the fact that he rarely looks to pass the ball forward (his progressive passing rating is 21/99) and that he’s relatively inept at progressing the ball too (his xG from ball progression rating is 8/99), and Werner’s overall contributions to the team look very weak.

So why is that the case?

In a positional sense, Werner did have a tendency of cutting in from the left-hand side for Leipzig, although that was more of a ploy to keep himself out of the eyeline of the opposing centre-back and not where he’d be routinely stationed. Seventy-eight per cent of Werner’s domestic minutes last season came with him playing as a striker, with just four per cent at left wing.

positions_timo_werner_2019-20.png

Contrast that with his time so far at Chelsea, with 63 per cent of his minutes coming from that left wing position, a quarter of them up front and the rest on the right.

positions_timo_werner_2020-21.png

A lack of familiarity with the left wing role partly explains Werner’s poor output so far this season but doesn’t tell the whole story. There’s a large and notable difference in how Leipzig last season and Chelsea this season approach games, the former bringing Werner’s strengths to the surface far more than Chelsea’s current system.

The style of play Leipzig employed last season was predicated on a speed and intensity that capitalised on transitions to create chances. They averaged fewer sequences of possession that featured 10 or more passes per game than Chelsea, and also a fewer number of those sequences that reached the opposition penalty area or ended in a shot (build up attacks in the table below).

Leipzig’s games were far less controlled. There was a higher cadence in terms of how often the ball changed hands between teams, as noted by the higher volume of open-play sequences. They also forced more “high turnovers” than Chelsea, which are open-play turnovers which start within 40 metres of the opponent’s goal.

werner_team_styles.png

Leipzig’s high-octane style fit Werner’s lightning pace perfectly, with him often having chances either under minimal pressure, with just the goalkeeper to beat, or both. Werner scored nine goals following a carry — dribbling the ball five metres or more — which was the most of any player in Europe last season. Just look at the number of streams from deep into the box in the graphic below.

165153_22_2019_stats_perform_dark_carrie

Now compare it to this season in the graphic below. With nearly half the season gone, Werner has not scored after a carry and has only had eight shots, all of which have been from wide in the penalty area. The dearth of chances in central areas shows how Werner has struggled to replicate his Leipzig impact against set defences in the Premier League.

165153_8_2020_stats_perform_dark_carries

This season, Werner’s still carrying the ball at similar rates but it’s the end product of those carries which has changed a lot. Last season, in his smidgen over 11 carries per 90, Werner created, shot and scored at far higher rates than he is doing this season. That’s due to the circumstances that he finds himself in when on the ball: Chelsea just don’t create those transitional opportunities that he thrived on at Leipzig.

werner_carrying.png


Underlying statistics are fine but what is Lampard’s long-term plan?

Chelsea’s two core issues are the relatively poor individual performances of new attacking signings and the club’s position in the table after some underwhelming recent results.

With the perceived poor individual performances, there was always going to be a case of diminishing returns. Playing three players in Kai Havertz, Werner and Hakim Ziyech together, who respectively averaged 0.62, 1.06 and 1.06 non-penalty goals and assists per 90 last season, is always going to lead to a drop-off in the attacking output of each.

There’s only one ball, which is why it’s so rare that a team can have an attack consisting of three players putting up such strong individual numbers, unless perhaps you are Barcelona with Neymar, Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi. With all due respect, Chelsea’s new attacking trio aren’t at that level. Inferior individual numbers don’t mean that the team as a whole should be hamstrung; you’d expect Chelsea to still put up good to great xG numbers overall given the shot in the arm of attacking talent.

That so far isn’t the case though — the attacking pieces haven’t scaled very well and collectively, are far worse than the sum of their individual parts. Chelsea’s non-penalty xG per game this season of 1.4 is a joint five-season low (alongside 2017-18, when they finished fifth) and represents a large drop-off compared to last season, in which the attack created 1.76 xG per game with a squad that, on paper, was far weaker.

Chelsea have bought players who previously produced some great attacking stats but there’s no guarantee they’ll all be able to replicate them. There was always going to be a period of bedding-in required for the new recruits to get accustomed to their new surroundings.

So although there have not been any standout individual performances from the new signings, a quick look at the underlying numbers show a team that, despite their eighth position in the table, have the fourth-best expected goal difference (xGD) in the Premier League this season. That’s telling as it’s a good indicator in the long run of how good this team is. Per-game, their xGD is +0.53, ahead of all but Aston Villa (+0.57), Liverpool (+0.8) and Manchester City (+0.88).

Splitting that into defence and attack, it’s also evident that Chelsea have had differing fortunes at both ends so far this season. Scoring 28 from 23.9 xG and conceding 19 from 14.8 xG conceded suggests that a slowdown in scoring and fewer goals conceded was always likely in the long run.

The rolling xG chart below considers the 10-game rolling averages of Chelsea’s xG for and against. Since last season, the attack has worsened slightly over time (blue line) but the defence has improved (red line). This suggests that up until the City game, their defence this season was at its strongest and most consistent that it’s been for quite some time.

chelsea_rolling_xg.png

Picking up four points out of a possible 18 for any title-challenging team over any stretch in a season is cause for concern but Chelsea’s performances weren’t quite as bad as results suggest. Scoring seven non-penalty goals from 8.5 xG and conceding 8 from 6.1 xG looks a little unfortunate.

Fourth-best isn’t the best, though, and for Chelsea, that could prove to be the ultimate reason that costs Frank Lampard his job given the substantial investment that took place in the summer.

Very good read again. (Seriously considering subscribing to that website )

It basically sums up a few of the things I've been bleating in different topics over the past few weeks:

1. Mendy is not good enough for a side with title aspirations.

2. We wont find a better option than Mendy any time soon (at least not this season), which means our back 4 and CDM have to do a better job at limiting his exposure to shots.

3. Our back 4 obviously performs better (as evidenced by this season and last) when they receive more support from players upfield, with their coordinated press.

Which brings us to that big question. Why is our press so shite in games? It works well in spurts during games, and sometimes for a few games in a row.

Against City it worked for the first 10 mins. After that the players (esp. Mount who normally is relentless) just gave up.

Roy Keane also brought it up in the post match interview.

You would think that after 1.5 seasons, this is something that Lampard would've drilled into his side by now. Not sure what is going on in training.

 

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