Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Chelsea’s goal scoring problems examined

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Chelsea may have given themselves hope of salvaging a top-four finish but goal-scoring problems have hindered their season.



We look at whether the issue lies with the strikers – or the supply…

“Our top scorer has scored only 12 goals. And if your best scorer has scored only 12 goals it means it is very difficult to fight for something this season. This is the reality, the stats speak very well.”

For Antonio Conte it is clear what Chelsea’s major problem has been this season.

He pointed the finger at his attackers after last week’s narrow win at Swansea and while January signing Olivier Giroud made the difference against Liverpool on Sunday, Conte must surely have been looking on enviously at the visitors’ front three.

They may have drawn a blank at Stamford Bridge, but Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino have 56 Premier League goals between them this season.

Chelsea’s top three scorers – Eden Hazard, Alvaro Morata and left-back Marcos Alonso – have a combined tally of just 29.

That figure should be significantly higher. Chelsea are third bottom in the Premier League when it comes to the percentage of clear-cut chances they’ve put away this season, according to Opta.

To underline that point: only Crystal Palace and Southampton have been more wasteful from chances where their players would be reasonably expected to score.

In the player standings, Morata – out injured against Liverpool but likely to return against Huddersfield on Wednesday – has the worst big chance conversion rate among strikers to have scored at least 10 Premier League goals this season.

The Spaniard’s finishing came in for criticism after glaring misses against Arsenal in January and was off target against Burnley last month.

Only two players have missed more big chances this season.

Certainly, the stats don’t make good reading for Chelsea’s attackers.

But interestingly, the players around Morata on that table could hint at a wider problem at Chelsea, beyond some wayward shooting.

Morata has missed one fewer clear-cut opening than Harry Kane this season. Salah, the PFA Player of the Year, has missed the most, failing to capitalise on 21 big chances.

But he’s also scored the second most. Behind Kane. These two players, the top scorers in the Premier League, have been presented with the most gilt-edged chances.

Perhaps then, for Chelsea, it is a problem with the supply lines. They have only created the sixth most big chances this season, just eight more got-to-score moments than Crystal Palace, who have been battling relegation for much of the campaign.

The issue for Conte is this is a problem he hasn’t rectified since last season.

The Blues may have been crowned Premier League champions in 2016/17, but that was thanks in a large part to the ruthless finishing of Diego Costa. Just ask Arsenal fans how decisive he can be.

Chelsea only ranked fifth for Expected Goals (xG) last season. But thanks to their Spanish striker’s 20-goal haul they finished second top scorers in the division.

In fact, Chelsea’s over performance from their xG total of 56 to their actual goal haul of 85 was the largest gain in the division.

Throw in the fact that Costa’s goals were often crucial ones, edging tight games – they were worth 15 points on their own, more than any other player’s goals in the Premier League last season – and it becomes clear just how essential he was for a Chelsea team seemingly short on creativity.

With misfiring Michy Batshuayi loaned out in January, Morata has been a familiar scapegoat for Chelsea’s shortcomings this season, with Giroud’s mid-season arrival casting doubt on the Spaniard’s long-term future at the club.

And there’s no question the former Real Madrid and Juventus man hasn’t settled as well as Blues fans would have hoped.

But how about the attacking coaching? How about the style Chelsea play? How about their failure to land key targets in last summer’s transfer window?

These all appear to also be valid criticisms – some of which Conte must take the blame for himself – when it comes to asking why Chelsea’s goals and points tally aren’t where they’d like them to be.

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