With the second-best defensive record in the league, Chelsea’s problems have become apparent this season. His goalscoring record is frankly average, just seven from seven including three matches without a goal, but at the other end he is as good as any player.
To highlight their shortcomings, only Everton have failed to score more times than Chelsea this season and only two teams have been less successful at home. The Blues have found the net in only half of their matches at Stamford Bridge this season.
However, the saying goes that defense wins titles and the Blues are extremely strong on that metric. In seven matches they have conceded only six goals, three of which have come against West Ham. Only Manchester City has underperformed so far and they are top of the league.
It hasn’t been a huge overperformance either, XGA indicates Chelsea have let in around two fewer than the underlying number, but there are eight teams in the league that have performed the same or better at this stage. Simply put,
On many occasions it didn’t seem like it as mistakes cost them points against both Nottingham Forest and Aston Villa, but in both games had the forwards done their job in front of goal there would have been less focus on defence. Outside of Everton’s obviously system breaking -8.40 xG differential, no team at this level has underperformed their expected strikes as much as Chelsea.
This presents an argument that would indicate that results will pick up once finishing improves. Easy to understand but difficult to actually implement, that’s the nature of football after all.
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The positive for Pochettino in this is that the defense is the most injured at the moment and potentially the furthest from full fitness. Reece James is the starting right-back and has only had 70 minutes this season, Thiago Silva is 39 and despite what he brings to the team that leaves others to cover for his immobility, Axel Disassi Colville is in his second month as a Premier League player and Levy is out of the left-back position.
As for the defensive consistency that has been found, three clean sheets in the last four games in all competitions, with the backline lacking all four members in the best position possible, that is quite a feat. Although it’s unclear how Wesley Fofana and Colville will fit together this season with Silva, DeSassi and Benoit Badiashile – not to mention Trevoh Chalobah – options abound.
However, Pochettino has opted to remain rigorous in his selection process. Whether it’s due to injuries, keeping their feet under the table or relying on a growing body of largely impressive work – it could be a mixture of all of them – this is not the defense Chelsea fans have been used to in pre-season. Must have chosen.
The manager himself was much more conservative in America, with fit full-backs and the Silva-Colville partnership already formed long before DeSassi’s arrival. A possible missing key to making all this move forward is Badiyashile.
In the second half of the season Chelsea won only four games since 12 January, with Badiashile playing in all of them. Often accompanied by Silva, the 22-year-old played just two games in which Chelsea lost last time out, having played a record 10 without him, winning zero, drawing two and losing eight.
Even with Chelsea finishing 12th, it’s remarkable how strong the correlation is with the improvement. Badiashile was part of a team that kept four clean sheets in 11 games compared to only one without him. His aerial presence as well as left-footed option in defense were immediately notable.
How he will fit in when he returns from injury in the coming weeks is uncertain but the work he has done so far cannot be ignored. To make matters better, he will aim to work with Silva as much as possible to take advantage of his experience. When asked about the club’s oldest player, Badiashile beamed like a child.
He explained, “I ask him such a large number of questions that I have to pay attention to his nervousness a little bit!” “That’s because, as Axel (DeSassi) said, he is very intelligent and he That’s extraordinary for someone of. It’s an honor to work with someone of that class and everyone who works with him benefits from him and it helps us reach our maximum level.”
Silva is currently playing on the left because of the absence of a natural left-footed player Pochettino is willing to choose there. Badiashile will aim to become first-choice in that position when he returns but will face competition from Silva and Colville, while the right side is full of Disassi, Fofana and there is also the possibility of using Chalobah or Silva.
In theory that’s a lot of moving parts but the reality is that Pochettino’s current choices are unlikely to change much. In the long run though, Badiashile has earned his chance and will be eager to impose himself.