Chelsea 2019-20 Premier League Season Statistical Review
After nearly 12 months of ups and downs, with our very own Frank Lampard managing a team broadly comprised of our very own academy players, Chelsea have secured Champions League football for next season.
Going into the season, the “experts” didn’t give Chelsea much of a chance of finishing in the top four. Only 3 out of 21 pundits surveyed, of whom 2 were former Chelsea players, expected Chelsea to finish in the top four – shout out to former player/manager Ruud Gullit for his second place prediction; Proper Chels!
(Ed.note: and none of that is as amusing as most predicting sixth-place Spurs to finish third and eighth-place Arsenal to finish fourth!)
That said, thinking that Chelsea would struggle was not such a bold prediction. This author expected Chelsea (no pun intended) to finish sixth or thereabouts. About half of the WAGNH writers surveyed last season also expected Chelsea to finish outside the top four.
So how did the team pull this off? And are Chelsea better than last season? Let’s take a look.
Chelsea lost Eden Hazard, one of the five best footballers on the planet in June 2019, and replaced him with a bunch of 19-, 20-, and 21-year-olds.
The result? Chelsea became even better going forward. An xG of 2 per game across a season is an elite number by all accounts. While it is not as good as Manchester City’s, it is a thoroughly good tally regardless.
The total xG tally of 76.23 was good enough to rank second in the league behind Man City’s 102.21 (not a typo) and ahead of Liverpool’s 75.19. Interestingly, this is also the highest xG Chelsea have ever recorded in the available data-set and is the first time Chelsea have crossed 70 xG in a single season. The next best tally is from 2014-15, with Mourinho’s men putting up 68.64.
Defensively, Chelsea evidently have not been solid, but also have not been as bad as 54 goals conceded suggests. The truth is somewhere in between.
The next question then is, why did Chelsea struggle so much to get top four despite their excellent expected numbers? Bad finishing, an historically bad goalkeeper and some horrible injury luck all had their parts to play.
Realistically, the chances of a team of Chelsea’s resources scoring 7 goals fewer than expected while conceding 12 goals (conventional xG, not post-shot xG) more than expected are close to zero. Yet here we are.
In most cases, a team underperforming their expected numbers to this extent would not have had a chance of making the top four, but the crisis at Leicester offered a chance for Chelsea and Manchester United (another young team slightly underperforming their expected numbers) to sneak in.
Chelsea are unlikely to be this unlucky next season – [*touch wood*] – and there should be a bounce back towards the mean, with things improving dramatically at both ends.
The first inference is that Chelsea were better at pressing this season than we were last season. The team allowed fewer opponent passes while also effectively bringing down the number and different types of shots conceded.
Maurizio Sarri’s principal strategy was to use the ball as the team’s best defender. While this meant Chelsea could be predicable and (supposedly) boring in quite a few games, there was a clear benefit in terms of defensive solidity.
Under Lampard, Chelsea seek to use the ball more directly. While this means the team has been more unpredictable going forward, it also meant being susceptible to getting exploited at the other end. This is reflected in the fact that the average quality of both shots taken and shots conceded has increased.
Sarri made it clear that Hazard was going to be the team’s main player from the first day. This resulted in Hazard receiving more of the ball than others and being expected to come up with more of the goods. To his credit, he did just that, directly contributing to exactly half of Chelsea’s league goals last season (16 goals, 15 assists).
Without Hazard, Lampard had to get more creative and eventually settled on a more adventurous style incorporating all of the team’s attackers. The absence of Hazard also meant that Lampard did not have to “carry” a player while settin…
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