Chelsea have endured a choppy start to the 2023-24 Premier League campaign.
Their next fixture is a trip to table-topping Tottenham Hotspur, former club of Blues manager Mauricio Pochettino – and a victory over their rivals would be the perfect way to lift the mood around the club.
Ahead of what is sure to be a fiery London derby, we used the Toolbox to analyse Chelsea’s performances this season – and their underlying statistics are stronger than their league position would suggest.
Pressing with purpose
Chelsea have been committed to pressing under Pochettino and the numbers bear that out.
In the Premier League this season, they rank second for both average opposition possession duration (21.31 seconds) and number of opposition sequences with 10 or more passes (63), as well as fifth for PPDA (9.68) – demonstrating their ability to consistently prevent teams from settling on the ball.
Their defensive record of three clean sheets and 11 goals conceded do not reflect the strength of their work in this area, partially because their opponents have collectively overperformed their post-shot xG by 1.1 – the fourth-highest figure in the division.
Picking out passes
It may come as a surprise to learn that, after Manchester City, Chelsea have completed the most passes (5,236) of any Premier League side.
The pressure they put on the ball frequently forces turnovers and the Blues see plenty of the ball as a result.
Pochettino’s men are purposeful with their possession, too. No side has completed more forward passes than their 1,433, while only City boast a greater average possession height gained than Chelsea’s 36.9 metres.
Additionally, they rank second in the league for final third passes completed (499) and sequences ending in the final third (720), with the latter figure representing just over half (51.03%) of their total sequences; when the Blues have the ball, they invariably look to move it forward.
A hallmark of the club’s attacking play this season has been their fondness for threading passes in behind – they have connected with 42 of their 106 through-balls, more than any other team.
However, an area that has proved less fruitful is wide deliveries. Despite attempting a whopping 183 crosses – behind only Luton Town – they have completed only 46 and have mustered just 12 headed shots. A lack of aerial threat in the box suggests the Blues may be better served looking for alternative routes of attack.
Energetic in attack
Pochettino’s insistence that his side get the ball forward is not limited to their passing.
The Blues boast a plethora of gifted ball-carriers, and their 219 progressive runs – the second-most in the competition – underlines their commitment to advancing upfield in possession.
This is the area in which Chelsea have encountered the most frustration.
They have scored just 13 times in their 10 outings, but that number is not representative of the quality of chances they have created – they have underperformed their xG by a division-high 6.44. Additionally, they have attempted 653 attacking actions – behind only City.
The loss of star summer signing Christopher Nkunku on the eve of the season has robbed the club of its most natural finisher – but the statistics prove that, even without him, the Blues have created a healthy number of chances.
In September, for example, Chelsea suffered 1-0 defeats to Nottingham Forest and Aston Villa either side of a 0-0 draw with Bournemouth – but their combined xG across those three games was 4.48, yet they somehow came away without scoring.
Once the Blues’ finishing catches up with the quality of chances they are carving out, results will surely follow. No better time to start than against Tottenham.
All visualisations in this article were produced with the Twenty3 Toolbox. For more information, please get in touch below.