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Chelsea Beginning To Find Their Feet Under Mauricio Pochettino

Chelsea have been lacklustre for large parts of the season, which has led to widespread criticism of the manager, Mauricio Pochettino. The London club have been sitting in the bottom half for more than a quarter of the campaign, dropping to 12th not even a month ago, in a period that looked like there was no coming back for the former Spurs manager.

The tide, however, has begun to turn ever so slightly. Poch’s men are now unbeaten in the last eight ames, and are on the verge of reaching their second cup final this season. Manchester City stand in their way, but Pep Guardiola’s side have yet to beat the Argentine’s Blue’s this season, and despite their league positions for so much of the year, Chelsea’s underlying numbers suggest they should be a lot closer to the top six than they have been.

chelsea fc v leicester city emirates fa cup quarter final
LONDON, ENGLAND – MARCH 17: Mauricio Pochettino embraces Raheem Sterling of Chelsea as he is substituted off during the Emirates FA Cup Quarter Final between Chelsea FC and Leicester City FC at Stamford Bridge on March 17, 2024 in London, England. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

Men Lie, Women Lie, Numbers Don’t

In regards to expected goals (xG), Chelsea have some of the best underlying numbers in the entire division. Pochettino’s side are 5th in the xG chart with 61.3, just 2.6 fewer than Arsenal with 63.9. The Blue’s have also created the fourth most big chances in the Premier League with 69

Chelsea’s fast play around the penalty box has won them a lot of penalties, which is absolutely not a coincidence when you look at how they approach the play when they enter the box. Noni Madueke is averaging 2.90 dribbles per 90, with 6.66 touches in the opposition box, being fouled on average 2.22 per game. Madueke is winning 0.34 penalties per 90 minutes, with 2 in total during the season.

Mykhailo Mudyrk has also won two penalties this season in the league. The Ukrainian’s has 4.50 touches in the opposition box per 90, with 2.50 successful dribbles per 90. With the speed he possesses and the amount of touches in the area, all it takes is a nudge to end up in a penalty.

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Unsurprisingly, Chelsea’s penalty-winning king is Raheem Sterling, who has become a master at winning them over the years. Sterling is averaging a WHOPPING 8.49 touches in the opposition box per 90 minutes, winning 0.14 penalties per 90 to go along with that.

These statistics are not a coincidence. A fast front three with a lower centre of gravity that engages the defenders is always likely to win penalties. Manchester United under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had the exact same knack of winning penalties, due to a similar dynamic in the front three deployed at the time, which included Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, and Daniel James. Chelsea need to win two more penalties to equal the 14 United won in the 19/20 season, which prompted Jurgen Klopp to publicly complain about the sheer number of spot kicks the Red’s were winning.

Chelsea don’t rank the highest for opposition touches in the division, sitting in 9th, but it’s the attempted dribbles by the quick-nimble players accompanied by those touches that are winning them these vital penalties week in and week out. They have won the most in the league (12), with the nearest team to them being Arsenal with 9.

On the other hand, Chelsea have also been solid defensively. Pochettino’s side ranks fourth lowest when it comes to xG conceded, with Liverpool, Arsenal, and Manchester City the only three sides conceding less. These are not stats to be ignored, and they tell a completely different story than some of the results they’ve showcased at times this season.

Only five teams in the division keep more possession than Chelsea per 90 (59.1%), and only three teams play more accurate passes per 90 minutes than Chelsea (503.0).

The Issues For Pochettino:

Chelsea have failed to put away a lot of their big chances, which has resulted in them losing games. Overall, their conversion rate is quite high, scoring 10.3% of their 590 shots on goal, but when it comes to clear cut chances, they’ve created 69, and missed 59, a starling return.

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Nicolas Jackson has scored 13 goals in all competitions this season, but he has severely underperformed his xG, scoring just ten Premier League goals from an xG of 13.9. 51 of his 60 shots have come inside the box, and just ten of them have ended up in the back of the net. The Senegal international has missed the fourth-highest number of big chances in the division, failing to convert 18 of them.

It’s hard to imagine that had Jackson not been a bit more clinical in front of goal, Chelsea wouldn’t be further up the table, however, he’s not the only one missing chances. Raheem Sterling has missed 11 big chances. From midfield, Enzo Fernandez has missed 6 big chances, scoring just three goals from an xG of 6.1, another huge underperformance that has certainly cost Chelsea points in certain games.

Chelsea are not the only side to fall victim to this, but it seems to cost them a lot more points than the three teams with players in the big chances missed column ahead of Jackson. Erling Haaland has missed the most big chances with 30, while Darwin Nunez has missed 25 big chances himself. Both teams sit within the top three, but they will both feel that if the conversion rate from them big chances had been higher, they’d have a lot more points than they do and possibly already be close to being crowned champions.

Errors:

Chelsea’s biggest issue, when everything is taken into account, is themselves. The Blue’s seem to have a self destruct button ready to be touched at all times this season, and they’ve pressed it on more than one occasion to throw away a game they easily would have won otherwise.

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When compared to the other 19 teams in the division, Chelsea have made more errors than 18 of them, with Tottenham Hotspur being the only other club to make 20 errors in this campaign. Per 90 minutes, Poch’s side are making more errors than anyone else, amassing 0.65 errors within each game.

Chelsea are one of the youngest sides in the division, and this immaturity definitely plays into it. They have named the second youngest average starting eleven in the league this season, with an average age of 24 years and 280 days. Only Burnley has named a younger average, starting eleven.

Along with the immaturity comes the pressure of performing in this new Chelsea setup. The club doesn’t know true success without Roman Abramovich, and these players are the next generation in charge of restoring that glory under new ownership, and a new identity.

In summation, the underlying numbers for Pochettino’s Chelsea are impressive. They are 5th in the league when it comes to expected points, with Manchester United, who are currently ahead of them, ranking down in 14th place. If it wasn’t already clear, Pochettino’s numbers are a lot more impressive than Manchester United’s at present under Erik ten Hag.

There will be people who feel Chelsea can get a better manager than Mauricio Pochettino, and that is a fair estimation. The world is great because everyone is entitled to their opinions, but when the Argentine suggests trusting the process, there are statistics to support that this current team is only going to get better in the coming months.

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