Historical study of Chelsea’s shots

Premise

It has been nearly a year since Frank Lampard has taken charge of Chelsea F.C. There has been a lot of debate about how to judge his first season. Chelsea achieved their goal of finishing in the top 4 and have also reached a cup final. The fans were treated to sparkling attacking play at times. However, this was coupled with a tendency to concede goals at unfortunate times in games. Keeping that in mind, I decided to take a look at how far away the team were taking their shots from and the outcomes of these shots. To put things in a historical context, I also compared the data from the 2019-20 season to the past two seasons.

First Impressions

There are definite improvements in where we shoot from and how often. The number of shots we concede has gone down as well. Normally this would be cause for celebration. However, Chelsea have also conceded a lot of goals. This stat has also been an easy stick with which to beat Frank Lampard. The rest of the analysis will take a closer look at both shots taken and shots conceded in order to see if there may be some mitigating circumstances.

Overall Shot Rates Takeaway: Shots taken per 90 have gone up. Shots conceded per 90 have gone down.

Shot Rates by Distance to Goal Takeaway: More shots are being taken within the 10 yard range. Fewer shots were conceded overall and also closer to goal

Shot Rates by Outcome Takeaway: The goals conceded stat bucks the general trend of decrease in shots conceded

Big gains in attack

Chelsea have improved quite a bit in attack as compared to the past couple of seasons.

Shots Taken by Outcome and Distance to goal

At a quick glance, the number of shots Chelsea take closer to goal has increased. There are big jumps in the numbers of saved, blocked and off target shots in the ten-yard range.

The fact that this hasn’t translated to more goals scored from that range tells me that Chelsea have been unlucky at times but also, their finishing quality needs to improve.

What’s significant is just how much of an improvement this is from the last two seasons. The number of shots which are off target or blocked in the 10 yard range need to translate into more goals than Chelsea have scored, even though the current tally is still an improvement over previous seasons.

Change in Shots Taken

Thankfully, Chelsea have added Timo Werner, an experienced striker who has scored 28 goals in league play. On the chance creation front, they have also added a world-class left footed wide creator in Ziyech and the creative potential of Reece James remains untapped. Things have been good on this front and will potentially get much better with added quality in attack.

Defensive Doldrums

The incongruities

The fact that Chelsea have conceded so many more goals than the previous seasons is a big problem and a question mark on Lampard’s ability to fix this.

Right off the bat, there are some mitigating circumstances. The front 5 of the team has skewed quite young. Youthful exuberance/inexperience has meant that controlling games has been a challenge. Kanté has been available only 50 per cent of the time this season and has spent a significant amount of that time finding fitness.

Equally, I don’t want to downplay just how much of a disaster each member of Chelsea’s backline has been at various times this season. This has meant that Lampard couldn’t settle on a first-choice defensive partnership. It has also meant that Lampard has been forced to drop the most expensive goalkeeper on the planet multiple times.

But there is a case to be made that we were lucky not to have conceded more last season as well.

Shots Conceded by Outcome and Distance to goal Takeaway: The number of shots off target in the 10-yard zone 2018-19 season is well above the other two seasons.

Change in Shots conceded Takeaway: Shot concession in the 10-yard zone has remained on par with last season.

Possible explanations

Chelsea have consistently defended higher up the pitch than under Conte in 2017-18, who set up to defend deep and allow shots from range. His teams were very good at not allowing players to take shots closer to goal.

Chelsea have also consistently conceded more goals from range since the departure of Courtois. Chelsea concede fewer shots from range, but the drop in the number of saves Kepa makes from range, coupled with the increase in goals conceded from this range is somewhat telling.

Notwithstanding poor goalkeeping, the number of goals Chelsea have conceded is still shocking. A lot more shots went off target last season as compared to this season.

One explanation for this could be that Chelsea were very good at pressuring shot takers inside the box last season. The strength of this argument however is undercut by the fact that the only missing piece from last season’s defense is David Luiz, hardly a paragon for being alive in the box.

Some of it can also be explained by the opposition just having their shooting boots on when we have faced them this season, and maybe not so much last season. An argument ever so slightly strengthened by the fact that quite a few players have broken their goalscoring ducks against Chelsea.

Defense dropping deeper to account for Kepa’s lack of range in moving off the line could also be one factor. There is clearly no trust in the goalkeeper both from the coach and the outfield players.

Solutions

In any case, the fact that Chelsea tend to be asleep when shots are being taken in close range is something that needs to be fixed immediately. That means putting better defensive pressure and having better setups when defending set pieces.

It also means that a stronger and more cynical attitude needs to be taken in duels with strikers in wide areas around the halfway line. Losing the battle in these areas means conceding a dangerous counter-attack with most of our players stuck chasing play.

All of those issues however, can be fixed with a mix of new personnel and better coaching.

In summation

I look forward to Lampard expanding his coaching team, and bringing in people who have different perspectives to what is a homogeneous staff, full of people who learned how to coach at Chelsea.

I also look forward to Chelsea having a fully fit Kanté, a DM who fits Lampard’s needs and center backs and left backs who are suited to a back-4 and the Premier League.

Things are looking really good in attack. On the surface, things look good in defense too. Chelsea just need to get to get the intangibles of defending right, like leadership, personal responsibility and toughness. There is every reason for Chelsea fans to be excited for next season.

Credits

This article was originally posted on the excellent We Ain’t Got No History

Data was taken from Fbref.com courtesy of Statsbomb