There is one thing I think we can all agree is absolutely missing this season from Chelsea’s Premier League performances: GOALS. We seem to have some serious issues struggling to score. What we aren't sure of, however, is why. Are we taking bad shots? Are we not taking enough shots? Are we too defensive, and not creating enough shots? Are our attacking players simply not doing enough? Is the midfield not helping the attack out as they should? Is our defense doing their part?
The answer you might think is a bit of all of the above, but believe me, it’s going to surprise you. Now, I will freely admit, the one thing I absolutely cannot answer is why we aren't making our shots. but I can fill in some blanks around that. And I can help shape the story and draw the picture around what we have and haven't been doing. And I believe I can point at where the problem is, even though I have no idea how to fix it.
First, I'm going to talk about the team as a whole compared to the rest of the league, with some metrics, and then I'll talk about shooting individually. For this I'm using Whoscored.com data that's up to date through Tuesday’s matches. Then we will look at some individual shooting charts, and some team shooting charts, along with an xG team table, all from the wonderful Public Tableau site of Paul Riley, and his data is current as of December 6, 2017. So 3-4 matches behind, but I think it still helps to tell the story.
SHOOTING — IT CAN’T BE THIS HARD, CAN IT?
When we break down our team's shooting and scoring performance metrics, the most obvious thing that should draw your attention is how few people are actually scoring with any frequency. I've covered this before, in a different format, but the fact that only four players have more than two goals halfway through the season is absolute rubbish, especially given our prevalence for the 3-5-2 this season, where we need scoring from multiple avenues, be it midfielders, wingbacks, defenders in set pieces, etc. And we simply aren't getting it. Compared to last year, where we had 8 players with 5 goals or more at the end of the season, we simply aren't getting it done as a unit.
You will notice, as we go through the data, it's not about shots. We get plenty of shots, more than you think. We even get a lot of shots on target. Our conversion rate is where we are hurting. If you look at the table below, which is of the current Premier League shooting and goal numbers, along with some math I've done, you can see that so far this season we actually have far more shots than Manchester United, and albeit with a game in hand almost as many as City. Sure, we could use more shots, but that’s not the issue.
Chelsea’s Shots Per Goal (SHOTS / G) — 9.5 per goal scored — and our Shots on Target Per Goal (SOT / G) — 3.4 per goal — are both dreadful and where the most obvious problem lies. Per match, Chelsea are within two shots of the highest values in the league, and within two shots on target of City. But our goals per match are just disgusting: 1.7 per right now. We simply are not converting our shots into goals.
Do we simply need to take more shots then? Is that the solution? Well, if we compare the numbers to last season, it turns out we’re already doing that. Chelsea scored more goals than all but one team last season despite posting the second fewest shots and shots on target of the top six (above Arsenal in both cases). But we were clinical last year at 2.2 goals per match stemming from 6.8 shots per goal and 2.4 shots on target per goal, both best among the top six.
So if Chelsea are shooting more than last season but scoring less, are the culprits the individual players? Below are the current season numbers for each member of the team who has mattered in terms of shooting so far.
I've grouped it by 'type' of player, and yes I included the wingbacks with the midfielders, and I sorted it by Position (POS) and then by Total Shots Attempted (SHOTS). Right off, something that should stand out, is that Eden Hazard is putting 61.8% of his Shots on Target. Yet he's only taken 34 shots, or 2.7 shots per 90 minutes. WHY?? We saw just today that he keeps trying to get the perfect look before shooting. Perhaps this is why his accuracy is so good, but for the love of all that is Conte, please shoot more Eden. (Ed. note: a story as old as Hazard himself, at this point.)
Additionally, while he does take a lot of free kicks, Alonso is actually second on the team in shots attempted. This is a bit of a trick of the metrics, though, as looking at per-90 numbers he's far behind the attackers. He simply isn't afraid to shoot the ball, which is a trait that our other wingback seems to have forgotten. In almost a thousand minutes (956) Moses has only 15 shots, with only 4 on target. When compared with this 2016-17 numbers — in 2498 minutes, Moses shot 45 times, with 15 shots on goal — he's not terribly behind, but he needs to step it up.
Also interesting to note, in case you think of Costa as not only super-clinical but also super-accurate, let's compare his last season to Morata's first half-season in the Premier League.
- Morata — 43.4% SOT, 1.6 SOT per 90min, 2.3 SOT per Goal
- Costa — 37.8% SOT, 1.2 SOT per 90min, 2.1 SOT per Goal
Morata takes slightly more Shots On Target to score each goal. That is not a big difference, and he tips the scales on the other metrics. There are definitely some perception biases going on, when comparing the two. I find this intriguing.
Also notice that Pedro and Willian are both on pace to out-shoot their totals from last season. This is interesting for reasons that will be covered further down in the area about goals. I'm not worried about Fabregas already outpacing last season's shot tally at all, because he's already got more minutes than last season. That I am worried about, but that's for a different article.
To sum up, shooting data is fun, and we do quite a bit of it, but it’s not translating into the end result, which is to score.
GOALS, MAN, WE NEED MORE GOOOOOAAAAALLLLLSSSS...
If we look around the squad, and try to find out where the missing goals are hiding, what better place to start than with our most controversial positions, the wingbacks. In terms of goals, the wingbacks are keeping up fine compared to last season, with Alonso already almost matching his prior tally of 6 with 5 so far. Ivanović and Moses didn't score much last year (Ivan = 0 and Moses = 3) so the Moses/Zappa combo goose-egg special isn’t hurting us too badly... yet.
Is it perhaps the midfield we are the most hard done by? Last season the center midfielders scored 7 goals between the three of them. So far this season, they have 4 goals. Not ideal, and not where we want it, but surprisingly an improvement, so definitely not the problem.
Maybe it's the center forward spot? Are Morata and Michy measuring up to Costa and Batshuayi? 12 goals halfway through 2017-18, and 25 goals in 2016/17. Fine there, too. For all the chatter about Morata diving-this and Costa tough-that, goals from up top are getting taken care of.
Maybe it's the defense? Our center backs gave us 9 goals last season, and so far this year we've gotten 3 goals. Not quite the same pace, but the difference is a goal and a half, not enough to feel it, even though I do wonder what happened to our set pieces on corners. This short corner nonsense we keep doing is literally costing us goals this season, as Captain Cahill’s count of six last season shows.
So, unless we expect TurBO to score from his own box or by pulling him forward in some sort of Super-Neuer tactic, there's only one spot left on the pitch to look. It’s the hot topic of the season so far. We all kind of knew this was the source, but I think we were in denial about it, blaming everyone else. It sure feels nice to double check everyone else before pointing the finger, right?
That's right, our wingers, or whatever we are calling them these days. Support strikers, wide players, whatever your preferred terminology dictates. I’m going to call them disappointments. Let's glance at the only three who matter because no one else gets any minutes, which is tragic in its own right, but that’s a different article, too.
- Willian — 2017-18: 2G, 2016-17: 8G
- Pedro — 2017/18: 3G, 2016-17: 9G
- Eden — 2017/18: 5G, 2016-17: 16G
At the halfway point, we have 10 goals between the three players. Last year we had 33 for the season. The six-seven “missing” goals (based on the 33 averaged out for the half-season) might not seem like much, but over just 20 matches, that's a LOT. The shots are there, as shown above, but the goals simply aren't. If we compare to last year for these three in a bit more detail, we can be even more disappointed.
- Willian ‘17 — 984min, 23 shots, 7 sot, 30.4% sot, 492min/G
- Willian ‘16 — 1531min, 44 shots, 15 sot, 34.1% sot, 191.4min/G
- Pedro ‘17 — 859min, 31 shots, 14 sot, 45.2% sot, 286min/G
- Pedro ‘16 — 2151min, 59 shots, 17 sot, 36.5% sot, 239min/G
- Eden ‘17 — 1117min, 34 shots, 21 sot, 61.8% sot, 223min/G
- Eden ‘16 — 3007min, 77 shots, 33 sot, 42.9% sot, 188min/G
What stands out right away? We already know the goal numbers are bad, but look at the Shots On Target. For Pedro and Eden, they are far better. FAR better. For Willian it's almost the same. So apparently accuracy isn’t the issue, at least insofar as shots being considered “shots on target”. But how good are these shots? They obviously aren’t scoring.
Does anyone know why? I’m not sure I do. We can look at their shot charts, but to me, while these are interesting, they don’t seem to answer much. And remember, these are from early December (i.e. before Everton, etc). Here's the one for Eden.
Good distribution around the goal, working it in from all angles, lots of saves. Beyond needing more shots, he simply needs to be scoring more of those.
When we look at Pedro:
The first thing I notice is all of the off target shots. And that he's only scored from the right. And he almost never shoots from the left side.
When we look at Willian:
What do I see first? He literally never shoots from the middle of the pitch. This seems so odd to me. I know he's one of our 'wide' players, but still. This strikes me as a very odd distribution. Oh, and he's obviously yet to score from a free kick.
Here are some of the other main 'shooters' on our team, and their charts, for perusal.
- Alonso is obviously our free kick taker
- Bakayoko gets looks in good places, but desperately needs to finish better (case in point: the Brighton match just now)
- Cesc plays more to the right than the left, and hardly ever gets in the box on the left, but does a lot on the right
- Morata has great shot distribution. Not surprising.
If we look at the squad as a whole, some other interesting things pop out:
- We get a lot of shots blocked. Teams sit behind the ball against us, so not a shock.
- We also get a lot of shots saved. A LOT. Every keeper seems like superman against us, but I do wonder if it's simply that we aren't better shooters. I think we make it too easy sometimes. But that's personal opinion, not fact based from metrics.
- We miss a LOT of shots. Not surprising, I guess, but still.
- We take a really large number of shots. Who'd have thought?
WHAT ABOUT THE TEAM AS A WHOLE? ARE WE A HOLE? ARE WE A-HOLES? IS THIS THING ON?
Given that we seem to be not scoring enough, I thought it would be interesting to take a quick peek at the team xG table. This, like the shooting charts, is from early December, but it still feels a good gauge. Right now our xG (xF in the table, as in x-goals-FOR) is REALLY LOW.
This is actually one of those times where xG really can have an impact on the discussion. Remember up above about our guys not taking good shots? That's what this xF, which excludes penalties and direct free kicks, means.
The top of xG Player List:
1. Kane — 75 shots, 8.2 xG, 10G
2. Lukaku — 48 shots, 7.2 xG, 8G
3. Jesus — 32 shots, 6.7 xG, 8G
4. Salah — 53 shots, 6.6 xG, 12G
5. Lacazette — 33 shots, 6.4 xG, 7G
8. Morata - 43 shots, 5.0 xG, 9G
35. Hazard - 21 shots, 2.5 xG, 4G
61. Alonso - 24 shots, 1.9 xG, 2G
80. Fabregas - 16 shots, 1.4 xG, 1
100. Pedro - 20 shots, 1.3 xG, 2
190. Willian - 12 shots, 0.5 xG, 1G
Somewhere in the mix before Willian are David Luiz, Christensen, Moses, Michy, Kurt Zouma, one of the members of One Direction (that's for you, HA), and a Teletubby, and literally half of the league. So, we can finally see, that while our guys might be putting shots on target, they are taking shots that are not frequently scored. Easy shots, perhaps. Direct shots.
One thing's for certain. People can talk all they want about chance creation, about key passes, even talk about how supposedly uber-defensive we apparently are. The reality? We get plenty of shots, and plenty of opportunities. We simply can neither take good shots nor score them.