If you don’t finish your chances, the opposition will punish you. It’s one of those things that is often said in football. When it comes true, it gets repeated a lot, and we’ve certainly been bruised by it on several occasions this season. Nowhere was it more evident than in the Champions League against Barcelona, with Chelsea missing opportunities time and time again and Lionel Messi making up for a decade of frustrations against the Blues with a clinical three-goal haul over the two legs.
Match-ups like that often separate the winners from the losers. Teams with aspirations of silverware certainly need to be clinical more often than not. Unfortunately, that can’t be said for Chelsea, as Cesc Fabregas explains.
“We haven’t scored enough given the amount of chances we have created. When we analyse videos of our games, the amount of chances we have created is unreal.
“There have been so many games where we should have won but we didn’t. The Spurs [lost 3-1] and West Ham [drew 1-1] games for example — that’s five more points we should have.
“People say we didn’t play well enough, which is maybe true, I don’t know. But we have not been clinical and that has been our weakest point. This season it hasn’t been how it usually was in front of goal in the past few years.”
-Cesc Fabregas; Source: Evening Standard
Fabregas has a point. Chelsea have created 440 chances — ed.note: or whatever Opta deems to be “chances” — but have scored only scored 59 goals (13.4% conversion). In comparison, Manchester United have created 336 chances and scored 65 goals (19.3% conversion), Spurs have created 417 chances while scoring 66 goals (15.8% conversion) and Liverpool have created 445 chances while scoring 80 goals (18% conversion).
Out of all these teams, only Liverpool have created more chances than Chelsea (by a meager 5), yet all those teams have at least 6 more goals (and 21 more for the Reds). This certainly makes Chelsea players look very bad and gives plenty of validity to the finishing argument.
A counter argument could be made that while Chelsea are creating chances, maybe they’re not good chances. Defining “good chances” is even more a dark art than defining “chances”, but Opta have taken a stab at it with “big chances”. Unsurprisingly, Chelsea are not only the worst in the top six in creating “big chances”, we are third worst in the whole league at finishing them and one of only four teams finishing fewer than 2-in-5 such opportunities. Only Crystal Palace and Southampton are worse, with even bottom of the table Stoke City better at it this than the Blues. Ouch.
CHELSEA'S GOALS PROBLEM ⚽— Sky Sports PL (@SkySportsPL) May 9, 2018
Chelsea may have given themselves hope of a top-four finish but goal-scoring problems have hindered their season. Is the issue the strikers or the supply? https://t.co/P8Q5aILOIK | @p_smith86 pic.twitter.com/qMekZq70DL
To further underline the problems in chance creation, we can look at “expected goals”, which is another measure of chance quality. Understat have a running total for all the teams in the Premier League, and Chelsea are unsurprisingly the worst of the top six with 56.06. The fact that we have actually outperformed this expectation with 61 goals scored shifts some of the blame to actual chance creation rather than finishing itself. Perhaps the biggest reason our finishing is so bad is because we’re not creating high quality chances. (The number of “big chances” supports this notion as well).
Interestingly, Manchester United look very similar in both of these tables but are finishing their chances much better. That’s not all Romelu Lukaku, probably, but he probably has this first season/round won over Alvaro Morata. (But we’ll see who gets the FA Cup trophy!)
14 - Alvaro Morata has missed 14 big chances in the Premier League this season, only Salah (15) has missed more. Wasteful.— OptaChelsea (@OptaChels) January 3, 2018
Salah may miss the most big chances as per Opta, but he’s also the runaway scoring leader in the Premier League, so he can “afford” them more than Morata.
Chelsea weren’t great comparatively in chance creation last season either, but were much more ruthless in finishing them. Manchester City may be outperforming their xG metric by 13 goals (102 scored vs. 89 expected) this year, but Chelsea finished last season with an outrageous +28 in the same category (assuming Understat and wherever Sky got their numbers calculate xG similarly enough to make this comparison possible).
Chelsea relying on extreme efficiency and ruthlessness in front of goal while not creating enough big chances is not really a sustainable winning tactic, is it? Certainly not this season, with Diego Costa no longer at Chelsea. Costa had more than his fair share of faults, but he had dragged Chelsea to victory on many an occasion just through his sheer force of will and determination. Nowhere was that more evident than the goal against West Brom last season.
Chelsea may not have Diego Costa anymore, but we do have Olivier Giroud. The January signing has only scored 5 goals in 15 appearances thus far, but 4 of those have come in the last 5 games and he’s been excellent overall in contributing beyond just goals on and off the pitch.
Fabregas, who used to have a telepathic connection with Costa, certainly knows.
“Oli is helping us a lot in certain things that maybe we were lacking. The most important is he is scoring big goals, which is what we ask. This is what we want — the strikers put their chances away and make the team win points.
“It’s true that as a whole group we could have done better but the main problem has been not scoring enough.”
-Cesc Fabregas; Source: Evening Standard