The coronavirus pandemic has changed almost every facet of life but one thing it hasn’t changed is Chelsea’s profligacy and tendency to shoot ourselves in the foot.
Let’s take a look.
The first half was typical Chelsea from the first to last minute: 77% possession was accompanied by a mere 3 shots from inside the box and no clear cut chances. Shambolic set-piece defending near the end of the first half resulted in Kortney Hause bundling a rebound home after a good initial save from Kepa Arrizabalaga.
The second half began in the same vein, with the team averaging 90% possession in the first 10 minutes but with no major threat. The introduction of Ross Barkley and Christian Pulisic however turned the game on its head. Barkley did a better job than Mateo Kovačić at occupying defenders in the final third and Pulisic made off-the-ball runs that Loftus-Cheek simply failed to offer. The fact that Pulisic scored a tap-in at the far post is no surprise and should be praised.
Excellent play from Mason Mount and César Azpilicueta resulted in Chelsea’s second goal, scored by Olivier Giroud. The goal was a reflection of the huge gulf in technical quality between the two teams, with Mount and Azpilicueta playing through a congested defence with ease.
It was not smooth sailing however. Hause had another chance to make the Chelsea defence pay in the 68th minute but missed his header. Jota had a smaller chance to equalize towards the end of the game but Chelsea got through unscathed.
The win was not pretty but scrappy wins like these are just as important as statement performances against the bigger opponents. Chelsea have received the rub of the green this weekend and are now just 3 points behind Leicester. Looking over our shoulders, Chelsea are 5 points ahead of Manchester United and Wolves, meaning the game against Manchester City on Thursday is not as much of a must-win as it would have been had we lost.
All data in this table has been taken from Understat.
It must be noted that Aston Villa had two successive shots close to the end of the first half. The first one was saved but parried straight to Hause who went on to score. Both shots have been included in the xG tally and Aston Villa’s total xG might therefore be inflated.
Most terms are self-explanatory but three might be relatively new. If you have other questions, please feel free to ask in the comments!
Post-shot expected goals: Unlike conventional xG metrics, post-shot xG (PSxG) accounts for the quality of the finish as well as the location. In a really basic sense, conventional xG can be viewed as a reflection of the defensive ability of a team while PSxG is a reflection of individual finishing and goalkeeping ability.
As an example: A shot from 30 yards out could have a low conventional xG value, let’s say 0.05. However, if the shot is perfectly struck and is headed towards the top corner, its PSxG value might be high and will reflect the quality of the finish.
PPDA: Opponent passes allowed per defensive action in the opponent half. This is a measure of the pressing activeness of a team. Lower the value of PPDA, more active the team’s press is.
Deep completions: Passes completed twenty yards within the opponent goal. This measure does not take into account crosses and is an accurate reflection of how potent a team’s possession is. A high number of deep completions suggests that the team made several sharp combinations in the final third.
Lampard had the Manchester City game in mind and consequently picked a weakened lineup. The idea of bringing on the likes of Pulisic and Tammy Abraham was designed to exploit the tired legs of Aston Villa defenders and worked to an extent. While not popular, Lampard’s team selection proved to be effective.
Defensively, the team were more open than usual and lacked impetus on the ball. Whether this was down to the manager of just rustiness from the players remains to be seen.
Pulled off a reasonably good save from Kortney Hause in the first half but had no defenders to get rid of the ball. While he could have parried it better, blaming him would be very harsh.
The other shots on target were from long-distance and posed no threat to Kepa, who also did a good job sweeping late in the second half.
Stats of note: 3 saves, 1 save from inside the box, 1 defensive action outside the box
Community Rating: 6.7
Had a poor first half like most of his teammates but improved in the second. Claimed the assist on both of Chelsea’s goals and did a good job defensively when Chelsea tried to see out the lead. Could have perhaps done better in circulating the ball but overall, a tidy performance from the Chelsea captain.
Stats of note: 2 assists, 0.48 expected assists, 7 passes into the penalty area and 13 progressive passes. Was the leading Chelsea player in all four metrics.
Community Rating: 7.8
This game was a good summary of Christensen’s Chelsea career thus far. While he did a good job for most of the game, he was partially responsible for the goal conceded and his mistake nearly led to the equalizer. While there is a good defender inside him, he needs to do better in terms of remaining constantly switched on.
Stats of note: 9 long passes (100% accuracy), 6 aerial duels won (out of an attempted 10) and 16 passes into the final third. Was the leading Chelsea player in all three metrics.
Community Rating: 5.5
Was beaten in two key aerial duels by John McGinn, who is nearly six inches shorter than him. On another day, one if not both of those could have been goals.
Did a good job progressing the ball for the most part but the weight of his passing was not at his usual level.
Stats of note: 8 long balls (out of an attempted 13), 4 aerial duels won (out of an attempted 9) and 13 passes into the final third.
Community Rating: 5.7
A rather subdued performance going forward. Was not at his sharpest in terms of decision-making and attacking instincts, as summed up by the instance before Villa’s goal when he decided to cut onto his right rather than shoot first time with his stronger left foot. Did not majorly influence the game on either end.
Stats of note: 3 aerial duels won (out of 4), 3 shots (all blocked), 5 touches in box, 2 fouls won and 2 clearances.
Community Rating: 6.2
Was asked to play in a relatively unfamiliar role at the base of midfield but did a phenomenal job regardless. Kept play ticking through simple but effective passes and identified moments to play long-range passes. Shielded the defence well but can perhaps do better tracking long-range shooters in the future. That is not a major criticism, however.
Stats of note: 97 touches, 9 completed long balls (out of 12), 8 passes into the final third, 11 progressive passes, 61 carries, 8 pressures in the midfield and 6 pressures in the defensive third third and 23 recoveries. Leading Chelsea player in the last two metrics.
Community Rating: 7.6
Played in a more attacking role than normal, tasked with making runs into the box and occupying defenders. While he tried his best to shine, his shortcomings in the final third stood out. This is no fault of his, as he is significantly more effective in deeper positions.
Stats of note: 5 progressive passes, 5 passes into the final third, 6 pressures in the defensive third and 2 completed dribbles (100% accuracy).
Community Rating: 6.4
Had a slow start but took the game by the scruff of its neck after the 25th minute. Consistently involved in everything good and worked his socks off to subdue Aston Villa’s midfield. His long-range shot with his weaker foot deserved a goal no doubt. Thoroughly outstanding display. Statistics do not do justice towards his display.
Stats of note: 25 total pressures, 16 pressures in midfield, 9 touches in box, 1 dribble inside the box and 10 passes under pressure.
Community Rating: 7.5
Was clearly off the pace but deserves plenty of time and patience due to his injury. This was perhaps too early for him to start and he always a step behind the play. He will have significantly better games going forward, no doubt.
Community Rating: 5.2
Was crudely fouled by Hause in the first half and had every right to be angry at the fact there was no punishment. Did an able job playing wall passes under pressure and got himself a deserved goal. Will be interesting to see if he starts against Manchester City in midweek.
Stats of note: 1 goal, 2 shots, 0.13 xG, 11 passes under pressure and 4 aerial duels won (out of 7).
Community Rating: 7.4
Was a mixed display by Chelsea’s No.10. Was industrious as always but his poor decision-making was also on display. Instances such as not passing to Mount and Azpilicueta when they were in better positions were particularly frustrating. His ability to move the play further up the field deserves praise.
Stats of note: 5 key passes, 0.28 expected assists, 2 passes into the penalty area, 13 progressive passes, 15 passes under pressure, 5 touches in the penalty box.
Community Rating: 6.6
The game can be divided into two sections, before-Pulisic and after-Pulisic. Pulisic’s ability to consistently attack the goal at pace was particularly useful, considering Loftus-Cheek failed to attack the goal with similar vigour. While the goal was not highlight reel-worthy, it was the mark of some truly top off-the-ball movement.
Stats of note: 4 touches in box, 12 pressures, 3 shots and 0.37 xG.
Community Rating: 7.9
Barkley subtly influenced the game, with his presence and attacking instincts occupying defenders and providing more space to his teammates. While his slow decision-making was still on display, his sheer presence as an attack-minded player was useful.
Community Rating: 6.5
Tammy Abraham and Reece James did not play enough to warrant a rating but Reece will do well to cut out the sloppy mistakes he made against Villa.
Let me know in the comment if you agree or disagree with these ratings. If you have any questions, drop them below or feel free to ask me on @ExpectedChelsea on Twitter.