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Sheffield United 1-2 Chelsea, Premier League: Statistical Review and Analysis

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The numbers behind the game

Sheffield United v Chelsea - Premier League Photo by Oli Scarff - Pool/Getty Images

Overview

In a game where two excellent managers cancelled out each other, Chelsea’s individual quality ultimately made the difference to earn a hard-fought win at Bramall Lane.

Sheffield United were perhaps the first team to take the game to Tuchel’s Chelsea, playing an unnaturally high line at times in an attempt to press more compactly. While Chelsea still had almost 70% of the ball, the team were met with far more resistance than against Tottenham or Burnley or Wolves. Passing lanes were blocked, the play was funneled to weaker players in possession and Chelsea struggled to consistently break through.

Sheffield United away is not an easy game, especially at this point in the season. A win is a win and it is nice to see Chelsea win despite playing poorly for a change. But going forward, the team’s play needs to improve significantly, especially in possession. Chelsea have created over 1.5 non-penalty xG just once in the last 4 games and that is not good at all.


Match statistics

Statistics from fbref and understat.


Individual ratings

Thomas Tuchel

Perhaps his least impressive match at Chelsea so far. The starting lineup made very little sense, with virtually zero stardust or creative quality in the team. Not picking a mobile striker was hard to understand too. Predictably, the team struggled to keep the ball in the final third and were largely reduced to recycling it, leading to meaningless possession and pretty boring football eerily reminiscent of the 2018-19 season.

The in-game changes were not clear either, with Hudson-Odoi ending the game as an out-of-place striker who watched balls fly over his head as opponent defenders comfortably dealt with him. A better team would have punished the litany of mistakes made across the 90 minutes. Mistakes happen and managers are prone to bad games just as much as players are, hopefully this is a rare aberration.

RATING: 6


Sheffield United v Chelsea - Premier League hoto by Clive Mason/Getty Images

Édouard Mendy

Had to come alive in the final 15 minutes, collecting crosses impressively and making a very important late save against Billy Sharp’s overhead kick. The goal conceded was not on him but perhaps he can be a bit more vocal in the future to avoid such scenarios.

Stats of note
3 saves
2 crosses collected (8 crosses made in total)
6 passes over 40 yards completed (9 attempted)

RATING: 6.5


Reece James

Like the performance against Tottenham, his statistics flatter him. His main issue as a wing-back is his inability to receive on the turn. His best performances, even at right-back, have come when he stays behind the ball — joining in when needed to deliver crosses or shots. Playing him as a wing-back forces him stay ahead of the ball and that greatly hinders his offensive play. Playing him as a right sided centre-back might help him.

Stats of note
4 passes into penalty box - 1st among Chelsea players
4 shot-creating actions - 1st
3 successful dribbles (3 attempted) - 1st
11 loose-ball recoveries - 1st
6 progressive passes - Joint 3rd
4 touches in penalty box - Joint 2nd

RATING: 6


César Azpilicueta

His ball progression was not overly impressive in isolation considering how often he had the ball, but was still enough to rank among the best in the team. His chemistry with Reece James looked awkward at times too, with both parties guilty of passing it to the wrong foot (to quote one example) and halting momentum. Was his usually reliable self defensively.

Stats of note
2 key passes - Joint 1st
3 passes into penalty box - 2nd
8 progressive passes - 2nd
5 aerial duels won (10 contested) - 2nd
4 carries into final third - 2nd
6 clearances - 3rd
4 touches in penalty box - Joint 2nd
2 shot-creating actions - Joint 3rd
4 progressive carries - Joint 3rd

RATING: 6.5


FBL-ENG-PR-SHEFFIELD UTD-CHELSEA Photo by LEE SMITH/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Andreas Christensen

Was superb at dealing with Sheffield United’s physical forwards. His performance had an equal mixture of brains and brawn — with his fearlessness in duels matched by good reading of the game. As always, the issue with him is not his passivity, it is his consistency. This was a terrific performance but can he maintain it?

Stats of note
12 clearances - 1st
6 aerial duels won (9 contested) - 1st
3 tackles - Joint 2nd
8 loose-ball recoveries - 3rd

RATING: 7


Antonio Rüdiger

After a string of low-key performances, the Rüdiger of old popped up with a comical own-goal. That single moment aside, the performance was largely good and he did a fine job guarding his box. His performances are trending in the right direction.

Stats of note
2 shots blocked - 1st
5 passes into final third - 2nd
9 clearances - 2nd
9 loose-ball recoveries - 2nd
3 tackles - Joint 2nd
4 progressive carries - Joint 3rd

RATING: 6.5


Ben Chilwell

Unlocked Sheffield United’s defence with an excellent pass to Werner in the build-up to the first goal. The one pass aside, his performance was largely nondescript and he struggled getting into the right locations without being offside. His form is slightly concerning at this point.

Stats of note
3 tackles - Joint 2nd
6 progressive passes - Joint 3rd

RATING: 5


Sheffield United v Chelsea - Premier League Photo by Chelsea Football Club/Chelsea FC via Getty Images

Mateo Kovačić

Built on his recent good form with another good performance. Did a good job linking midfield and attack, progressing the ball effectively through both passes and carries. Faded a bit in the final stretch of the game but that can be excused considering his recent workload.

Stats of note
16 progressive passes - 1st
11 passes into final third - 1st
15 progressive carries - 1st
5 carries into final third - 1st
2 successful dribbles (4 attempted) - 2nd
3 tackles - Joint 2nd
13 pressures - Joint 2nd
2 passes into penalty area - Joint 3rd

RATING: 7.5


Jorginho

Had a subpar outing, mainly due to his inability to outwit Sheffield United’s press. His ball progression (1 progressive pass, 3 passes into final third) in particular was not good enough considering his role in the team.

Stats of note
1 goal
5 tackles - 1st
20 pressures - 1st
8 progressive carries - 2nd

RATING: 6


Mason Mount

Outside a very well-taken goal, this was a quiet performance from Mount. His passing was not as sharp as it usually is and that made Chelsea’s attack a bit blunt. After a series of amazing displays with no goals or assists, it was ironic to see him score in a game where he did not play well.

Stats of note
1 goal
5 touches in penalty box - Joint 1st
13 pressures - Joint 2nd
3 carries into final third - 3rd
2 shot-creating actions - Joint 3rd
6 progressive passes - Joint 3rd
2 passes into penalty box - Joint 3rd
4 progressive carries - Joint 3rd

RATING: 6.5


Sheffield United v Chelsea - Premier League Photo by Lee Smith - Pool/Getty Images

Olivier Giroud

Struggled to make an impact in his time on the pitch. His lack of pace meant Sheffield could afford to play a high-line (by their standards) without worrying too much about a striker getting in behind. Picking him over Tammy Abraham is a move that makes very little sense.

Giroud is someone who can pull the team out of a bad stretch of form, he is not optimal for a team which seeks to impose itself. Besides being a better goalscorer, Abraham also opens up space for others to operate in due to his constant movement.

Stats of note
N/A

RATING: 5


Timo Werner

Built on his recent promising displays by contributing to both goals. He timed his runs behind Sheffield United’s defence well and was consistently threatening without getting into great shooting locations. His lack of shots was not great.

Stats of note
1 assist
1 penalty won (note: penalties won are not counted as assists)
5 touches in penalty box - Joint 1st
3 shot-creating actions - 2nd

RATING: 6.5


Substitutes

FBL-ENG-PR-SHEFFIELD UTD-CHELSEA Photo by LEE SMITH/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Callum Hudson-Odoi (62nd minute) — Started brightly but looked out of his depth in a two-man strike partnership along with Mount.

Stats of note
2 key passes - Joint 1st
2 shot-creating actions - Joint 3rd

Marcos Alonso (62nd minute) — Nothing of note.

N’Golo Kanté (75th minute) — Played in a right-sided midfield role and looked clean on the ball. Interestingly, he did not exert himself much defensively.