Chelsea have yet to lose a match under Thomas Tuchel, which is great, but we’ve also yet to score more than two goals in a game, which is not so great. Even more concerningly, we’ve scored fewer than two in eight of the twelve, including three 0-0 draws. The fact that we managed to create less than 1.0 xG against one of the leakiest defenses in all of the Premier League was especially surprising and shocking today.
Earlier this week, on Monday, it looked like we might have found a potential solution, or at least part of a solution, by deploying Kai Havertz in the center of the attack, either as a center forward or as a false-9 (depending on whom you asked). And it was a promising enough performance that even as Tuchel rotated everyone else in attack — and even added one extra player! — he kept Havertz as the de facto striker.
Alas, Havertz missed the game’s best chance for Chelsea and unlike on Monday, was also unable to generate scoring chances for others. The lack of goals wasn’t entirely on him of course by any means, but as the man spearheading the attack, and presented with the majority of chances (he had 4 of our 15 shots total, but also 4 of our 8 shots on target), the expectation certainly was that he would convert.
That was part of the overall disappointment at Elland Road, as Tuchel reflected upon afterwards.
“It was pretty much the same role that he had against Everton. Kai, I feel him comfortable in high positions. I feel him comfortable to drop into half spaces from the high position to maybe turn, drive and use his speed. But he also arrives very naturally in the six yard box. He is comfortable finishing in our attacks.
“He can play as a number 9, half striker or as a winger. These are his positions and today we used him again as a number 9. I am happy but unfortunately he couldn’t finish like he does in training and how his talent allows him to finish because we had enough chances and created enough chances for him to be the decisive guy.
“He is comfortable in this position and I trust him in this position.”
Havertz is hardly alone in failing to convert chances for Chelsea this season (and last, even). I’d say it might even be contagious, but that’s perhaps an inappropriate metaphor to use in the middle of a pandemic. Either way, Havertz joins the rest of the misfiring crew, though in his case we can at least take solace in the fact that he finally seems fully recovered from his injuries and post-COVID malaise.
Meanwhile, Tuchel continues to search for balance. He seemed to take a risk in weighting the attack today, which did not pay off, and in fact we had Édouard Mendy’s strong hands to thank for at least the one point. But as a coach, you cannot use just the final score to make decisions.
“It will always stay a team effort to attack and always be a team effort to defend.
“We have to admit that we put a lot of pressure up high the pitch, that our strikers never stopped working, that our front line never stops to put intensity and counter pressing. So do they always arrive in the freshest moments? No they don’t. of course not in a game like an opponent like Leeds.
“And still I believe we have the quality to use the chances better, to use the moments of half chances and counter attacks better, to create more and be more clinical. But it stays our responsibility, my responsibility to create more and to maybe have more big chances, but if we win this game with one or two goals we would talk totally different about it and we will stay focused on the performance.”
-Thomas Tuchel; source: Football.London
And so, the search continues.