In the first three competitive matches to start the season, Chelsea’s vaunted attack full of established household names has scored eleven goals. One teeny problem however is that nine of those came against Bristol City. Manchester United held the Blues to a single goal, despite myriad chances. And this past weekend, in the carry-over 2019-20 FA Cup quarterfinal against Everton, Chelsea were held to a single goal again, and defeated 2-1.
So far the star talents aren’t quite clicking, and aren’t putting away their chances either. There’s perhaps no better illustration of that then Chelsea getting only one goal from a furious first half-hour against Everton.
Chelsea had already created chances before Erin Cuthbert tucked away her second of the season in the 5th minute. After, the Blues continued to pin the Toffees back while creating even more chances, but the ball never rolled across the line again.
Manager Emma Hayes knows that simply won’t do.
“The first 25 minutes we’ve got to take our chances. We went 1-0 up and we had the chance to go 2-0 up, we pushed them back but we still have work to do to finish a game off.
“We didn’t do enough in front of goal. I think teams are defending really low and they are making it difficult for us to have any space. That’s my point of when we get into good areas we have got to finish and them equalising gave them a lift.”
There’s probably some balance to be had here, as Everton have had a good start to their season and have also made signings that should see them improve on their sixth place league finish last season.
Everton - Chelsea (FA Cup) Attack analysis— NWSL Analitica (@NwslAnalitica) September 29, 2020
xG: 0.72 - 2.8
xG per shot: 0.09 - 0.12
Possession avg. time (sec): 11-18
Entrances in opp. box: 8-37
Accurate passes: 70-81
Crosses/Accurate: 11/3 - 26/8
Shot charts: pic.twitter.com/lTEqW0X8r2
But this was the second time in three matches that Chelsea’s attack sputtered.
“We have to say congratulations Everton – they defended well, they made it difficult for us to put the ball in the back of the net and our finishing phase wasn’t quite at its best level. We dominated in the area but whether the cross was over hit or whether we hit the ball into the goalkeeper’s hands, I never felt we were clinical enough when it really mattered.
“It happens it’s football, we’ve lost to a team who has defended resolutely and capitalised on two mistakes and that happens. I think for us if we were out there another 90 minutes, I’m not sure we would have scored so that is something for us to reflect on.”
The last line is brutal, but fair. At the final whistle Hayes had thrown on so many attacking players that it was a bit comical, and alarming, that the best we could do was launch crosses in from wide or deep areas and hope for the best. That is certainly not the Chelsea anyone has come to anticipate.
The Blues’ next match is against Birmingham City, a team we beat home and away by an aggregate score of 8-0 last season. But beating up on bottom of the table clubs is not the reason you bring in Sam Kerr and Pernille Harder. Chelsea have to figure out a way to get the attack clicking, and fast. After Birmingham, we begin our League Cup (i.e. Conti Cup) title defense against Arsenal, followed by a WSL match against Manchester City.
Of course, Hayes will be looking for a response much sooner than the next kickoff.
“I just expect my team to react and get ready to go for next weekend. We don’t have a game midweek, I want to see a response on the training ground and they have shown me time and time again that they can respond and that’s what I will challenge them to do.”
-Emma Hayes; source: ChelseaFC
Not that I expect a complete diagnosis in a post-match interview with a frustrated manager, but I hope the response comes from more than the players. So far Hayes’ tactics have made the team vulnerable to simple counter-attacks, and leaving Bethany England on the bench leaves 14 goals in 15 matches on the bench, as well as a player who had already established chemistry with Sam Kerr.
Hayes and Chelsea have a lot of work to do to turn things around, hopefully that work has already started.
'I would love to be going to Wembley but you have to be as gracious in defeat as you are in victory.’ - Emma Hayes. ✊— Chelsea FC Women (@ChelseaFCW) September 28, 2020