You could be forgiven for wishing Chelsea’s whole attacking structure is ripped up this summer, and the Todd Boehly era begins with a complete revamp of the final third.
After over £300m spent since January of 2019, the search for a clinical finisher and general productivity has at times been framed as an impossible Rubix cube for the Blues to solve. Last summer’s addition of Romelu Lukaku appeared to be the answer to end a long-standing profligate streak, but in many ways, the Belgian’s struggles have only further highlighted wider problems.
On the eve of the final game against Watford, Thomas Tuchel was questioned on the attacking shortcomings this season and how the club can aim to resolve them in the upcoming transfer window.
“If we stick to the group, then we will try to solve it with these players,” Tuchel said last Friday. “Is it necessary to bring more offensive players around the box to create more distractions, to create more space for each other? We will ask that question. Can we do better in the structure? Can we push the players more? Did we rotate too much? Let’s see.
“There are a lot of options. The numbers we produce from our offensive players don’t allow us to overperform, and we need overperformance if we want to be nearer to the top two teams. I am not pointing fingers, I am not blaming anybody, but we need overperformance from everybody. It’s not overperformance if we have only single figures in scoring and assisting.”
Chelsea certainly have suffered from poor finishing by their attacking players. Christian Pulisic’s point-blank miss against Leicester last week showcased the woeful execution supporters have become used to. And both cup finals against Liverpool, particularly the Carabao Cup, could have ended in victory if Pulisic and Mason Mount had taken good opportunities.
But to endorse the thinking that the key issue is finishing doesn’t quite tell the whole story. You can look at recent games like Liverpool, Manchester United and Leicester and conclude Tuchel is doing all he can, but if you contrast that with those against West Ham, Everton and Brentford, a different problem arises against deeper defences.
As we dissected recently when looking at what Chelsea lack after a Sadio Mane pass, Tuchel’s attacking problems can feel as structural based as purely down to individual error. Via Understat, only Leicester and Aston Villa outperformed their xG (Expected Goals) more than Chelsea in the Premier League. Despite the general perception amongst fans that believes Chelsea creates tons but doesn’t score enough, xG tells a different story.
Part of the issue comes down to a lack of freedom in Chelsea’s play, preferring to control possession in a repetitive manner than more freedom that the Frank Lampard regime brought, though the defensive costs of that lack of structure w…