Something that has really surprised me this season is how many short passes Chelsea is doing in the backfield. Take Saturday’s match at Stamford Bridge against Bournemouth. Chelsea completed 487 successful passes of 590 pass attempts. That seems like a lot, right? Well, yeah, when you consider that Bournemouth (the match winner) only made 192 successful passes of 293 overall. This is what the Chelsea nonsense looked like.
You’ve got to ask yourself, “Well, where is all this passing going?”
The top two most frequent pass combinations were Rudiger to Zouma and Zouma to Rudiger. Now, I get it…you might not be a massive Chelsea supporter and you may not know exactly who these two Blues stars are, but let me break it down for you. Rudiger and Zouma are both in the back line. That means that a whole lot of passing was going back and forth and not moving forward.
Now, another way to look at this is that 28% of passes moved backward and 24% moved squarely. That means that less than HALF of all passes were moving forward. Also, only 4% of passes were long passes. The rest of this nonsense was short, safe passes and a lot of them were kicking the ball around in their back third of the pitch.
Here’s an idea to put points on the board. MOVE THE BALL FORWARD, LADS! Good grief.
If you follow soccer on any level, you are probably familiar with the supporter scarf. Teams across the world have a wide range of scarfs that act as the ultimate memorabilia for fans and collectors alike. In my humble opinion, any club that is worth its weight will have at least two types of supporter scarves: a classic bar scarf and a motto scarf. Scarves have a great history of how they’ve become so central to the beautiful game. Beyond functionality, supporter scarves can quickly create a sea of team colors in a fan section or display fight mottos.
So, let’s take a look at some examples of scarves done right.
What these teams get right is a mix of mottos and bold colors that can light up a supporter section. Each of these scarves are found for less than ~$30 and are a perfect accessory for any fan, alongside the pitch or on the street. Austin FC’s colorways are classic in the bar scarf look, with bold colors that really add focus to its shield. Minnesota United FC and Portland Timbers feature large-scale mottos.
The USL keeps the excitement going with several teams stepping up to the plate to deliver quality supporter scarves. To some extent, USL teams get a little more flexibility to be bold, or to connect with their historical pasts.
Honorable mention goes to Forward Madison FC, who delivers some of the best supporter gear in the category, brings forward several killer supporter scarves. These were finalists for the 2019 competition to select which scarf would become the official club scarf. It was the one on top, but both were stellar.
With the winter transfer window just upon us, I thought it might be a good time to review some stats on the front line to see who’s doing what. The following are stats from Transfer Markt on Premier League appearances. There has clearly been some scoring in the Champions League group run, but those stats are held out for a review of general league play.
Here’s hoping Chelsea can pick up a little more defense in the back line and maybe some additional play-makers in the mid-field. Pedro and Giroud have been two of my favorite players for some time, but neither are making things happen on the pitch in the Premier League and Chelsea simply needs to defend its spot in the Champions League moving into the next season. Giroud, for as brilliant as he was on the France National Team in 2018, simply hasn’t been played in the current season’s rotations. That lack of play time is starting to rust his play. Pedro’s been out as well, and for someone who was so critical to the Chelsea composition over the past few years, I’m not sure he has a fit any longer. Currently, Pedro is valued at just shy of $20m and Giroud is just over $10m. Both could be options to move on, if needed to free up reserves to bring in some additional defensive players. Chelsea also needs a little more action from the front line to rest Pulisic a little more. With Hudson-Odio valued just shy of $40m, he could be moved to open up reserves for another front line play-maker. Especially considering Mount has a higher level of scoring, even from the mid-field.
Here’s the thing, at the core, Tottenham Hotspurs are an incredible team. For all the joking around and dogging on the early season blunders, Tottenham have all the assets to give any team in the Premier League (and the Champions League) a real run for their money. And under Jose Mourinho, they’re going to become a colossal force to be reckoned with again.
Before October 27, there was a draw against Watford, a loss to Brighton, a loss to Bayern, a draw with Colchester (Football League Cup Third Round), a loss to Leicester City, a draw with Olympiacos, etc., etc., etc.
The main criticisms of this season’s team has been:
Inconsistency in match-ups: Up until Mourinho stepped in, they win, they lose, they draw. Part of this is due to the inconsistency of the composition of the team on field. Mourinho will iron that out. Prior to Mourinho, there had been 94 games where Pochettino ran an unchanged team, which appeared to ruin morale among the team.
The mid-field still needs sorting. Dele Alli and Eriksen still play too deep in the field to really improve their chances at the box.
Their injured goalkeeper Hugo Lloris has had a delay in return to play and that has impacted their core defense.
They’ll need to take the domestic cups more seriously. You can’t just focus on wins in the Champions League.
Winning with clean sheets will be a good indicator of the quality of the team. If they can start clearing matches 2-0 or 3-0, it will be a good sign that this is all turning around.
I think that based on what we’ve seen across just a handful of matches, the Spurs are on their way.
The club is starting to get back to its original form. Tottenham holds 5th place, tied with the Wolves, and is six points off Chelsea. It’s reasonable that Tottenham could be a Top 3 team by the end of the season.
On Wednesday, Chelsea faces Aston Villa at home and I’m expecting to see a bit of a change-up in the roster for this match.
The UK’s Sports Mole published the following potential line-up and I think this makes a lot of sense, considering Chelsea’s performance against West Ham United this past weekend.
Four of the frequently played are likely out for this match (Ruben Loftus-Cheek (Achilles), Antonio Rudiger (groin), Ross Barkley (ankle), Tammy Abraham (hip)), so it would make sense to go with the options above. Giroud is a player who is highly specialized in a few tactical options (and incredible in those specific set-ups), but with Abraham still likely to be out, it would make more sense to put Batshuayi up front. Also, seating Pedro, James and Kovacic only makes sense considering their performace against The Hammers.
Although Aston Villa drew their last match against Manchester United and won over Newcastle, the club did lose their previous three matches.
A quality trophy well-earned the greatest player of the year, both on and off the field. What more can we say about Megan Rapinoe? Her passion and dedication are simply intoxicating. An hour of time spent listening to her thoughts and ideas should compel your desire to be a better person. Simply put, the way she and her teammates play the beautiful game is nothing less than inspirational. Of course, it is right that she is honored with the Ballon d’Or. Congrats Megan!!!
Goodness, where to start. First and foremost, I finally picked up an Apple TV and installed NBC Sports Gold – Premier League Pass and ESPN+, so I’m literally swimming in leagues and matches, which is fantastic. If you’re thinking about streaming options for league play, the Apple TV makes it super easy. I’m already getting my fill of many of the Premier League matches on NBC Sports and NBC, Bundesliga on Fox channels, but my sweet spot in football match-ups is in the Championship League, so I finally have a better way to keep up with the league. Still watching #WSL on the FAPlayer, which is fine, but I’m hoping they have a better streaming option that I can connect via the Apple TV in future seasons, and I’m anticipating the return of MLS and NWSL (I picked up the Yahoo Sports app).
In the meantime, back to this past week’s match-ups.
Surprises: ManCity drawing away against Newcastle, Arsenal drawing away against Norwich City and ManUnited drawing at home against Aston Villa.
Liverpool took out Brighton by a goal (thought this would be a bigger spread)
West Ham got the best of Chelsea (see the previous post)
And the Premier League sort of resets with sacked managers, soon-to-be sacked managers and clubs in flux.
Liverpool still leads the run 8-points clear of Leicester City (#2). Chelsea is clear 6-points of Tottenham. Norwich City, Watford and Southampton carry on their woes at the bottom of the table. Hopefully, West Ham is showing a turnaround and maybe Pellegrini keeps his role as manager. Arsenal and ManUnited seemingly have plateau’d their performances, but are still on rather shaky ground. Everton appears to be in dire straits at #17.
I mentioned earlier some clubhouse shake-ups with managers in the Premier League. This feels like it’s happening more quickly than it has in recent seasons and honestly, I hope this is a trend that doesn’t continue. At the beginning of September, Watford sacked Javi Garcia who had spent 594 days with the club. They then bring in Quique Flores, who was sacked today at 85 days. (Goodness.) Mauricio Pochettino had more than 2,000 days with the club before being sacked in favor of bringing in Jose Mourinho. Arsenal dismissed Unai Emergy who had 555 days with the club. His former assistant manager and club legend, Freddie Ljungberg is running as the interim manager. Flores was the 24th casualty in the English leagues in the 2019/2020 season. Sheesh.
English Women’s FA League
West Ham’s club was on a roll, gaining the three-points against Manchester United earlier in the day. Chelsea destroyed Birmingham City with six goals and a clean sheet.
Chelsea still has their week 8 match to play and potentially score another 3-points to put them back at the top of the table.
Sheffield Wednesday visited Charlton Athletic and stole the match with three-points. It was still 1-1 after the half, but Sheffield Wednesday turned up the heat and knocked in two more shots. Brentford’s home match against Luton Town should have had mercy rules, as L-Town walked away with a thorough thrashing 7-0. Leeds United beat Middlesbrough (not a huge surprise against the very bottom of the table) and hold the top of the table with five wins in their last five appearances.
Inter took out SPAL at home and has the top of the Serie A table. Juventus missed a prime opportunity to take the top spot with a draw against Sassuolo. Fiorentina took a tough defeat against Lecce and Franck Ribery and had to have assistance walking off after suffering a serious ankle ligament injury, one that may keep him off the pitch for the remainder of the season. Atalanta, Torino, Roma, Milan, Lazio and Bologna also carried away 3-points over the weekend.
Premier League will have a lot of mid-week action to tune in for.
Good grief. There have been better days for Chelsea FC. Today was certainly not one of them.
West Ham United looked better than they have in weeks. I have to think this was an early Christmas gift from Frank Lampard to Manuel Pellegrini. Not to discount West Ham on any level, but boy oh boy, Chelsea was a mess. Just look at the game stats.
Chelsea ran with the majority of possession, strangely had 666 passes (oooohhhh yeah in a crazy Devil voice) and somehow committed no fouls. (WHAT?!?!?) The Blues had Mount, Pulisic and 2018 World Cup winning Giroud on the attack. That’s how you get 19 shots and 6 of those on target, though West Ham were simply more accurate and precise with their shooting today.
A few items to note:
Why on earth was James playing forward Pedro in so many situations? He was useless in setting up opportunities for the attackers. And, in doing so, was often late to get to the backfield to defend (which is what he was there to do). It left a huge exposure for Chelsea and honestly, I’m surprised it was 0-3 by the half.
Chelsea spent way too many passes moving the ball backward into their own defensive territory. At the half, more than half of possession play was within the mid-field. Chelsea simply wasn’t moving it forward, which was astounding when you consider the line-up of attackers at the front, but then again, the mid-field was simply a mess and for some unknown reason, James (THE DEFENDER) spent to much time trying to set up shots, which he simply couldn’t do.
Where there weren’t large holes in the defensive line, the defenders were slow to get to the challenge and Zouma seemed at times like he was afraid of taking a hit from the ball.
But, obviously, defense doesn’t win the match (even when James thinks it might). Quality striking felt like it was coming from too far away. It was like watching a dad throw softballs to a kid, just hoping that something would connect. It clearly never did.
Today was pretty clearly a hiccup for Chelsea, who has been playing well for some time. Last weekend’s loss to ManCity was expected and the draw against Valencia (in the Champions League) wasn’t totally out of nowhere. But the lads need to get it together and Frank’s got to make some better learning moments out of a day like today.
And, the commentary is not to discredit West Ham United. They played strongly today. They appeared to easily strip away the ball from the finest of Chelsea players. Even though they appeared to tire late in the match, they still clearly did what they needed to do. Hopefully, this is a bit of a turnaround for Pellegrini’s boys.