Last season, Chelsea were streets ahead of every other team in the division, winning the title comfortably as they topped the table by eight points. Along the way, they lost just three times (all away from home), and conceded the fewest goals in the division.
Many were predicting the Blues to win the the league again this campaign, but it has been a disastrous start for Jose Mourinho’s side, as they have won just once in four games. They’ve already lost twice, 3-0 to early pace setters Manchester City, and 2-1 at Stamford Bridge to Crystal Palace – only a second ever home league under Mourinho. What’s more,they’ve seen nine goals go past a usually reliable defence. Only bottom club Sunderland have conceded more. So on that evidence, yes, Chelsea are very much in crisis.
Firstly, what has gone wrong? Primarily, many players who were key to their title success in 2014-15 have been performing poorly. Jose Mourinho has publicly come out and admitted that, criticising Branislav Ivanovic, Gary Cahill, John Terry, Cesar Azpilicueta, Cesc Fabregas, Nemanja Matic and Eden Hazard specifically. So what I am going to do? That’s right, analyse those seven named and shamed players. All the stats are courtesy of Squawka and WhoScored.
Firstly, Branislav Ivanovic, who was included in the PFA Team of the Season in 2014-15, after featuring in every single game, scoring four goals and helping keep 17 clean sheets. He won 56% of his duels, made an average of five successful defensive actions per game, and made just two defensive errors throughout the whole campaign. He’s already made one defensive error so far this campaign, as well as winning 53% of his duels. On the whole, he has looked lazy and sloppy, not something we are used to from the Serbian.
Fellow PFA Team of the Year player John Terry was similarly impressive in all departments last year, scoring five goals (the most for a defender) as he played every single minute of the campaign. We’re only a month into 2015-16 though, and the skipper has already been substituted at half-time against Manchester City, and sent off against West Brom. His average duel success has decreased by 15%, whilst last season’s average of seven successful defensive actions per game has slipped to five. He couldn’t have looked any better at 34 years old last year, but now there are signs that he might be past it.
Completing the trio of Chelsea defenders in last season’s PFA best team is Gary Cahill. Unlike Ivanovic and Terry, statistics suggest that he hasn’t actually done that much wrong so far this season. His average duels won has increased (admittedly by just 1%), whilst his number of successful defensive actions (8) has remained the same. The only statistic that has decreased is his pass accuracy, which has gone from 86% to 79%.
Cesar Azpilicueta is the last defender to get analysed. The one defender who didn’t score last season is the only one to do so so far in this one, with a neat finish against West Brom. Like Cahill, his pass accuracy has gone down from 84% to 79%, whilst his average successful defensive actions per game has also decreased – from six to five. The one statistic that has gone up is his percentage of duels won, which last season was 51% and is now 56%.
Moving up the pitch, and we come to Nemanja Matic, in my opinion one of the best holding midfielders in the world. Last season he was consistent throughout the season for Chelsea, providing cover for the defence and having the ability to create attacks. It’s no coincidence that the Blues’ first loss of 2014-15 against Newcastle was the first league game Matic had missed. So far this campaign though, the Serbian has gone missing in games and has barely had an impact on the match. Last year, he made the fourth highest number of tackles per game (3.6), but that number has decreased to 2.5. He seems to be lunging into challenges more, as his average fouls per game has gone up from 1.3 to 2.8. His percentage of duels won has decreased by 9%, whilst his successful defensive actions per game has also been lowered from six to four. Attacking wise though, Matic’s pass success rate has increased from 86% to 88%, his average number of chances created per game has risen from 0.7 to 0.8, whilst he is also shooting on average 0-2. more times a game. These statistics suggest that Matic is focusing more on the attacking part of his game instead of providing help to a defence that is already struggling.
Now we come to the man who topped the Premier League assist chart last season with 18 – Cesc Fabregas. Yet in four games so far this campaign, he is yet to get one. That probably has something to do with his average number of chances created per game, which has dropped from 2.8 to 1.3, as has his pass accuracy from 85% to 83%. Perhaps in an attempt to cover for the less than impressive Matic, Fabregas’ average interceptions and blocks per game has risen from 0.7 to 1.3 and from 0.1 to 0.5 respectively. This has though meant that his number of fouls per game has doubled from 0.9 to 1.8. As a playmaker you perhaps don’t expect him to win that many challenges, but his duel success rate has dropped from 47% to 40%.
Finally we come to the best player in the Premier League last season, Eden Hazard, who grabbed himself 14 goals and nine assists in a very impressive 2014-15. So far this campaign, he is yet to get on the scoresheet and has one assist, but like Fabregas, other statistics explain why this is the case. His average shots per game has fallen from 2.1 to 1, with his shot accuracy decreasing from 59% to 50%. We were used to seeing the Belgian terrorise full-backs with mazy runs last year, but his average dribbles per game has dropped from 4.8 to 3.5. Defenders are clearly becoming more aware of Hazard’s danger, as his successful duels percentage has dropped from 65% to 59%. He is also being fouled less often, from an average of 3 times a game in 2014-15 to 2.8 times a game in 2015-16.
So all in all, the statistics show that Jose Mourinho was correct in his criticism. But obviously we’ve only played four games so far this season, so there’s plenty of time for these players to improve and show the standard that they showcased on the way to to the 2014-15 title. But the bigger question is, can Chelsea come back to actually win the title again? They are already eight points behind leaders Manchester City. History suggests that this is unlikely, as not since the inaugural 1992-93 Premier League season has a team gone on to win the title after collecting just four points from their opening four games. Even then, when Manchester United did it, it was a 42 game season, so they had more matches to put it right.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s side also managed to win the title twice after winning just five points from their opening four games, in 2007-08 and 2008-09, and did the same winning just six points in 1996-97.
No side, however, have claimed the Premier League title after managing six points or fewer from their opening five games of the season, something the Blues may want to keep in mind when they travel to Everton on Saturday. If anyone was going to break that record though, you would back Mourinho to do it. Everyone’s had enough of his silly excuses, so it’s time to get back to last season’s Chelsea and put themselves back in contention for the trophy, or face the facts and take some criticism Jose.