Chelsea’s lack of goals is shocking but the underlying numbers offer hope | Chelsea

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The problems at Chelsea seem to deepen with every passing week. They have only won one of their six league games so far this season. They are 14th in the table, with a negative goal difference. They have not scored in the league since August. Their top goalscorer this season, Raheem Sterling, has only scored in one match. And Nicolas Jackson, one of the forwards signed at great expense to end their goalscoring woes, has picked up five times as many yellow cards as he has scored goals.

Jackson is not the only player with a disciplinary issue. Malo Gusto was sent off on Sunday shortly before Ollie Watkins scored Aston Villa’s winning goal at Stamford Bridge. It was another disappointing performance in a year of disappointing performances: Chelsea have won just nine of their last 38 league games. They are not far off relegation form.

Things were supposed to be different this season. Mauricio Pochettino was brought in to lead the club into a new era, one that would be trophy-laden with the goals flowing freely. After six games, Chelsea sit 14th in the league table with five points to show for their efforts. Only newly promoted pair Luton (three) and Burnley (four) have scored fewer goals than Chelsea (five), and three of those goals came in a comfortable home win over Luton.

There may be a new manager at the club, but the same old problems persist. Chelsea have spent, and spent big, to find a goalscorer. They signed Christopher Nkunku from RB Leipzig for £51m and Nicolas Jackson from Villarreal for £32m, though the former is yet to make his debut after injuring his knee in pre-season. The money has flowed but the goals have not. Cole Palmer arrived from Manchester City for £40m, after the club had forked out £124m for Mykhailo Mudryk and Noni Madueke in January. Between them, the quintet cost £247m and have scored just two Premier League goals in 2023.

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What makes matters worse is that Chelsea were scoring for fun in pre-season. Pochettino watched on contentedly as his side won the Premier League Summer Series – a pre-season tournament in the US that also featured Fulham, Aston Villa, Brighton, Brentford and Newcastle – without losing a game. Nkunku was settling in well and it looked like the club had turned a corner after a dire run of form. Now they seem stuck in their old ways.

It’s not for want of trying. Chelsea players have taken 241 touches in the opposition box this season – the second highest in the league after Tottenham on 250. They rank fifth in the league for shots with 91 – as many as Arsenal and more than Manchester United or Newcastle. They are creating opportunities, but are just struggling to put the ball in the net. Only Luton (4.8%) have a worse conversion rate than Chelsea (5.5%), who have missed more big chances (15) than any other team in the division.

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Seven of those big chances have been missed by Jackson. Only Erling Haaland (nine) has missed more, though the key difference is that he is also the top scorer with eight goals – three more than the whole Chelsea squad has managed between them.

Jackson’s profligacy is a problem but there is an optimistic way of analysing these numbers. The Senegal forward is at least getting into goalscoring positions and his teammates are creating the chances for him. If the opportunities were not coming his way, there would be a real reason to panic. Surely it is only a matter of time before the 22-year-old finds his feet. He is an easy target for critics, especially given his habit of being booked for dissent, but his movement is very good – as shown by his high number of clear-cut chances. He just needs a stroke of luck to kick off the kind of run Villarreal fans saw at the end of last season, when he finished the campaign with nine goals in eight games.

Christopher Nkunku impressed in pre-season before his injury.
Christopher Nkunku impressed in pre-season before his injury. Photograph: Chelsea FC/Getty Images

Injuries have not helped Pochettino. Nkunku was the marquee addition to the forward line, but the Frenchman’s injury in pre-season means his debut is delayed until December at the earliest. Nkunku should be the perfect fit for the No 10 role in Pochettino’s favoured 4-2-3-1 setup and, with mobile attackers operating either side and beyond the 25-year-old, he should thrive for the club.

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Armando Broja’s return after a long-term injury means Chelsea finally have another centre-forward available. He came off the bench for a 10-minute cameo against Villa at the weekend and will ease the pressure on Jackson’s young shoulders. The 22-year-old will need some time to get back up to speed after a lengthy spell on the sidelines, though competition for places on the frontline is a positive.

Pochettino seems to have settled on his favoured 4-2-3-1 formation and can now build some consistency. The underlying numbers for Chelsea are positive. They have the highest possession average of any team in the league (67.1%), as well as the third best pass success rate (88.4%). It’s also worth remembering that we are only six games into the new campaign. While Chelsea’s recent ineptitude has made them a laughing stock to rival fans, Pochettino is a good manager. Give him a chance to stamp his authority on the squad and we’ll start to see his team playing to their full potential.

This is an article by WhoScored
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