Another game against Manchester United and another defeat for Frank Lampard. But this one was more significant than the others, with the race for top 4 getting closer each week. United have now closed the gap to three points, while Spurs’ win over Aston Villa helped them to get within a point of the coveted fourth spot. With Jose Mourinho’s Spurs the next visitors to Stamford Bridge, Lampard will be having some sleepless nights considering our atrocious home form.
With just one win in last six matches in the league, some Chelsea fans have started calling out Lampard and have started questioning his selection and tactics. Should Batshuayi have started over Giroud? Why is Frank not able to organize our defence? Is the Chelsea job too big and too soon for Lampard?
What do stats say?
Everyone knows that Chelsea had a transfer ban, and Eden Hazard who carried the team on his back last season, left without getting replaced. But that is no excuse for the team to be performing as poor as they are right now. However, it is not because of Lampard or his tactics. Let’s take a look at some stats to compare Lampard with Sarri’s last season and Conte’s title winning season.
G= Goals Scored GA= Goals Conceded xG= Expected Goals xGA = Expected Goals Conceded
The xG and xGA data shows that Lampard’s team thus far is lacking behind Sarri’s team and Conte’s title-winning team in terms of goals scored in comparison to expected goals (which can be directly attributed to Hazard leaving and our current players just not being clinical enough). Eye test and data both show that our front men are misfiring, but we are creating chances meaning that the system is working. As per data, we should have at least seven more goals from open play situations than what we have so far. This came to a head when Arsenal outscored us from open play with 10 men in the recent 2-2 draw. Conte’s team was too clinical and scored more goals than what the stats expected, which is exactly why they won the title. Sarri’s team performed as expected and hence secured a respectable third place finish. But Lampard’s front men are letting him down and have only themselves to blame for not winning more games. Lampard will soon be wishing he could play himself at this rate.
Moving ahead, let’s have a look at how our defence has been performing. Again, the data says that our defence is performing below expectations. We should have conceded at least six fewer goals from open play than we have so far. In comparison, Sarri’s team performed on par with expectations, and ended up conceding two goals less than what the stats expected. Conte’s team on the other hand conceded four goals more than expected, but more than covered up for it by being clinical in attack.
My inference from this is that Lampard’s system defensively is not conceding too many chances and is about at par with Sarri and Conte’s systems. Worrisome, however, is that the players are conceding from what little chance the opposition manages to create. This can be attributed to Kepa being among the worst keepers in Europe right now, and our defenders who are in below- average form. Good tactics help a team gain a bigger probability of a win but cannot guarantee a win, especially when the players don’t execute.
The only area of improvement for Lampard according to the data is from set-pieces. We are giving away more chances as compared to last season (or Conte’s 16/17 season) and we are also not creating enough chances for ourselves from set-pieces. This is also partially due to the lack of aerial ability and positional sense in current players. Conte had aerially-dominant players such as Cahill, Matic, Alonso, Costa and Luiz alongside a younger, better version of Azpilicueta. Sarri arguably had similar players to Lampard on set-pieces, but no Alonso. No wonder Sarri always said that Alonso’s height and aerial presence is important to the team, which is likely why he kept on playing Alonso despite sub-par performances.
All these stats are backing up the argument that it’s not Lampard or his tactics who are to blame, but the average or below average players our squad is full of. With a huge game against Spurs up next, followed by a Champions League clash with Bayern Munich, (and then crucial matches in the league and FA Cup) it’s that time of the season where the stand-outs emerge. There will not be a better time this season for our players to prove whether they belong with this club or not. As Lampard said after the loss to United, “The season starts now! The fight starts now,” and those players who do not respond to his rallying call should not be wearing our proud blue shirt when the next season starts.