Chelsea’s problems this season have been evident, as seen by their second-best defensive record in the league. They only have seven goals in seven games, including three games without a goal, which is clearly below average, yet they are unbeatable defensively.
Only Everton has failed to score more goals than Chelsea this season, and just two teams have been less productive at home, highlighting their weaknesses. Just half of the Blues’ games at Stamford Bridge this season have seen them score.
However, it is said that defense wins championships, and the Blues are very good at it. They have only given up six goals in seven games, three of which came against West Ham on the road. Only Manchester City, who currently lead the league, have conceded fewer goals so far.
It hasn’t been a significant overperformance though; the xGA shows that Chelsea has conceded almost two less goals than the underlying statistics would indicate, but there are eight other clubs in the league that have performed equally well or better at this point. Simply said, Mauricio Pochettino has been able to rely on his backline for the most part.
It hasn’t always been that way, as errors lost them points against both Nottingham Forest and Aston Villa, but in both contests, the defense would be receiving less criticism if the forwards had done their jobs in front of goal. At this point, no team has underperformed their predicted strikes more than Chelsea, with the exception of Everton’s -8.40 xG difference, which is quite obviously system breaking.
It makes a case that suggests that whenever the results improve, the finishing will too. This is, after all, the fundamental nature of football—simple to understand, harder to really execute.
The fact that the defense is currently the most injury-stricken and possibly the furthest from full fitness within this is a plus for Pochettino. Thiago Silva is 39 and allows others to cover for his immobility despite what he gives to the team, Reece James is the starting right-back but has only played 70 minutes this season, Axel Disasi is entering his second month in the Premier League, and Levi Colwill is playing left-back in the wrong position.
It is quite an accomplishment to have the defensive stability that has been discovered, three clean sheets in the last four games across all competitions, with a backline that may not contain all four members in the best case scenario. There are many choices, even though it’s unclear how Wesley Fofana, Colwill, Silva, Disasi, and Benoit Badiashile will work together beyond this season, not to mention Trevoh Chalobah.
But Pochettino has opted to continue being strict in his hiring practices. This isn’t the defense that Chelsea supporters would have chosen in the preseason, whether it’s because of injuries, getting his feet under the table, or largely trusting a growing body of outstanding work – it may be a mix of all of them.
With healthy full-backs and the Silva-Colwill connection formed even before Disasi came, the manager himself was far more traditional in America. Badiashile could be the missing piece that makes everything else work in the future.
From January 12 on, Chelsea won just four games in the second half of the season, and Badiashile played in every one of them. Alongside Silva frequently, the 22-year-old only participated in two of Chelsea’s defeats in the previous season; without him, the team’s record was played 10, won 0 games, 2 drew games, and 8 defeats.
Even in the world of Chelsea finishing 12th, how strongly that correlates to growth is astounding. Without Badiashile, there would have been just one clean sheet in 11 games for the team. His aerial presence and left-footed option to the defense were instantly noticeable.
It’s unclear how he will fit in when he returns from injury in the coming weeks, but the work he has already done is important. To make matters better, he will try to work with Silva as much as he can so that he may learn from him. When asked who was the oldest member on the team, Badiashile lit up like a little kid.
He said that he must get a little on his nerves because of how many questions he gets from him. “It’s because he’s so brilliant and amazing for someone his age, as Axel [Disasi] mentioned. Working with someone of his caliber is such an honor; he enriches everyone around him and helps us achieve our full potential.
Because Pochettino is unwilling to select a natural left-footer there, Silva is now playing on the left side. When he returns, Badiashile will be vying with Colwill and Silva for the starting spot there, while the right side is crowded with Disasi, Fofana, and the possibility of using Chalobah or Silva there as well.
Theoretically, there are a lot of moving components, but given Pochettino’s present decisions, little is expected to change. However, in the long run, Badiashile has earned his opportunity and will be eager to assert himself.