Mauricio Pochettino was always aware that reshaping the Chelsea’s struggles 23/24 at Stamford Bridge would require time and patience. However, his prospects of receiving either have been affected by his team’s initial performance.
Chelsea currently finds themselves in the lower half of the Premier League table with only four points from their first four matches. The unexpected 1-0 defeat at home to Nottingham Forest has left them stewing over a disappointing start under Pochettino.
But, at this early stage of a complex rebuilding process, progress should be measured in small details and glimpses of improvement. And there are indeed signs of promise.
To clarify, Chelsea is not in crisis when viewed through a reasonable and rational lens. However, considering the early struggles faced by Thomas Tuchel, who earned six points from the first four matches last season, and Graham Potter, who won his first three league fixtures but faced intense pressure shortly after, Pochettino needs to see swift improvements in results.
It’s crucial to acknowledge that any analysis of what has gone wrong so far and how Chelsea can rectify it is based on a very limited sample size. Furthermore, Chelsea has encountered a somewhat one-dimensional start to the new season, facing ultra-defensive opponents in three of their four matches. This is reflected in their league-leading average possession of 70.5%.
The tactical landscape of Chelsea matches is expected to shift soon, and when it does, they might find themselves in a strong position to climb up the table.
First, let’s consider the positives. Despite significant player turnover over the summer, Pochettino has swiftly established a formation, starting XI, and playing style. Even in defeat, it’s evident what Chelsea is trying to achieve. Having a clear vision and a shared goal for everyone to work toward is half the battle.
Chelsea has employed a hybrid formation, oscillating between a 4-3-3 and 3-4-2-1, with intricate tactical shifts to keep opponents guessing. Players rotate positions, making them challenging to track and allowing for improvisation and mutual support, setting Chelsea apart from the rigid positional coaching of others.
In all four of Chelsea’s matches, there have been moments when the team has executed these positional changes effectively. Consequently, Chelsea ranks highly in Expected Goals (xG), shots attempted, and their ability to move vertically through the lines.
Creativity Challenges on the Left Wing
However, their performance on the left side has been a concern. Without a versatile player like Chukwuemeka, who can operate as a left inside forward, left winger, and No. 8 simultaneously, Chelsea’s left side struggles for creativity. Chilwell has not been able to replicate Chukwuemeka’s impact, which has hindered their left-sided attack.
Chelsea’s main issues have been in defending against counter-attacks, possibly because counter-attacks have been the only real threat they’ve faced. They need to improve in this aspect, despite having a good xG against record. The communication between Colwill and Silva needs work to prevent goals in transition.
Lack of Clinical Finishing and Team Chemistry
Chelsea’s struggles can also be attributed to a lack of clinical finishing and team chemistry. Their shooting accuracy has been subpar, with a high percentage of off-target shots. This might be due to the team not yet gelling, resulting in snatched chances and disrupted passing sequences. With time and the introduction of Palmer, Chelsea can address these issues.
In conclusion, despite appearances, Pochettino is laying the foundations for success at Chelsea. All he requires, if not too much to ask, is a bit more time.
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