Talking Tactics

Can Chelsea kickstart revival by matching Villa's finishing?

21 Sep 2023
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Adrian Clarke compares the teams' quality in front of goal and highlights the duel between Sterling and Diaby

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Adrian Clarke looks at key tactical points and players who can be decisive in Matchweek 6.

Chelsea v Aston Villa

Five points from the first five matches is not the return Chelsea head coach Mauricio Pochettino would have hoped for at the start of this season, but performance levels have been better than results.

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The new-look Blues are controlling matches relatively well and creating plenty of chances.

Structurally they have been solid too. Their total for Expected Goals Against (xGA) in open play is only 3.0, the second-lowest behind leaders Manchester City.

What has let Chelsea down so far is the lack of a clinical edge inside the final third.

It is crucial they make better use of goalscoring opportunities as they now host a free-scoring Aston Villa side.

Conversion frustrations

Chelsea have had 81 shots already this season, a figure topped by only three other Premier League sides.

But frustratingly for them, a lowly 9.1 per cent conversion rate means they are averaging a mere one goal per match.

See: Why Chelsea have made a slow start under Pochettino

The quality of opportunities Chelsea manufacture is also high, yet they have converted only three of their 15 big chances.

Summer signing Nicolas Jackson has spurned six gilt-edged chances, and Raheem Sterling has missed another three.

By contrast, Villa have been far more clinical when excellent opportunities have fallen their way, converting eight of their 15 big chances.

Chelsea and Villa's shooting stats 23/24
Statistic Chelsea Rank Aston Villa Rank
Big chances 15 =5th 15 =5th
Big chances scored 3 13th 8 2nd
Big chances missed 12 1st 7 7th

Chelsea will need to show greater precision inside the area if they are to pick up three points.

Key match-up: Sterling v Diaby

So far this season Sterling and Moussa Diaby have both been excellent, and it would be no surprise if either forward heavily influenced the outcome of this meeting.

With Chelsea likely to monopolise the ball, Villa will be especially dangerous on transitions and counters.

Diaby’s partnership with Ollie Watkins up front is tailor-made for fast breaks, with the duo attempting 16 shots between them from transitions already in 2023/24.

Substitute Jhon Duran has also had four efforts from those situations and can make an impact late on.

Chelsea and Villa shots on transition 23/24
Player Shots on transition
Ollie Watkins 9
Moussa Diaby 7
Nicolas Jackson 7
Jhon Duran 4
Enzo Fernandez 4

Since his arrival from Bayer Leverkusen in the summer, Diaby has settled quickly and produced two goals and two assists.

His movement, running power and quality inside the final third will pose a threat to Chelsea.

Sterling has been Chelsea’s brightest forward since Pochettino took over.

Appearing rejuvenated under this regime, he has by some distance enjoyed the most touches inside opposition boxes across the Premier League.

Most touches in opposition box 23/24
Player Most touches
Raheem Sterling 61
Dejan Kulusevski 47
Kaoru Mitoma 42
Dominic Solanke 42
Bukayo Saka 41

Sterling has fired off 13 shots in five matches, completed 11 dribbles and created nine chances from open play, so the only surprise is he has delivered only two direct goal involvements.

Villa’s left-back Lucas Digne will need to be fully focused to halt Sterling's attempts to drive inside from Chelsea’s right wing.

If Chelsea are to get their season up and running, expect them to look to Sterling to make something happen.

Also in this series

Part 1: Can Brentford strike the right balance against Everton?
Part 2: How Koleosho's pace and trickery can trouble Man Utd
Part 3: Why Kulusevski is the player Arsenal must fear most

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