Attacking crisis and lack of creativity: a hot dilemma for the Blues

Match Analysis Chelsea

Chelsea FC are under a serious attacking crisis ever since Diego Costa has left. More importantly, whenever the Blues have faced forepressing or compact defence in or around the opponent’s box, they have failed to attack effectively.

Lack of natural finishing

While Costa could make his way through the compact defence with consistent dribbles and well-built physique, Morata needs at least enough space to do the same. He is simply not as physical as the former Chelsea striker. Even if there is enough space such as during the counters, the striker is likely to miss the target if being marked individually. He has lost 0.74 chances per game so far i.e. almost 1.5 chances in every other game.

In fact, it’s not just about Morata. Currently, Chelsea don’t have any striker or even attacking midfielder who can finish strong or can dribble out of the tight defence. That’s one of the main attacking crises due to which Chelsea have scored very few goals this season even with too many attempts. Compared to last season, Chelsea have created more chances this season but scored fewer goals per game than last season. The following chart depicts the problem:

Data taken from Premierleague.com

Data taken from Premierleague.com

Lack of space creation

That said, there is now more dependence on space to achieve a well-executed attacking move. And that’s exactly what Chelsea’s attack lacks. No-one in the front line makes moves to create space for the striker. This is another attacking crisis the Blues are facing.

They do have Hazard who does this job but for that, he has to drop back from the front line. Far from the attacking zone, the Belgian falls in between spaces to collect the ball and also makes moves to create space in between the tight lines. But as soon as the ball is passed to Morata, the attack comes to end as the opponents have had already formed a compact line around the box – enough to block the 25-year-old.

Like Hazard, Morata also drops back being a false nine and the Spaniard did show some good attacking moves at the start of the season by dropping back and creating chances. But being an all-rounder rather than a specialist, he can’t finish well if he isn’t getting to the sweet spot at the right time. That’s one of the main reasons Chelsea are more likely to lose possession in the attacking third. The following chart shows Morata has lost even more possession while dribbling than his fellow attackers.

Data taken from Whoscored.com

Data taken from Whoscored.com

Lack of creativity from the attacking wings

Another issue which adds to Chelsea’s attacking crisis is there is no creativity from the wide. The Blues only have Hazard to induce creativity in their attack – the other creative power, Fabregas, is not much seen as a playmaker as he should. While Pedro and Willian don’t deliver the same productivity as Hazard, the Belgian is more likely to play in the centre. As a result, there is a lot of play concentrated in the central regions. Even though it allows Chelsea to penetrate from there by overloading the area and often sustain possession there, the attack eventually get blocked by a compact defence in or outside the box.

This part of the attacking crisis can be resolved by adding some creativity in the wide regions. They better land a more specialist striker who could balance his real nine and false nine duties just as Conte demands. The current attacking crisis does indicate that it’s time for Chelsea to be technical. However, as Conte is already struggling to capitalise any new signing in the winter transfer window, this option seems difficult.

Possible tactical solution

Given this concern, an alternative tactical solution to this attacking crisis would be to have the frontline making moves to create space. This would require some change in their passing play but as Hazard already tends to drop back, any other player in the frontline has to do some work in the advanced region to drag the opponents and create space at the front. If Hazard is in the central plane to create chances, the third forward can drag the opponents’ defence to make space for Morata – or even for the corresponding wing-back or wide centre back – so they can finish the attack smoothly.

The same can be done with Fabregas in the centre behind the front two – Hazard and Morata as Fabregas can find pockets of spaces to facilitate finishing opportunities for Morata. In fact, it’s Fabregas who has the most number of chances created per game, 3.21, followed by Hazard, 2.00.

Conclusion

The season so far didn’t go as expected given the lack of technicality and creativity in the squad. Yet, the Italian manager has to resolve the attacking crisis this season or next, be it a technical solution or the tactical one, or else there is no point in thinking of getting back to the title race.

About the Author

Farkhanda
Football Enthusiast | Analyst | Systems Thinker