Chelsea players celebrate at the end of the English Premier League soccer match between Chelsea and Leicester City at Stamford Bridge Stadium in London(AP)
Chelsea players celebrate at the end of the English Premier League soccer match between Chelsea and Leicester City at Stamford Bridge Stadium in London(AP)

Misfiring frontline could hurt Chelsea in the season’s last two games

It could make the difference between a top four finish in the league and a second Champions League title
By Rajesh Pansare, Mumbai
PUBLISHED ON MAY 19, 2021 07:21 PM IST

There was a moment 20 minutes from time during their Premier League clash against Leicester City on Tuesday that captured Chelsea's season so far

The Blues broke swiftly from the back and got the ball to Mason Mount on the right flank. Had Mount crossed to Timo Werner, who had an open run at the goal, Chelsea could have gone 3-0 up and sealed the match. But Mount failed and soon Leicester pulled one back through substitute Kelechi Iheanacho and Chelsea had to suffer before getting over the line.

The 2-1 win pushed Chelsea up to third in the standings and victory in the final game against Aston Villa will secure their spot in the next year’s Champions League. But they will have to be far more effective in their bid for a second Champions League title because for opponents Manchester City scoring isn’t a problem and defensively they are at their best.

This wasn’t the first time Chelsea were found wanting in the final third. Their inability to make those accurate passes or wastefulness in front of the goal means they have had to dig deep to get those results. Sometimes it has hurt them too.

A couple of weeks ago, they were on a high having knocked out Real Madrid to enter the Champions League final and then beating City to delay their Premier League coronation.

Then, two 0-1 defeats --- to Arsenal in the league and Leicester City in Saturday’s FA Cup final -- laid bare chinks in their frontline.

That none from their forwardline has scored in double digits in the Premier League tells its own story. Chelsea have scored just 57 league goals this season which puts them in the seventh spot, in term of goals scored, behind Tottenham (63) and Leeds United (59) while at the top of the chart is City with 78 goals.

Since Thomas Tuchel replaced Frank Lampard in January, Chelsea have been solid defensively and boast one of the best records in top five European league conceding just 13 goals in 28 matches in all competitions.

But like under Lampard, Chelsea haven’t found their scoring boots under Tuchel as well. The only match in which they have scored more than two goals was a 4-1 victory over Crystal Palace in the first half of April. They have spent around £150 million to sharpen the frontline signing Werner from RB Leipzig, Kai Harvetz from Bayern Leverkusen and Hakim Ziyech from Ajax but none has yet show their A-game.

Werner is Chelsea’s top scorer in all competitions with 15 strikers followed by Tammy Abraham (12) and Oliver Giroud (11) the last two being used sparsely under Tuchel who prefers the front three of Werner, Mount and either Havertz or Pulisic. All have been guilty of missing easy chances throughout the season.

While Mount has been their best player throughout the season, Werner and Havertz have shown glimpses of what they are capable of but towards the end of the campaign, Chelsea would like them to be more consistent.

Werner tops the Premier League chart for most big chances missed with 18 and not to forget the number of times he has been caught off-side. In big matches those mistakes could prove costly and it almost did during the Champions League semi-final first leg against Real Madrid. Chelsea had them pinned Real but couldn’t land the killer blow which meant the Los Blancos escaped with a draw. Chelsea’s inspired performance in the second leg and a creaking Real squad meant they managed to win the tie.

When none of your forwards score in double digit goals in the league it will create problem for the manager. Jorginho is Chelsea’s top scored in the league with seven goals, followed by Abraham, Mount and Werner at six each.

“We don't struggle to have touches in the opponent's box, we do not struggle to produce Expected Goals but we need to improve on the conversion, this is clear,” Tuchel told Sky Sports in April.

“Chelsea have (to approach it like) Cup finals now, basically, if they want to finish in the top four and win the Champions League. They have got to pick themselves up and go again. They can't feel sorry for themselves,” said former Arsenal and Chelsea left-back Ashley Cole after they lost in the FA Cup final against Leicester last weekend.

From being written off when Lampard was sacked to Tuchel saying ,”many teams will be jealous of where we are right now,” needed a huge effort and the German will hope they can keep it together in the last two games of the season.

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