Defense Wins Trophies

Over a quarter of the Premier League season in England has passed, and while there are a few surprises, like Brentford and Brighton, some things never change. Chelsea Football Club is in the top four and in fact, sits atop of the league with 26 points, which is three points clear of second-place Manchester City. Since Thomas Tuchel arrived at Chelsea last year, the Blues defense has been one of the best in the world, helping them win their second ever Champions League title last season against a talented City squad. This season in the Premier League, Chelsea as a team has given up only four goals in 11 matches. Additionally in all competitions, the Blues have averaged only 0.4 goals conceded a game while averaging 2.06 goals per match. Tuchel has created a defensive revolution over in West London. As teams become more gifted offensively, the Chelsea manager keeps finding ways to shut them down. No wonder why he already has two trophies in his pocket in less than a year in London. 

When thinking about the Blues, almost everyone talks about the new signing of Romelu Lukaku from Inter Milan, the young and gifted Kai Havertz, or club-born and future superstar Mason Mount. Defense is the name of the game for the Blues, led by Chelsea-born Andres Christiansen, Trevoh Chalabah, and Reese James. Joining them are the Brazilian veteran, Thiago Silva, 2020 summer signing Ben Chilwell, starting German center back Antonio Rüdiger, and team captain César Azpilicueta. These defenders are the backbone of the team. Players like Azpilicueta and left wing-back Marcus Alsonso were basically forgotten about under the last manager, Frank Lampard, but have found their places back in the team and are striving under Tuchel. The Blues have seven clean sheets already this season. One of the most glaring statistics about this defensive unit is since Tuchel took over in January, Chelsea has had the most clean sheets in all competitions by teams in Europe’s top five leagues, at a whopping 28. 

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Many critics say that Chelsea’s lack of scoring ability will hurt them down the road when they have to play elite opponents later in the season. This is definitely a false claim, as Tuchel has proved to shut down top opponents both this season and last season. Keeping Manchester City scoreless in the Champions League final, and holding a full-strength, red-hot Liverpool team without a goal with ten men on the field is quite the impressive feat. Looking at it in another way the Blues have put in 27 goals which are second in the Premier League behind the most lethal offensive team, Liverpool. Should they have more goals based on the chances that they have created? The simple answer is yes, but the fact that they are second in the Premier League in goals is a positive statistic. xG is another important stat, which measures the expected goals per game that a team should be scoring if they took advantage of their opportunities. Chelsea has the third-best xG in the Premier League this season at 1.83 goals per game. The fact that these opportunities are being created is a positive sign, it is only a matter of time, but the defense is going nowhere. No matter the challenge, the Blues seem to face it head-on. They have the lowest projected expected goals conceded per game average in the Premier League as well as a mind-blowing 0.36 average goals conceded per game. In the 2004/2005 season, Chelsea gave up just 15 goals en route to the Premier League title under Jose Mourinho, right now in November the Blues have given up just four goals so far. That is just one goal off the pace of the ‘04 to ‘05 team, who had given up just three goals in 11 matches. 

As teams go into the international break, Chelsea’s road to winning their first Premier League title since 2014 will get a little tougher with two teams from the top five in the league last season right after the break ends. The Blues will face the Foxes of Leicester City at King Power Stadium the week after players get back, and their bitter northern rivals, Manchester United at Stamford Bridge the following week. The Red Devils are unbeaten against Chelsea the last six times they have faced in the Premier League, which includes three wins and three draws. 

In the best football league in the world, anything can happen. The battle for the title will likely come down to three teams, Liverpool, Manchester City, and Chelsea. Tuchel has a leg up on both teams as City and Liverpool have lost to Chelsea three out of the last four times they have faced each other in all competitions. If the Blues can continue this defensive record, there is nothing either of them can do about it, and Chelsea captain Azpilicueta will once again lift his third trophy in less than a year.