As Chelsea prepare for arguably their toughest test of the 2023/24 Premier League season so far against Arsenal, Mauricio Pochettino and his squad finally have some much-needed confidence. After a torrid start to the campaign, the Blues have now won their last three matches in all competitions – bringing some long-awaited joy to Stamford Bridge.
“It’s always about building a team,” Pochettino said last week. “It’s a young squad, a team that still need to know each other. Only with time and training can we provide the team with what it needs. It’s why it is only a matter of time, no doubt.
“We need to be calm in the way we judge players and the team. I think we are growing and very good things are coming. You can feel that, even if sometimes we have some ups and downs. But, in the end, we will succeed together, for sure.”
There has undoubtedly been improvement from Chelsea in the last three games, with the Blues looking much more of a threat in front of goal. Prior to that, Chelsea went more than three matches without putting the ball in the back of the net despite creating a host of opportunities for their attacking players to do so.
Even in the goalless games against Nottingham Forest, Bournemouth and Aston Villa, it was clear Pochettino’s system was actually working. The chances were being created from the way the Argentine sets up his team but there is only so much the head coach can do when they get to that definitive moment in front of goal.
Now, though, there looks to be a bit more confidence from some of Chelsea’s attacking players – and it looks to have come at a crucial time. The Blues face a really tough seven-game schedule once the international break is over, starting with Arsenal at home and ending with a trip to Manchester United on December 6.
So the Blues will have to continue such form in front of goal if they are to do well out of the difficult run of matches, where their chances may be more limited compared to what we have seen up until now under Pochettino. Since the start of the season in the Premier League, Chelsea have attempted 111 shots, with 37 of them on target (33.3%) and 11 of them being converted into goals.
In comparison to this point last season in the top-flight, where Chelsea had already sacked Thomas Tuchel and replaced the German with Graham Potter, the Blues attemped eight fewer shots, with 103, and three less (30) on target (29.1%). However, despite having fewer shots last season, Chelsea had scored two more goals, with 13, than at this point this time around (11 goals scored).
Crucially, as well, Chelsea had 16 points on the board eight games into last season in the Premier League, whereas this time they have five fewer with 11 points to their name. The Blues, however, will be looking to improve their shooting rate when the international break is over as they sit 11th in the Premier League’s shooting table.
Tottenham, who are top of the actual table, have registered 153 shots and are also at the summit of the Premier League’s official shot chart. While Everton, rather surprisingly, sit in second-place of the shot chart with 133 to their name, with Brighton, Manchester City and Manchester United next up.
In something that rather sums up Chelsea’s season so far, the Blues have hit the woodwork five times this term – more than every club in the Premier League, bar Liverpool (six times) and Everton (joint on five times). Football is a game all about the fine margins and Chelsea being in the bottom half of the table is proof of just that.
The return of Christopher Nkunku will undoubtedly help Chelsea when it comes to converting their chances in front of goal. The France international, who was so clinical for RB Leipzig before moving to the Premier League, showed glimpses of his ability in the final third during Chelsea’s pre-season tour of the United States. He is, however, ruled out until December/January time with a serious knee injury he suffered in the summer.
Even without Nkunku, there is so much room for optimism right now at Chelsea. Pochettino has a really young squad, who are learning on the job every day. And perhaps more crucially, that really young squad have Pochettino, a fantastic man-manager that believes in his players even when others do not.