Many thought Chelsea would be full of attacking quality after their £253million summer spree. But after two clean sheets in a row, it’s their defensive additions making all the difference.
Frank Lampard‘s Blues managed to shut out Sevilla and Manchester United last week in consecutive games before keeping another clean sheet at Krasnodar in midweek to stop the rot of conceding careless goals since the start of the season.
This defensive solidity has come as a great surprise to several observers and Chelsea supporters, who had seen their side spend £253million in the summer transfer market on predominantly attacking stars such as Timo Werner, Kai Havertz and Hakim Ziyech.
Thiago Silva (left) and Edouard Mendy (right) are making a difference for new club Chelsea
Blues boss Frank Lampard (above) has seen his side keep three clean sheets in three matches
And it transpires that free agent Thiago Silva and previously-unknown goalkeeper Edouard Mendy that are the key additions that are helping the Blues pick up vital points as their season heats up.
THIAGO SILVA IMPACT
Chelsea with Thiago Silva (5 games):
Average Goals For: 2.6
Average Goals Against: 0.6
Win Percentage: 40%
Premier League xGA: 1.9
Chelsea without Silva (5 games):
Average Goals For: 2.2
Average Goals Against: 1.4
Win Percentage: 40%
Premier League xGA: 7.1
(All competitions unless stated, stats by Opta)
Placed at the heart of a shaky back line where Lampard has not managed to find his best combinations yet, it is no surprise that Thiago Silva has made a difference to Chelsea’s fortunes.
While Chelsea have the same win percentage with Thiago Silva both on and off the pitch, but they also look like conceding fewer goals. When the veteran defender is playing, Chelsea have an expected goals against in the Premier League of 1.9, compared to 7.1 when Kurt Zouma and Andreas Christensen are on the pitch.
But one of the more interesting stats is that Chelsea have actually scored more goals with the Brazilian in the side, with the Blues more capable of playing out from the back due to Silva’s passing accuracy.
Out of all the players who have started a Premier League match for Chelsea this season, no-one has better passing statistics than the 36-year-old, who has successfully completed a ball to another team-mate 95.3 per cent of the time.
Both Christensen (92.8 per cent) and Zouma (89.5 per cent) are also tidy in possession and have good passing rates in the top-flight, but that extra bit of quality provided by the Brazilian can make all the difference to Chelsea’s fortunes.
No-one in the Chelsea side has a better passing accuracy rate than Thiago Silva (above)
KEPA VS MENDY
Kepa Arrizabalaga (Premier League):
Average goal kick length: 40 yards
Passing percentage: 79.2%
Edouard Mendy (Premier League):
Average goal kick length: 16 yards
Passing percentage: 83.4%
Chelsea save percentage (all comps):
(Stats by Statsbomb)
Shot-stopper Mendy, who nearly quit football aged 23 as he struggled in the lower leagues of French football, also has a better passing rate than his goalkeeping predecessor Kepa Arrizabalaga.
The Senegal international has completed 84.3 per cent of his passes so far this season, compared to just 79.2 per cent for Kepa.
But Chelsea are also more comfortable in building the ball from deep with Mendy in the side too, as Chelsea tend to play shorter goal kicks with their new £20million signing between the sticks.
The length of Mendy’s Premier League goal kicks for the Blues average around 16 yards, meaning he rarely punts the ball upfield and prefers to either pass the ball to a defender in the penalty area or play a more accurate kick upfield.
Domestic goal kicks from Kepa, on the other hand, average around 40 yards in distance – suggesting the Spaniard prefers to play the long ball forward and thereby risks his team losing possession.
That is no surprise, as Kepa was caught out by Liverpool’s Sadio Mane when trying to pass out from the back during the Blues’ defeat to the Premier League champions in September.
Chelsea are building up from the back more due to Edouard Mendy’s technical ability
Mendy is better than predecessor Kepa Arrizabalaga (above) at passing and saving shots
Another area where Mendy has improved Chelsea is in the shot stopping department. In all competitions, the Senegalese goalkeeper as as success percentage of 88.9 per cent after four games, including four saves from four shots on target in the Premier League.
Kepa, on the other hand, has one of the worst save percentages in all competitions in Chelsea’s history having saved just 63.4 per cent of the shots on target he has faced since his £72million move from Athletic Bilbao.
His athletic ability was clear to see at Old Trafford, as he made two parries to deny Manchester United forward Marcus Rashford in either half on Saturday.
The first effort saw him rush out of his goal to deny a one-on-one opportunity while the second saw him tip the England international’s late goalbound drive away and out to safety.
Mendy made two excellent saves to deny Marcus Rashford in the 0-0 draw at Man United
Speaking on Sky Sports’ Saturday Night Football, ex-Chelsea striker Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink praised Mendy’s first save, claiming that the Blues would have fallen behind if Kepa had been in goal.
The former forward said: ‘Rashford went in one-on-one but Mendy does brilliantly. If you see it from the back, Mendy does not give him a good angle.
‘He fills the goal up really really well and makes a good save. Normally with Kepa this would have gone in. Mendy has played well.’
Also at Old Trafford, Thiago Silva made an all-important block to deny former PSG team-mate Edinson Cavani from slamming home from inside the area late on.
Thiago Silva (above) also denied former team-mate Edinson Cavani (right) with a superb block
The Brazilian’s Chelsea team-mates are noticing his dedication in big moments, with Blues captain Cesar Azpilicueta heaping praise on the 36-year-old.
‘His experience and leadership is brilliant and I think the quality defensively helps the team a lot. We are very happy to have him with us.’
If both players can keep up the levels shown in their opening performances, then a more clinical forward line is all Lampard needs to find the perfect system at Stamford Bridge.