Chelsea: Four lessons learned as Blues slide past Brighton

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Chelsea’s Spanish goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga looks on during the English Premier League football match between Sheffield United and Chelsea at Bramall Lane in Sheffield, northern England on July 11, 2020. (Photo by Rui Vieira / POOL / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or ‘live’ services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No video emulation. Social media in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No use in betting publications, games or single club/league/player publications. / (Photo by RUI VIEIRA/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

2. Luck Riders

As much as the scoreline would make it seem like Chelsea ran out worthy winners away to Brighton, the fact is that the Blues were not great for large patches of the game. This is best reflected with the expected goals (xG) value of the match coming in at 1.44 for Brighton and 1.27 for Chelsea. What this would suggest is that in terms of the quality and quantity of shots taken by each respective teams, Brighton should have, in actual fact, scored more goals than the visitors. Hence, considering the final 1-3 scoreline, it is safe to conclude that Frank Lampard’s men were incredibly lucky on the day in scoring thrice to ultimately win the game comfortably.

While there is nothing fundamentally wrong with over performing xG, trends in the past have indicated that xG more often than not eventually catches up with a team’s actual goal-scoring performances. This means that at the end of the day, the Blues simply cannot sustain on Reece James netting absolute rockets or a Kurt Zouma shot deflecting into the net to churn out results against their opponents. Additionally, when accounting for the fact that Brighton also simultaneously under performed their xG, it would not be unfair to suggest that a better team with more clinical finishers would have punished Chelsea for the chances that the Blues gave up defensively.

It is still early days in the season and Chelsea was undeniably missing several key components to their first-choice eleven. That said, the shortened football calendar for the 20/21 season would mean that games would always be coming up hard and fast for the Blues. If they are unable to resolve their issues of a lack of creativity in offence and a lack of discipline in defense, Frank Lampard would find that a bad run of results is never too far behind.

Related Story: Chelsea can wait on Declan Rice but not on a defensive midfielder

3. New season, same Kepa Arrizabalaga

There is a saying in football that a team can only be as good as its weakest link. And as much as poor performances from someone like Loftus-Cheek or Hudson-Odoi can be attributed to injuries or just a temporary loss of form, that is just not the case for Chelsea’s number one. The regularity in which Arrizabalaga has turned in sub-par performances would suggest that the Spaniard has long gone past the stage in which poor outings can simply be attributed to a loss of confidence or form.

Monday’s opposition, Brighton, may have created a couple of great goal scoring opportunities through which they should have gotten at least one goal. However, the actual goal that Arrizabalaga let into his net was one that he should undoubtedly have saved. Yes, the curling effort from Leandro Trossard had a certain velocity and spin to it. Nevertheless, it was a shot from outside the box that Arrizabalaga had his eyes on for the entirety of its flight. There are hence no excuses for the Spaniard when he allowed the ball to pass under his outstretched arm and into the net instead of making a rather straightforward save from the Brighton forward.

This is evidently not the first time similar efforts from opposition players have been allowed to nestle in the back of Chelsea’s net and on a night when both Kurt Zouma and Andreas Christensen put in commendable performances to keep Brighton largely at bay, it is such a shame that neither was able to come away from the game with a clean sheet to show for their efforts.

Ultimately, to the fans who had hoped that a fresh season and a clean slate was all Arrizabalaga needed to return to his 2018/19 self, it is perhaps time to accept that the Spaniard just is not quite good enough for Chelsea anymore.

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