Statistics are an ever-evolving tool in the game. For example, Chelsea’s new head coach, Thomas Tuchel, is heralded for his infatuation with stats, using every possible piece of information to build a specialised game plan for the weekend’s opponent. Other coaches have been derided for their over-reliance on figures—perceived as crutches for hiding the reality of what is happening on the pitch.
This phenomenon transfers into the tribal world of fandom. Before Frank Lampard’s departure on Monday, the fact that he found himself three points worse off than at the same point in the previous campaign has often been cited by rival fans and Lampard detractors alike. However, in a season like no other, in a league table like no other, what did that really indicate about the progress—or lack thereof—that that the Chelsea legend and his Blues side were making this season. Even the exuberant Jurgen Klopp seems to be less enthused in press conferences after a year that has thrown obstacles in his team’s way, leaving the club a whole 21 points worse off than at the same point last season.
Nobody is questioning Klopp’s tenability though, nor are fans second guessing his methods—rightly so. Lampard was not as good a coach as Klopp, nobody is trying to make that assertion, but there are multiple external factors at play that go beyond Lampard’s coaching inexperience. Stats and figures give great insight but need to be used in good faith. With Thomas Tuchel now at the helm, now is as good a time as any to take an honest, individual appraisal of Chelsea’s recent arrivals. While stats are used in this article to try to give more perspective, this will be a more subjective—yet level-headed—view on what I feel these players have offered so far.
Malang Sarr & Xavier Mbuyamba
To kick things off is these two hot prospects. As the media spotlight was focused on the more star-studded signings that came through the doors of Cobham last summer, Malang Sarr and Xavier Mbuyamba arrived to less fanfare. Both came in on free transfers from Nice and Barcelona respectively.
Sarr has been picking up valuable minutes in the Portuguese Primeira Liga and the Champions League with Porto. Although not a regular, the 22-year-old Frenchman has made five league appearances (three starting, two off the bench) in Liga NOS and will be learning plenty from Portuguese international and former Real Madrid defender Pepe. Sarr has been trusted far more often in Europe, appearing in five group games (four starts, one substitute appearance) and these all-important Champions League minutes could be crucial next season, when deciding whether to integrate him into the Chelsea squad or send out him on loan again.
Mbuyamba is a different case altogether. The 19-year-old Dutchman is yet to make an appearance this season due to what appeared to be a torn meniscus, which will keep him out until February. He is, however, highly touted and could well be fast-tracked to the first team next season, but starts outside of domestic cup competitions would presumably be unlikely at this point.