Mateo Kovacic by the numbers: Drastic improvement in 2021/22

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LONDON, ENGLAND – DECEMBER 14: Mateo Kovacic of Chelsea battles for possession with Dominic Solanke of AFC Bournemouth during the Premier League match between Chelsea FC and AFC Bournemouth at Stamford Bridge on December 14, 2019 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Mateo Kovacic is a Chelsea player with mercurial traits that either enamor fans or leave them with a sense of wanting more out of the Croatian international midfielder. The fans that sing Kovacic’s praises often tout his dribbling, press resistance, and keen talent to link the middle third of the pitch from the defense to the attack. On the other hand, many fans feel that Kovacic is poor defensively and does not track runners, lacks any sort of end product, and cannot play the passes to be direct enough in attacks.

Regardless of which side is more correct, Kovacic’s role in the Chelsea squad has continued to grow and flourish since Thomas Tuchel took over as a manager. Since Kovacic took the number eight and started the 2021/2022 season, he has shown signs that the once criticized aspects of his game are starting to change, and the Croatian has played a highly integral role for the Blues in the new campaign. Although the new season still has plenty of matches to be played, there is ample data to compare and contrast Kovacic on a per 90 basis from the 2020/2021 to 2021/2022 season. How has Kovacic improved in the new season? The below stats analysis attempted to answer this question in an objective manner.

Offensive Metrics

 

Kovacic has improved in all direct measures for goal involvements. Specifically worthwhile are that he is averaging 0.65 assists per 90 minutes in 2021/2022, and this is underpinned by the fact that he has also increased his expected assists since last season and is averaging nearly three times as many expected assists per 90 minutes as he was last season. This is simply a relatively remarkable improvement for Kovacic in an area that he is often criticized for. If he can continue this sort of rate, he will be strongly regarded as Chelsea’s best creative outlet in the squad. However, regression to the mean is likely, as Kovacic has never come close to this sort of production in assists throughout his career.

Additionally, Kovacic has increased his own direct efforts at the opponent’s goal. His shots per 90 is up to 1.54 this season, which is a significant increase from his 1.14 shots per 90 in the 2020/2021 season. Kovacic has also increased his accuracy and eye for goal, despite only having 1 goal in the 2021/2022 season, and this is evidenced by his increased goals per shot on target per 90 minutes.

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