Chelsea’s lack of killer instinct is incredibly worrisome

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 20: Callum Hudson-Odoi of Chelsea looks on during the Premier League match between Leicester City and Chelsea at The King Power Stadium on November 20, 2021 in Leicester, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
LEICESTER, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 20: Callum Hudson-Odoi of Chelsea looks on during the Premier League match between Leicester City and Chelsea at The King Power Stadium on November 20, 2021 in Leicester, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images) /

Despite dominating at the first half whistle, the Chelsea players looked at a loss, having done pretty much everything they could against Manchester United but score. The Blues had bossed possession, pressed the Red Devils, forced errors all over the pitch and made the visitors retreat so far they were almost defending on Fulham Road. The lack of goals was not for a lack of chances though. Callum Hudson-Odoi forced a smart save from David de Gea just three minutes into the game then Antonio Rudiger forced the Spaniard to tip a shot onto the bar. Rudiger, Thiago Silva, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Timo Werner all had headed attempts deflected or directed wide.

Chelsea was doing everything and United couldn’t get out of its own half. Still goalless at the half. Through an uncharacteristic mistake from Jorginho on the halfway line, a frantic Man United hoofed clearance just five minutes into the second half ended with Jadon Sancho slotting the ball past Edouard Mendy on a two-on-zero break. How Man United scored should not be much of a concern to Thomas Tuchel and the Chelsea coaches. Certainly, Jorginho could have picked a better way to play the ball considering he was the last defender. On the other hand, he would likely control that ball with ease nine times out of 10. That’s just football.

If you wanted to belabor the point you could argue that it was a moment of rashness by the Blues for not leaving a natural defender as the last man back. Chelsea pushing all the defenders forward was solely down to the fact it had a great set piece opportunity and had dominated the game, racked up the corners and 49 minutes in were still without a goal. Even if that is the case, that shouldn’t be what worries Tuchel. What should worry the German boss is that at 49 minutes it was still 0-0. Goalscoring is what held the Blues back last season, and it is still a lack of killing off games they have been dominating that is the cause for the greatest concern at Cobham.

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Chelsea’s lack of a killer instinct should be very worrisome to Thomas Tuchel

Chelsea spent £97.5 million on Romelu Lukaku for a reason: goals. While Lukaku showed an elite goalscoring touch in the opening games of the season, the goals, his movement and his finishing have failed to spark since that match. Of course, there is the niggling injury the Belgian has had to overcome. Certainly, if fully fit and firing, he would have been starting and likely would have had at least one golden opportunity over 90 minutes. Tuchel started Timo Werner who, while tireless as usual in his running and effort, still lacks the goalscoring boots he had at RB Leipzig. To make matters harder for Werner, Man United played so deep that he rarely had any room to run.

Chelsea’s lack of finishing against the Red Devils is not down to Lukaku only appearing for eight minutes. Hudson-Odoi, Werner, Loftus-Cheek, Rudiger, Reece James and Hakim Ziyech all spurned good opportunities to get on the goal sheet. The issue runs far deeper than just a stubborn Man United defence and Rudiger blazing a last-minute shot over the bar.

On Nov. 6, the Blues dominated Burnley and should have thrashed the Clarets. Instead, Burnley took advantage of a bit of skewed defending and stole a point to take back up the M1. The game before, Chelsea relentlessly pressured Malmo with 73 percent possession and 11 shots on target compared to Malmo’s 0, but left Eleda Stadion with just a 1-0 victory. Even a 3-0 win over Newcastle belies the struggles Chelsea had with breaking down a stubborn low block.

The Brentford, Southampton (in both the Carabao Cup and Premier League), Zenit and Aston Villa (Carabao Cup) matches all are examples of the Blues struggling to convert their domination into goals. Yes, the Blues were able to come away with wins from all of those games, so it’s not a make or break issue. Nevertheless, Chelsea has Liverpool breathing down its neck and Man City is also picking up steam. Both City and Liverpool have no issue turning the screw and finding the back of the net. For Chelsea to struggle to break down a team once makes sense, the Premier League is the toughest league in the world. For a team of the Blues’ calibre to struggle more than that, it smacks almost of carelessness.

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The draws against Man United and Burnley sandwiched dominant wins over Leicester City (3-0) and Juventus (4-0), but with the Blues looking to compete on four fronts this season, they cannot afford any carelessness to seep into their play. You can be sure Liverpool and Man City will not.