How does Chelsea’s newest signing, Raphinha, fit in with the Blues?

Brazil team-mates Raphinha of Leeds United and Thiago Silva of Chelsea (Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images)
Brazil team-mates Raphinha of Leeds United and Thiago Silva of Chelsea (Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images) /

Chelsea has now officially agreed to a fee with Leeds United for Raphinha, for around £65 million, including add-ons. The Blues have also agreed a loan deal with Inter Milan for Romelu Lukaku, and Lukaku leaving meant that they needed to bring some attackers in as soon as possible with preseason right around the corner. The imminent Raphinha transfer definitely comes with a lot of excitement, as new signings often do. However, Chelsea has serious problems right now and every signing has to play a huge part in resolving those issues.

It’s public knowledge that the Blues attackers were not prolific last season as they performed poorly compared to Liverpool‘s forwards. Truth be told, they were more on par with Manchester City’s forwards. A noticeable difference between Chelsea and its rivals was the lack of quality chance created per game; Liverpool created 3.5 big chances per game, Man City created 3.2 big chances per game, and Chelsea? Just 2.5. This means that the Blues created 38 big chances less than Liverpool. In addition to this, Chelsea took less shots per game (15.6) than Liverpool (19.2) and Man City (18.8). These things seem small when you assess them on a game-by-game basis, but they add up to a massive differential at the end of the season. It is then clear that the Blues have a problem with creating chances.

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How does Raphinha fit into the current Chelsea team and help solve issues?

Raphinha is a left-footed winger who played mainly on the right wing for Leeds United last season. Thus, he should be an addition who can help solve these issues. The question is: how? For context, the Brazilian right winger made 119 shot creating actions last season. Mason Mount is the only Chelsea player that made more. It is true that the Leeds man played 549 more minutes, however, Mount played with significantly better players.

As things stand, Raphinha has the potential to be adding to be adding 3.67 shots per game. Out of Chelsea’s attackers that played up to 1,000 minutes last season in the Premier League, Hakim Ziyech averaged the highest number of shot creations per 90 (4.37). However, the Blues are likely going to lose Ziyech in this window—he’s being linked to AC Milan—and Raphinha will probably get more minutes than Ziyech did. He will also be playing with better players than he did at Leeds, so he can definitely add even more shots per game to his arsenal.

Raphinha also created 1.9 chances per game, but again, it’s important to remember the team he played in. The 25-year-old created more chances per game than any Chelsea forward. In a better team, it’s reasonable to expect those numbers to increase. Reece James and Mount are the Blues’ best shot and chance creators by volume at the moment. Adding Raphinha to those two in the line-up could put Chelsea on par with its rivals in terms of chance creation, which is an exciting prospect. Raphinha is a very similar play to Ziyech in that he prefers to occupy the wide areas and cut in. This is not the only area he excels in either.

Raphinha also adds something special to the Chelsea team with his off the ball work. He’s used to a pressing system and so he will not find it difficult to adapt to Thomas Tuchel’s style when he needs to press in the final third. Raphinha won 24 possessions in the final third last season in the Premier League for Leeds, more than any Chelsea player. His dribbling will also be a welcome addition, as he completed 2.07 dribbles per 90 according to SofaScore. That number—similar to many of his others—is more than any Chelsea forward during the recently concluded campaign.  Overall, Raphinha’s creativity, work rate and dribbling will go a long way in helping the Blues with their shot creation issues. Add this to his goalscoring ability and Chelsea could be getting a bargain with its first signing of the summer.

Statistics are from fbref and SofaScore.

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