Pochettino is right, but Chelsea is always making it easy - and by design

Chelsea conceded four or more goals once again in a Premier League game as Arsenal ran riot against a bewildered Mauricio Pochettino. This is the fifth time that is happening to Pochettino’s men this season.
Arsenal FC v Chelsea FC - Premier League
Arsenal FC v Chelsea FC - Premier League / Marc Atkins/GettyImages
2 of 3
Thiago Silva
Arsenal FC v Chelsea FC - Premier League / Marc Atkins/GettyImages

Some fans have singled out some centerbacks, like Benoit Badiashile and Axel Disasi as culprits for Chelsea’s leakiness. According to them, when that partnership comes together, it’s a disaster. 

However, looking at the games in which Chelsea has conceded four or more goals this season, here are the centerback partnerships.

The centerbacks had varying levels of performance in all these games, but Badiashile has made more clearances, blocked more shots, completed more tackles, contested more ground duels and more aerial duels than Silva and Disasi in these games. 

Badiashile has also made more errors i.e. errors leading to shots, errors leading to goal, penalties committed, and own goals. 

The story here is not in the centerback pairing in all these games, and by extension, many other games.

For instance, we know that Disasi and Badiashile started as the pairing against Arsenal yesterday, but we also know that the midfield pairing was Enzo Fernandez and Moises Caicedo. Fernandez and Caicedo were also in the pivot for the Newcastle, Manchester City, Wolves, and Liverpool games as well. 

In the Newcastle game, Fernandez and Leslie Ugochukwu actually started in midfield. Right back Reece James got sent off, but the team was already 3-1 down when that happened. Caicedo later came on to make it a Fernandez-Caicedo pivot, but that pivot only played 21 regulation time minutes, allowing one goal from the time Caicedo came on. 

There is a story in the midfield pairing, but it is important to know what that is. Of course, it should be noted that this is the pivot that almost always plays, so they will appear in every game, including heavy wins and heavy defeats. That is also indicative, because Chelsea is defensively frail in almost every game. 

Fernandez and Caicedo in a pivot poses a problem, but they are by no means the sole reason or even the main reason Chelsea concedes so many goals or so many chances. However, their deficiencies make the actual problem so devastating. 

The problem is that Pochettino’s playing style - whatever that is - requires the front four to press so high and so aggressively, in an attempt to unsettle the opposition in high-value areas. This strategy works when you’re able to actually fluster teams and catch them out and get them to lose the ball in compromising areas.

However, because Chelsea plays against professional football teams, sometimes, teams evade the press, and when that happens, it’s literal pandemonium. Games like yesterday happen when the plan to press so high fails from the get-go and the coaching staff makes no adjustment. The Newcastle game and both Manchester United games went in similar directions too. Liverpool at Anfield was the perfect example of how the game will go if the opposition constantly bypasses that press.

When Pochettino said “we made it easy for Arsenal”, it is because we are setup to make it easy for Arsenal, and any other team that bypasses the Blues’ suicidal press. 

It doesn’t end at beating the press though, but that is where Caicedo and Fernandez fall short. Pressing cannot be done half way, so when four players are pressing as aggressively as Chelsea does, there is a tendency for the players behind them to want to push up to make sure that a gap doesn’t appear in midfield.

However, the players in the pivot - Fernandez and Caicedo - are not organized enough out of possession to coordinate between themselves how to go about pushing up. 

In possession, the pivot cannot control the pace of the game. This is particularly damning for Fernandez, as that is supposed to be his role in the team. 

Pochettino’s suicidal press, combined with a positionally suspect midfield pivot, gives you the kind of openness defensively that is seen whenever Chelsea plays.