Ruben Amorim, 90 points, and why Chelsea should beg him

Sporting CP manager Ruben Amorim has just won the league for the second time in his tenure, but this time he dominated the league like no team has ever done. In the past 10 years, only one other team hit 90 points in a Portuguese league season: 2021/22 Porto.

Sporting CP v GD Chaves - Liga Portugal Bwin
Sporting CP v GD Chaves - Liga Portugal Bwin / Carlos Rodrigues/GettyImages

Chelsea has just come from a season where the manager essentially failed in one main duty he is responsible for: defending. This is made worse by the fact that the one thing that can be referred to as the identity of the club, is defensive solidity. 

Chelsea boasts the best goalkeeper (Petr Cech) and arguably the best centerback (John Terry) of the Premier League era. Ashley Cole, a left back, is also considered one of the Blues and Premier League legends. To be poor defensively would be to be unrecognizable as a club. 

Some could argue that Mauricio Pochettino fixed Chelsea’s attack, but that would be a strange statement considering what the numbers actually say. Yes, Chelsea ranked 6th in goals scored (77), but ranked 9th in shots taken and 7th in shots on target taken. 

However, the manager is more responsible for defense than he is the attack, even though he’s also responsible for the attack. Which brings us to the first point of the article: Sporting CP’s defense. 

Amorim’s side defended brilliantly enroute to this league title. Let’s take a closer look at the numbers. 

Sporting averaged about the same portion of possession over the season compared to Chelsea, with the Portuguese side keeping 59.1% of the ball, compared to Chelsea’s 58.9%, yet the club controlled proceedings so well out of possession that Amorim’s men gave away the fewest shots in the league and the fewest shots on target. 

Sporting ranked first for expected goals against (xGA) (26.4), non-penalty expected goals against (npxGA) (23.2), post shot expected goals against or expected goals against based on the quality of shots on target (PSxG) (24.4), and clean sheets (16). 

Amorim’s defensive numbers last season look even better, when you consider that his men conceded the third fewest goals in the league, but the club actually conceded 4.6 goals more than he was expected to. 

This means that Sporting’s keepers did not even have a stellar season shot-stopping-wise, and the team still had an excellent season with regards to goals allowed. That is the hallmark of a team that is setup very well defensively. 

These numbers are in contrast to Chelsea’s defense last season, where Pochettino’s men ranked 9th for xGA (58.1), 9th for npxGA (54.1), 8th for PSxG (52.5) and 10th for clean sheets (8). 

1st, 1st, 1st, and 1st compared to 9th, 9th, 8th, and 10th are let’s just say…eh, different. Amorim has shown that he knows how to set teams up defensively, and the key to competing at the top level is controlling what you can as a manager, which is how your team defends. 

You also cannot make the case that Amorim’s Sporting was excellent defensively due to personnel. Take for example Goncalo Inacio who played 32/34 and started 28/34 games, he kept 13 clean sheets, but he completed 89% of his passes, 53% of his long balls, 55% of his ground duels, and 53% of his aerial duels. 

These numbers are good, but they’re nowhere near as good as you can get for a centerback. Sebastian Coates was considerably better in his duels - extremely good actually - as he won 68% of his ground duels and 80% of his aerials, but was worse than Inacio in his long passing: 89% passing and 48% in long balls. 

None of these centerbacks have posted numbers good enough to explain allowing the fewest shots in a league season by their own doing. 

Sporting’s attacking numbers also indicate that the team is set up well to attack. Sporting doesn’t have any top tier creator, yet the team regularly created a high volume of good goal scoring chances. 

Sporting ranked second for xG (72.5), second for npxG (69.2), third for shots taken per game (16.5), second for big chances gotten per game (3.4), and a distant first for volume of goal scored (96), and goals scored per game (2.8). These ranks show that Amorim put his team in good shooting positions and left the rest to finishing skill.

Sporting’s chance creation also cannot be chucked down to individual brilliance, as the most regular shot creator created two chances per game, good enough for joint-fourth highest in the league. Goncalves did rank 3rd for big chances created league-wide (18).

The Sporting manager had a team with very good shooters though, which is not something he’d have at Chelsea, but we have already established that finishing is not something the manager can control.

Regarding what the manager can control, Amorim did excellently last season, and has been consistently great in his time as Sporting manager. 

Amorim is best placed to fix some of the issues fixable by a manager that Chelsea has currently. His body of work in Portugal is a testament to the fact that he can hold his own amongst other top teams even when outgunned personnel-wise. 

This is why Chelsea should be ultra-focused on the 39 year-old Portuguese manager in the search for a new gaffer. If the manager says he’s not interested, the Blues owners should swallow their pride and simply…beg.