With Chelsea stumbling their way through the 2022-23 Premier League season despite spending eye-watering amounts on a host of talented players, it’s worth analysing just how poorly this season stacks up in Chelsea’s recent history. The results aren’t pretty…
As Elton John said in his appropriately named song, I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues: “I could honestly say, that things can only get better…”
Chelsea fans will be hoping the same after defeat at Arsenal on Tuesday saw them fall to a 14th loss in the Premier League this season, with five games still remaining.
They are without a win in nine in all competitions (D2 L7) and have lost four consecutive Premier League matches for the first time since March 1998, only once having a longer losing run in the competition than this (six games in November 1993).
It has been a strange season for the Blues, to say the least, somehow managing to marry up lavish spending with underwhelming performances and results, only ever combined to such effect when your dad tried to play Football Manager for the first and only time on Christmas Day.
When the club’s co-owner Todd Boehly replaced Thomas Tuchel with Graham Potter in September, it felt like the dawn of a new era. A new Chelsea, a new direction. Technically, it was.
Despite some impressive additions on paper last summer and plenty more in January – including making World Cup winner Enzo Fernandez the most expensive midfielder in history – Chelsea just haven’t been able to make things click, and the more familiar trait of the club to change the manager at the first sign of trouble returned, though it was also difficult to argue with the decision to axe Potter given the mire they were in.
Frank Lampard returned for a caretaker stint, and it’s fair to say that hasn’t worked either, with the former England midfielder losing all six games in charge so far. In fact, Lampard has now lost each of the last 10 matches he’s taken charge of across all competitions (four for Everton, six for Chelsea), becoming the first English manager to lose 10 in a row in the same season while in charge of a team in England’s top-flight since Arthur Cox in February 1988 with Derby County.
It has been a collective effort to get Chelsea into this mess though, with an inability to find the net a particular issue.
Only Wolves (29) and the three teams in the relegation zone (Nottingham Forest – 30, Everton – 27 and Southampton – 28) have scored fewer than Chelsea’s 31 Premier League goals. Everton (25%) are the only side with a worse big chance conversion percentage than Chelsea’s 26.7%, while only the Toffees (6.4%) have a worse overall non-penalty shot conversion than the Blues (6.9%).
It isn’t just that they are missing plenty of chances either, Chelsea also aren’t creating enough. They are just 10th in the league for total shots (410), and 13th for expected goals (42.1), even behind Leeds United (43.9).
Their profligacy has certainly increased since Lampard’s return, though, scoring just twice in six games across all competitions from an xG total of 6.3.
So far, Chelsea have failed to score in 13 of their 33 league games, already at least two more than any other season in the Premier League era, and they’d need to score 15 in their final five games just to equal their worst ever goal return in a Premier League season (46 in 1995-96). Such an avalanche of goals looks unlikely.
In fact, if they even fail to score another 11 over the next few weeks, Chelsea’s goals return will be their worst in a league season in 99 years (31 in 1923-24) – the current worst in that period was the 42 they managed in 42-game 1974-75 season. That saw them relegated.
Could a repeat be on the cards? Well, probably not. The Opta supercomputer considers the chance of such a scenario to be miniscule, instead estimating their most likely finishing position this year as 12th (35.5%). But still, that shouldn’t distract from just how poor Chelsea have been.
Following the 3-1 loss to Arsenal on Wednesday, Lampard’s men have a goal difference of minus seven. They haven’t finished a season with a negative goal difference since 1994-95 (-5) and are still 11 points behind their worst ever points return in the Premier League era (50 in 1995-96 and 2015-16).
That’s clearly a record Lampard and Chelsea players will be keen to avoid. But, honestly, the outlook in that regard is bleak when you consider they’ve only lost more in a Premier League season twice: in the 1993-94 season (17), when there were 42 games, and the 1997-98 campaign (15).
It has been a quite astonishingly bad campaign considering the amount of money spent on the squad, with more anticipated to come. The reported arrival of Mauricio Pochettino in the dugout and Christopher Nkunku from RB Leipzig ahead of next season would normally be the source of much excitement, but you can imagine the Argentine coach and France international both walking into Stamford Bridge like the Donald Glover in Community meme, obliviously carrying pizzas in while the apartment is burning down.
It doesn’t need to be all doom and gloom for Chelsea fans, though. They’ll all be familiar with just how quickly things can change.
As former Blues midfielder Cesc Fabregas said on Sky Sports on Tuesday after the Arsenal defeat: “Six years ago, we had a really bad season with Chelsea, we finished 10th if I remember correctly. Jose Mourinho left… and I remember in April, they signed [Antonio] Conte, who came to the training ground, spoke to us individually, planned what we wanted to do to start fresh [in] the new season, and we won the Premier League… If you bring someone in who has the experience, the character, who can put everyone together and give clear ideas of what he wants to do and work hard and bring everyone on board, it’s doable.”
Indeed, it was an awful campaign for Chelsea in 2015-16, claiming just 50 points, winning only 12 games and finishing in 10th place. The very next season they accumulated 93 points, winning 30 matches and finishing top, seven points ahead of Pochettino’s Tottenham.
Should he get the job, and if ‘Poch’ can have the same kind of revolutionary impact on what is undoubtedly still a very talented Chelsea squad, there is reason to think a significant improvement could be on the horizon.
For the time being though, with Bournemouth, Forest, Manchester City, Manchester United and Newcastle United still to come before they can put this season behind them, all the Blues can do is focus on limiting the number of ‘worst since’ stats that can be thrown at them.