Chelsea have one of the worst records in the Premier League this season when looking only at the second halves of matches. We try to work out what’s going on at Stamford Bridge.

Plenty has gone wrong for Chelsea this season. Drawing to Burnley last weekend is just the latest nadir, but it may well be the lowest of the lot.

There have been losses to other relegation battlers in Nottingham Forest, Everton and Brentford, and Saturday’s result at home to Burnley wasn’t even a defeat.

But the manner of how it arrived might just make it even worse than those losses. Twice they threw away a lead and they ‘lost’ the second half of a game to a team as good as doomed to relegation who had been reduced to 10 men shortly before half-time. It wasn’t a good day at the office.

After Cole Palmer had put Chelsea 1-0 up with a penalty that came from a foul that saw Lorenz Assignon given a second yellow card, it didn’t feel like there was much of a route back into the game for the visitors. Vincent Kompany’s side went into the game having gained just one point from a losing position all season – fewer than every other team in the Premier League.

And yet, Burnley equalised through Josh Cullen just after the break and then fought their way back into the game for a second time later on. This time, after Palmer had expertly put Chelsea in front again, Dara O’Shea powered a header through Djordje Petrovic’s weak grasp to nick a draw.

The result meant Burnley doubled their tally for points gained from a losing position for the campaign – from one to two. That’s still the lowest of every team in the Premier League.

chelsea 2-2 Burnley xg race

And it was 10-man Burnley rather than their big-spending hosts who came closest to grabbing a winner. In the 88th minute, Jay Rodríguez slammed a header against the crossbar from a corner before sending the rebound just over.

The concerning thing for Chelsea is that this second-half capitulation isn’t a particularly new or surprising occurrence.

Only Sheffield United and Burnley have poorer records in the second halves of Premier League matches this season than Chelsea. Mauricio Pochettino’s side have ‘won’ just seven of their 28 second halves; if scorelines after the break were only taken into consideration, Chelsea would have just 27 points this season and would be in the Premier League’s bottom three.

Of course, having a poor record only after half-time isn’t necessarily a problem. Manchester City have only ‘won’ 16 of their 30 second halves this season, with their results based on the second half of matches worth just 55 points – 15 fewer than Liverpool. In the actual league table, City are level with Jürgen Klopp’s table toppers (although they’ve played one game more) and are very much in the title race.

The fact is City don’t need to win as many second halves as other teams because they are so often ahead at the break. They have led at the break in more Premier League games this season (15) than every other team.

But while Chelsea have a decent first-half record, having trailed at half-time a league-low three times in their 28 games, their total of nine first-half leads isn’t enough to make up for their terrible record after the break.

In the second halves of their games this season, as well as the 2-1 ‘defeat’ to 10-man Burnley, there have been 2-1 losses to Brentford and Luton, and a 2-0 loss to Everton. Chelsea have either led or been level at half-time in all of those games. When opponents attack them, they crumble too often.

“It was so easy for them to get to our last third,” Pochettino moaned after Saturday’s draw with Burnley. “We were not aggressive enough in open play and defending set-pieces. We need to improve like a team and be more competitive.”

So, what’s the reason for their meek second-half displays?

Injuries have been a massive problem. They have suffered more than most other sides, with first-team players such as Christopher Nkunku, Ben Chilwell, Reece James, Marc Cucurella and Trevoh Chalobah all missing most of the campaign. Pochettino this week admitted Nkunku is unlikely to play again this season.

There is also the fact Pochettinho’s squad has been thrown together quickly, with lots of young players added and the squad distinctly lacking in experience – particularly in the context of all of their injuries.

The result is that Chelsea have had the youngest substitutes’ benches of all teams in the Premier League this season. The players on their benches have had an average age of just 22 years and 129 days – the best part of two years younger than any other team (Liverpool have had the second-youngest, at 23 years, 361 days).

But even so, Chelsea still have a very strong squad and even their youngsters are very, very good, well paid, and worth a lot of money. On Saturday, for example, while Burnley were turning to 34-year-old Rodríguez, who has five Premier League goals in his last 96 appearances, Josh Brownhill, Charlie Taylor and Joey Gudmundsson, Chelsea brought on Raheem Sterling, Noni Madueke and the highly-rated Alfie Gilchrist.

It wasn’t as though Chelsea ended the game with a terrible team. They still had two £100m midfielders in Enzo Fernández and Moisés Caicedo; they still had an expensive front three in Palmer, Nicolas Jackson and Mykhailo Mudryk; they still had a back four that cost them a combined total of more than £150m. It wasn’t a group against whom Burnley should have had a chance against, particularly a goal and a man down.

chelsea squad depth

So, maybe it’s a question of attitude. Palmer certainly thinks that is a contributing factor.

“It’s poor. It can’t happen, especially when they go down to 10 men,” the midfielder said after the Burnley draw. “The changing room is really down. When they went down to ten men, we were 1-0 up and just got too comfortable. Same story, we kill ourselves every week. It’s got to improve from us as players.”

Perhaps what we are witnessing, then, is the result of a squad being built too quickly. You can’t spend your way to quickly having the kind of team spirit upon which Pochettino’s best Tottenham teams were built. That takes time, so it’s reasonable to suggest that what Chelsea and Pochettino need is time and patience.

But there does also still need to be a stark improvement in the immediate future. Chelsea aren’t going to be able to claw their way back into the top half and potentially into European contention if they keep on ‘losing’ the second halves of their matches.

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