A year since Graham Potter was sacked: Have Chelsea actually got any better and where do they still need to improve?

A year ago today, Graham Potter was sacked by Chelsea after less than seven months in charge. 

At the time of his dismissal, Potter had suffered 11 defeats in 31 games after replacing Thomas Tuchel, and Chelsea were 11th in the Premier League, 12 points off the top four despite having spent more than £550 million on players.  

Following Frank Lampard’s short interim spell at the end of last season, Mauricio Pochettino took charge of the club in the summer but has so far failed to achieve the improvements fans had hoped for in the Premier League.

Chelsea remain 11th in the table and are 19 points adrift of fourth-place Aston Villa. Their latest setback came in a 2-2 draw with struggling Burnley at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, who played with ten men for more than a half of football.

It begs the question then – have Chelsea improved at all since Graham Potter departed the club? Hayters TV’s Andrew Smith and Dan Bennett look into whether that is the case…

The most important numbers

After losing 2-0 at home to Aston Villa on April 2 last year, Chelsea parted ways with Potter with the club 11th in the Premier League table. Unlike Pochettino, Potter replaced Tuchel in early September so did not have the luxury of pre-season to instill his methods and philosophy into the team.

Chelsea were also competing in the Champions League that year, which put added pressure on Potter’s shoulders. With Pochettino being afforded more benefits than Potter was, a less busy schedule and a pre-season to work with the team, the hope was that there would be a marked improvement in their league form.

However, Chelsea are just two points better off than this time last year. Their goal difference of +2 is slightly better than the -1 Potter had when he departed but crucially, Chelsea are still in the exact same league position as when Potter left.

Potter was in charge for 22 Premier League games at Chelsea, while Pochettino has reached 28 games in charge so far following the draw with Burnley at the weekend. The Argentine does boast a better win percentage in the Premier League, 38.29% compared to Potter’s 31.82%, but with little improvement in overall points and position.

Pochettino’s side are scoring goals at a better rate, 49 so far in the Premier League under his management compared to just 21 under Potter, but are still only the ninth-highest scoring team in the league.

They are conceding way more than under Potter too, letting in 47 league goals, which ranks tenth for most goals conceded among Premier League teams this season, compared to Potter’s 21.

Chelsea rank slap bang in the middle of the table for the two most important statistics in football, so it is not surprising they find themselves in that position in the actual league standings.

Where Pochettino has made progress with Chelsea is in cup competitions. Reaching the Carabao Cup final will be viewed as an achievement by the Chelsea hierarchy, even if Liverpool’s youthful side overpowered them in extra-time when the game was there to be won. 

Chelsea are also into the FA Cup semi-finals after beating Leicester City in the previous round. However, Potter had the difficult task of facing treble-bound Manchester City in both competitions last season, which resulted in two defeats.

The numbers across all competitions are more positive for Pochettino. In 40 games with Chelsea compared to Potter’s 31, his 47.5% winning percentage is significantly better than Potter’s 38.71%.  

Pochettino has lost one more game overall, but the clear progression is again with goals scored, with Chelsea scoring 75 goals under the Argentine as opposed to the 33 they notched up under Potter’s shorter reign in charge. But Pochettino’s side have let in 57 goals compared to Potter’s 31 in all competitions.

Why have defensive standards slipped? 

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Chelsea are currently on course to set a club record for most goals conceded since the Premier League’s inception in 1992. 

Should they concede eight more league goals this season, they will match the 55 goals that previous Chelsea sides conceded in the 1994-95 and 1996-97 seasons.  

It seems like Chelsea will match that unwanted record, particularly when you consider the level of opposition they are conceding goals to. In five consecutive games, Chelsea have conceded two goals in games against Leeds, Brentford, Newcastle United, Leicester and Burnley.

Pochettino blamed a lack of energy without the ball for his side’s draw with Burnley on Saturday, claiming his players did not reach even the minimum levels required to win.

A lack of intensity and aggression without the ball has been a factor in their poor defensive record. Teams playing against Chelsea have averaged five shots on target per 90 minutes this season, according to FBref, the eighth most in the league. 

They also make far too many defensive mistakes, with their 16 errors leading to opposition shots the third highest in the league, as per FBref. 

Under-par goalkeeping performances have played a part too, with FBref data showing that Chelsea’s goalkeepers have conceded five more goals than would be expected based on the expected goals numbers. Djordje Petrovic failing to keep out Dara O’Shea’s header on Saturday ultimately cost them a point, while Robert Sanchez was less than convincing during his spell in the team earlier this season.

Add the different factors together and there is plenty Pochettino and Chelsea need to work on if they are to improve defensively. 

Signs of progress?

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There has been some encouragement for Pochettino. Their cup form and some of the underlying numbers do suggest that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Chelsea rank fifth for expected goals this season, demonstrating that they are creating good opportunities and that it is poor finishing or great goalkeeper performances that are preventing them from progressing.

Poor finishing is certainly a big reason why they have not scored more. According to the Premier League’s numbers, Chelsea have missed the third most big chances in the top-flight this season.

Liverpool rank second on that list but unlike the Reds, they do not shoot at a high volume, ranking just 13th for shots taken.

But the numbers do suggest that by recruiting better finishers, or with improvement by the players already at the club in front of goal, Chelsea can kick on based on the quality of the chances they create.

Pochettino said exactly that last week: “If you look at all the parameters that are used on radio, TV and in newspapers we should be in the top four.”

Unfortunately, the numbers he is referring to have not resulted in actual progress in the Premier League table, and the steps forward Pochettino and Chelsea have made in some areas have been nullified by the regression in others. There is still a long way to go to get back to where the supporters expect their club to be.

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