Football News

“They were taking liberties” – Chelsea’s attack blasted for wasting opportunities in shock Zagreb defeat

By Harry Edwards

Published: 20:13, 6 September 2022

Chelsea’s attack came under fire once again as the Blues were beaten 1-0 by Dinamo Zagreb in their Champions League opener.

Thomas Tuchel’s side haven’t had the best starts to the new season despite breaking the transfer record for most spent in a single window as they look to revamp and rebuild in the Todd Boehly era. But there was optimism as Chelsea traveled to face Dinamo Zagreb on Tuesday evening, a game many expected the Blues to cruise through.

However, the game ended with Chelsea’s third defeat of the season and perhaps their most damning performance, particularly in the first half.

Tuchel started the game with a new-look front line, handing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang his Chelsea debut in a three alongside Raheem Sterling and Kai Havertz, who came off the bench to score the winner against West Ham on Saturday.

The Blues started fairly brightly with the front three linking up well and they had a couple of dangerous opportunities but were let down by a lack of urgency in front of goal. On more than one occasion, Aubameyang opted to pass when a shot would have been better, and those missed moments proved to be costly. With Chelsea committed on the attack, a poor cross from Sterling was intercepted and Zagreb broke – two passes and the Blues defence was unlocked, with Mislav Orsic eventually beating Kepa Arrizabalaga in the one-on-one after outpacing Wesley Fofana.

It was the 10th goal Chelsea have conceded in seven games this season, perhaps signs of a new defence still trying to settle – only Cesar Azpilicueta of the starting back three was at the club before the summer – but the fall has been swift. Last season it took Chelsea 22 games to concede 10 goals and then, of course, they had the excellent defensive record en route to winning the Champions League in 2020/21.

But the bigger problem right now is the attack. In the first half Chelsea had just three shots with only one hitting the target, accumulating an xG of 0.11. Tuchel looked to remedy that in the second half, replacing Azpilicueta with Hakim Ziyech at half-time but the Moroccan had a poor game, summed up by hitting the wall with back-to-back free-kicks from the same position within a matter of minutes.

Chelsea’s chance creation did improve in the second half, as Armando Broja was brought on for Aubameyang and Christian Pulisic for Sterling, but they still didn’t test Dominik Livakovic in the Zagreb goal. Although Chelsea had 12 shots in the second half and had an xG of 0.83 they hit the target just twice and the xG was more about the number of their shots than the quality of the chances.

Regardless the 12 shots could bring a goal for Chelsea and they have now lost three consecutive away games for the first time under Tuchel. And Peter Crouch believes Chelsea’s attack was taking liberties in the first half.

“It was the way they approached the game, I think they took Zagreb far too lightly,” he said of Chelsea’s performance.

“They got in positions, they were cutting them open in the first 15 (minutes), they were taking liberties at times. They were playing a final pass that wasn’t there. Just go and be clinical.

“Aubameyang gets in twice, go and be clinical, go and kill the game and make it easy for yourselves in the second half. Obviously Zagreb then go and get a goal, make it so difficult [and] sit back and Chelsea just couldn’t break them down.

“But I thought they were too lax in every department.”

He added: “If you lose games away from home, a lot if it is down to mentality, to character. There are too many players, I think, in this Chelsea team that you can’t hang your hat on. They’ll have great moments, Havertz, Ziyech, they’re all top players but they’re going to have moments – throughout a whole course of a season are they going to get you away points?

“Are they going to get dig in when the going gets tough? Are they going to get results away from home in Europe? I love them as players but it’s too easy for them at times and as a Chelsea fan that would really frustrate me.”