Once the season is over, Thomas Tuchel will examine where Chelsea’s title challenge fell short.

At the start of December, his side sat at the top of the table, but it looks like the gap to the winners – one of Manchester City or Liverpool – will be in double digits in the final game next month. Such a deficit has been a regular occurrence since Chelsea last won the title in 2017.

Tuchel has spoken regularly about some of the factors, from injury concerns to a COVID-19 outbreak and the sheer number of games his side have had to play. But the German will surely also have to look closer to home.

Chelsea’s form at Stamford Bridge, or lack thereof, is one of the main reasons their rivals were able to catch them and take a lead. Before Chelsea’s home game against Arsenal and after Liverpool beat Manchester United 4-0, the difference in records between the top three is significant:

Home form of the top three in 2021-22

TEAM CHEEK WON DRAWN LOST FOR VERSUS POINTS

liverpool

16

13

3

0

43

7

42

Manchester City

15

11

2

2

42

12

35

chelsea

14

7

5

2

29

14

26

Manchester City are responsible for one of two defeats suffered by Tuchel’s side on home soil, while Liverpool are one of five sides to leave west London with a draw.

While obviously disappointing, it’s not uncommon for a title challenger to lose points to their closest rivals. What came at a high price were the four draws against weaker opposition in relegation contenders Burnley and Everton, Brighton in mid-table and one of Manchester United’s worst sides in years. Then there was the shock 4-1 loss earlier this month to Brentford, a talented group but one against whom Chelsea are unlikely to lose. These results make the difference between Chelsea still being on the hunt and not. Their away record is more than enough to be in contention as they have collected two points more than Liverpool and only three less than Manchester City. The fact that Chelsea have taken the lead in four of those five home games mentioned above makes the end result an even bigger surprise.

A poor performance at Stamford Bridge is also the reason why their Champions League defense ended in the quarter-finals. They have reason to regret missing a few key chances and making defensive mistakes at the Bernabeu last week, but it was the 3-1 first-leg loss to Real Madrid that saw them quit. competition.

All of this is in stark contrast to what they accomplish on the road. Their 3-2 win at Real Madrid, albeit in vain, set a new club record of eight consecutive away wins. This does not take into account their loss to Liverpool on penalties in the Carabao Cup final (the match ended 0-0 after extra time), nor the 2-0 victory over Crystal Palace in the semi-finals of the FA Cup on Sunday.

The inconsistency was particularly highlighted this month. It started with 4-1 and 3-1 home defeats to Brentford and Real Madrid respectively and was followed by 6-0 and 3-2 scores against Southampton and Real Madrid away from Stamford Bridge.

Asked about the disparity recently, Tuchel admitted he was a bit baffled by it all. He said, “It’s like that and I don’t know why. Normally home games give you an advantage – it’s statistical.

“I don’t know if that’s the situation, that after the great success of (winning) the Champions League last season, maybe the teams play their games at Stamford Bridge first not to lose or with a bit more defensive approach and we struggle a bit to break them down.When we’re out they (their opponents) are pushed to win their home games and that opens things up a bit for us.

“It could be anything. Maybe we feel pressure, maybe it’s bad luck. It may be a mixture of everything. I haven’t dug into that so far. We’ll be looking at it over a longer range of games, because only then can you see a pattern.

Comparing some of the main statistical categories – including things like expected goals (xG), xG per shot (which measures the average quality of a given shot), xG against and xG per shot against – doesn’t show a significant difference in performance.

These numbers slightly favor the away record, but not by much. Chelsea are averaging fewer shots on the road (16.1 home – 14 away), but are of slightly better quality (xG per shot) away from Stamford Bridge (0.1 home – 0 ,12 outside). Their expected goals are also better (1.6 vs. 1.8 per game).

Defensively, there’s nothing between home and away it seems. Maybe Chelsea are a bit lucky to concede fewer goals (0.6 per 90) than they gave up chances (0.9 per 90) away from home.

So what else could be responsible? The loss of left-back Ben Chilwell to a serious knee injury in November cannot be ignored. He’s a key part of Tuchel’s attacking game plan and, despite the best efforts of those who replaced him, Chelsea haven’t looked as balanced or as effective. Saying that, he started the 1-1 draw with Burnley.

Romelu Lukaku’s failure to make much of an impact after his £97.5million move from Inter Milan has to be taken into consideration. Even though his detractors see him as a bully on flat ground, that’s exactly what Chelsea could have done this season, but he has scored just five times in the Premier League. Their other forwards, Timo Werner and Kai Havertz, have just 10 goals between them in the Premier League.

Manchester City have been able to maintain their high standards without a proven centre-forward, however, so perhaps Tuchel should address the lack of creativity.

His preferred 3-4-2-1 formation makes Chelsea difficult to play against, but leaves no room for many players to provide a bit of flair to smash opponents. The central midfielders who are selected to play the most in the two central roles – N’Golo Kante, Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic – have an assist return of four, two and five respectively in the Premier League. All six of Jorginho’s goals came from penalties, with Kante and Kovacic each getting a brace. As valued as the trio are in general team play, could Tuchel get more attacking output from that area of ​​the pitch, especially in home games when, as he admits, opponents tend to sit and defend?

Maybe the formation needs to change more often, to go more attacking, although it’s worth pointing out that Tuchel played with four at the back when Brentford went wild.

It was after this game that Tuchel complained about the lack of atmosphere at Stamford Bridge, which former manager Jose Mourinho also complained about during his tenure. Still, for the most part, the crowd has been pretty optimistic this season. Also, a lack of atmosphere is usually a sign of team performance.

Tuchel favors the more defensive side of the game, however, and as revealed Athleticism earlier this year, his rotation and treatment of attacking players didn’t help matters.

Despite the importance of clean sheets, Chelsea have kept just 10 in 24 games (in all competitions) played at Stamford Bridge during the 2021-22 campaign. There has been some defensive downturn as, after taking over in January last year, Tuchel had 10 clean sheets in his first 13 home games as manager to see out the 2020-21 season. Individual errors were as much to blame as problems with tactical setup.

But a look at the chart below shows that this is not just a recent phenomenon. Since racking up 51 points in 19 games when they were last crowned five years ago, they’ve fallen far short of those standards. The best return was Maurizio Sarri’s 42 points in 2018-19. Meanwhile, Manchester City and Liverpool have generally made the most of home advantage, as these numbers show:

Home form of top three since 2017-18

TEAM CHEEK WON DRAWN LOST FOR VERSUS POINTS

Manchester City

91

73

8

ten

260

68

227

liverpool

92

70

16

6

224

63

226

chelsea

90

50

24

16

159

76

174

As you can see, aside from the goals scored column, Chelsea rank significantly lower in all departments compared to Manchester City and Liverpool. This suggests that attacking play and the ability to take risks is an issue that has been around for some time and has yet to be addressed.

It’s Tuchel’s first full season in charge at Chelsea, so he deserves patience. Reaching six major finals in less than 18 months proves he’s far more right than wrong.

When asked last week what he needs to do to close the gap to Manchester City and Liverpool, Tuchel replied: “We know we are competing with maybe the two most consistent teams and can -to be the best in Premier League history right now. But I must say that I like it. It gets you out of bed early and we won’t stop thinking about how we can bridge the gap.

“This season is not over, we are still fighting and we must not stop (trying) to collect as many points as possible and then we will put a line below, analyze it, try to find what is good and where we can still grow.They are the example and we will not give in.

The dominant teams at Stamford Bridge will again be a great starting point.

(Photo: Pedro Salado/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images)

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