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Saturday, February 24, 2024

How Pochettino can shore up Chelsea’s leaky defence –

Chelsea return to Premier League action tonight with their 4-2 home humbling at the hands of Wolves still fresh in the memory. 

An impressive FA Cup win at Aston Villa lifted the mood last week — but there are still major concerns about the Blues’ porous defence.

Mauricio Pochettino’s side have conceded 39 times in the league this season, shipping eight goals in their last two top-flight matches.

Ahead of the trip across London to face Crystal Palace, we consider how those defensive issues can be addressed.

Redressing the balance

Despite struggling under both Graham Potter and Frank Lampard last season, Chelsea did manage to keep things relatively tight.

The Blues conceded 47 goals over the course of the 2022-23 league campaign and are on course to surpass that total with 15 games still to play this term.

Pochettino, 51, has managed to solve some of the previous inefficiencies in attack, with his side scoring at a rate of 1.65 goals per match.

But that emphasis on offensive football has led to an imbalance and an inability to keep clean sheets.

With centre-backs Axel Disasi and Benoit Badiashile — who is out injured once again — yet to fully convince alongside Thiago Silva, Chelsea have proved too easy to cut through.

They have conceded 202 shots from inside the box, significantly more than the division’s most dominant sides in Manchester City (122) and Arsenal (126) prior to Matchday 24.

The lack of familiarity between a constantly-changing back four has been a clear issue, as has Moises Caicedo’s inconsistent start to life as the team’s holding midfielder.

Chelsea have been vulnerable at the back throughout the season

Eye off the ball

This is not a new issue for Chelsea.

Pochettino raised concerns back in November after his team had conceded four against both Manchester City and Newcastle.

He said: “We need to be more focused and concentrated.

“We concede goals so easily. We are disappointed with that.

Mauricio Pochettino has come under increasing pressure in recent weeks
Mauricio Pochettino has come under increasing pressure in recent weeks

“It’s a thing that we always talk about and we need to try to be solid in our defensive line.

“But it’s not only about the defence. It’s about our performance as a group.”

The Argentine has been unable to find a long-term solution since then, particularly against the best teams in the league.

It could mean a change in shape over the coming weeks.

Three at the back

Chelsea have been too open defensively so far this season
Chelsea have been too open defensively so far this season

A switch to a back three could be one potential solution.

Silva and Disasi have been exposed far too regularly this season, while Malo Gusto has blown hot and cold at full-back.

The inclusion of an extra centre-back could provide some security and take the pressure off Caicedo and Enzo Fernandez, who have struggled in the engine room.

A simple formation change is unlikely to remedy the entire issue, though, with focus and concentration levels needing to improve regardless of Pochettino’s system.

There were some promising signs in the Cup win at Villa — but Chelsea will need to build on that to climb the table.

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