Heading on the up

Chelsea’s 4-2 comeback win against Watford last Saturday not only restored our place in the top four of the Premier League but also highlighted the new aerial prowess of the Blues as we moved to the top of the table for headed goals this season.

With the Blues staring down the barrel of a third straight league defeat, Michy Batshuayi and Cesar Azpilicueta used their heads to turn the tables on the Hornets with the Belgian glancing in Pedro’s cross to level the score after 71 minutes before the Spaniard nodded in Willian’s centre three minutes from time to give us the lead.

Those two crucial strikes raised Chelsea’s tally of headed goals in the league this season to six, making us joint leaders in the category with Arsenal. Having netted a total of 17 goals in nine matches to date, it means that more than a third of them have come through the aerial route thus far.

It is interesting to note that with less than a quarter of the season played, the Blues have already matched our total of headed goals for the 2013/14 and 2015/16 seasons and are just two shy of the eight we managed in our Premier League-winning campaign last season.

Those are pretty meagre totals when you consider the aerial threat which the Blues once posed. During the first seven seasons in which the Premier League maintained records of headed goals (from 2006/07 onwards), Chelsea topped the category three times and never finished lower than eighth.

However, since we last finished in first place in 2012/13 with 16 headed goals (out of a total of 75), we have only cracked the top 10 once, finishing joint fifth in 2014/15 with 10. We were joint 14th in 2013/14, 15th in 2015/16 and joint 12th last season.

Headed Goal By Season - Premier League

Season Headed goals Ranking

2006/07

16

1st

2007/08

10

8th

2008/09

12

6th

2009/10

16

Joint 1st

2010/11

12

6th

2011/12

12

5th

2012/13

16

1st

2013/14

6

Joint 14th

2014/15

10

Joint 5th

2015/16

6

15th

2016/17

8

Joint 12th

Much credit for our re-discovered aerial prowess goes to summer signing Alvaro Morata, who has headed in three of his Premier League goals against Burnley, Everton and Leicester as well as nodding in another in the Champions League against Atletico Madrid.

The other three goals were also netted by players who had not previously scored with their heads in the Premier League. Like Morata, Tiamoue Bakayoko was a summer arrival at the Bridge who notched his first league goal for the Blues when he headed home at Crystal Palace.

Batshuayi had not previously found the net with his head in England (if you don’t include his own goal against Tottenham Hotspur) while Azpilicueta’s go-ahead strike against Watford was just his second headed goal for the Blues following his Champions League effort against Qarabag a month ago.

There is still plenty of time for Chelsea’s other players to get in on the act and add to our tally of aerial goals this season. Having scored with four headers last season, club captain Gary Cahill is a likely candidate to add to the total along with Pedro, who belied his diminutive stature by nodding in three.