Shot happy

Saturday’s win over Crystal Palace saw Chelsea register the most shots in a single match since beating Sunderland on the last day of the 2016/17 season, but how do the two games compare?

The latest match at Stamford Bridge saw Willian open the scoring after 25 minutes and our lead was extended before half-time through a Martin Kelly own goal, before a late strike by former Chelsea full-back Patrick van Aanholt gave the game a final scoreline of 2-1 to the Blues, which didn’t tell the full story of our domination.

A more accurate reflection of the proceedings is the 27 shots Chelsea managed during the match, our most in the Premier League since we went one better with 28 attempts on Sunderland’s last visit to SW6. That came on the same day as we lifted last season’s league trophy and was in a far less competitive atmosphere, seeing as we had already been crowned champions the previous week and Sunderland’s relegation to the Championship had long been confirmed.

That 5-1 victory saw a brief scare, when the Black Cats opened the scoring early on through Javi Manquillo, but we were soon level, Wilian getting our first goal of that game too. Eden Hazard and Pedro then gave us a comfortable lead, followed by Michy Batshuayi’s late cameo to score twice in injury time and put the icing on our title cake.

So the Sunderland match certainly saw us having more luck with all those shots, scoring three more goals, and we were also seemed more dominant in general, enjoying 70.5 per cent of the possession, as compared to 62.3 per cent against Crystal Palace.

However, it is not quite so clear cut as that, as we also had narrowly more touches of the ball during the Eagles’ visit, 826 to 813, despite that lower possession statistic, and actually got more of our shots on target too, doing so 11 times, whereas our five goals against Sunderland came from just eight shots on target.

So what made the difference? We hit the woodwork once in each game, Marcos Alonso with an early free-kick against Sunderland and Olivier Giroud in the second half against Palace, but the crucial contrast in fortunes seems to have come in our opposition’s dogged defensive determination this season.

While the eight shots blocked by the Mackems is one more than by the Eagles, three of those blocks by our fellow Londoners were all clearances off the line preventing a certain goal, by Kelly, James Tomkins (above) and Aaron Wan-Bissaka, which alone accounts for the difference between the scorelines from the two matches.

The two goalkeepers we faced also had an impact, with Wayne Hennessey (above) making seven saves on Saturday, compared to just three by Jordan Pickford last season.

Willian was our most prolific shot-taker, with 11 efforts across the two games. His five against Sunderland were the joint-most alongside substitute Michy Batshuayi, but the Brazilian managed one less than Giroud’s seven against Palace.

Both games also demonstrated our wing-backs’ willingness to get forward and threaten the opposition’s goal, with Victor Moses and Alonso managing seven shots between them against Sunderland, Alonso and Davide Zappacosta hitting the exact same figure during the Palace fixture.

The award for the most accurate finisher in the more recent game goes to Willian, who got four of his five shots against Palace on target, scoring one goal, but surprisingly Batshuayi was the only person on either team to register more than one shot on target at the Bridge on the last day of last season, with two of those three also finding the back of the net.