Monday, January 30, 2023

Chelsea match Joao Felix needs, but can he be Potter´s solution?

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 11 Jan 2023

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Joao Felix has moved to Chelsea as the latest acquisition in the Todd Boehly era, with the Blues looking to respond after a poor start to the season.

Eliminated from both domestic cup competitions by Manchester City, Graham Potter’s side sit 10th in the Premier League and 10 points adrift of Manchester United in the hunt for a top-four finish.

Joao Felix arrives as yet another attacker in the quest to find a reliable outlet in the final third, joining on loan from Atletico Madrid until the end of the season.

Having failed to fully establish himself in Diego Simeone’s plans after a €126million (£113m) transfer from Benfica in 2019, Joao Felix has a point to prove – though there are questions to be asked as to whether he is the addition Chelsea truly need.

Using Opta data, Stats Perform has delved into the numbers to assess whether Joao Felix can be the man Potter’s side are crying out for or whether he is further evidence of a scattergun transfer market approach by the Blues.

Atletico’s restrictions

Although never scoring more than 10 goals or contributing more than five assists in a single season for Atletico, Joao Felix’s impact has been steadily growing since his first campaign in the Spanish capital.

In 2019-20, the Portugal international averaged a direct goal contribution every 207 minutes, reducing to 157 minutes in 2020-21, 137 minutes last season and 120 minutes this term – where he was already halfway to last season’s mark of 10 goals and had three assists.

Given Simeone’s style does not suit expressive players like Joao Felix, such a return can be taken as a positive sign of his ability in the final third, though a shooting accuracy of 47.29 per cent in LaLiga since 2019-20 ranks him near the bottom of forwards who have scored at least 10 goals in that period.

Atletico create significantly fewer shooting opportunities than many of their European counterparts, however, ranking outside the top 25 for most shots across all competitions in Europe’s top-five leagues since Joao Felix joined. In comparison, Chelsea are fourth.

As Joao Felix has a low conversion rate, the 23-year-old needs more chances in order to increase his goal tally, which Atletico have not been able to provide on a regular basis.

Chelsea’s creative void

Chelsea fans have celebrated just 20 goals in the Premier League this season, with only supporters from the bottom six and Crystal Palace having fewer opportunities to cheer, though that only scratches the surface of the Blues’ issues in the final third.

A shot conversion rate of 10.75 per cent this season is only narrowly behind top-four chasing Manchester United (11.1) and Liverpool (11.6), showing that converting chances is not the issue, but instead lies with the lack of opportunities being created.

Chelsea have had 186 shots in the Premier League this season, only Brentford, Everton, Nottingham Forest and Bournemouth have had fewer, identifying the Blues’ lack of creativity is perhaps a bigger cause for concern than a reliable scorer.

Raheem Sterling stands as Chelsea’s most potent outlet this season with 22 chances created, a figure lower than the highest total of a single player from any of their rivals in the established top-six and European-chasing Newcastle United.

Converting those chances has been another big issue for Chelsea this term, with no player hitting the five-goal mark in the Premier League yet this season and only four players having scored twice or more this term.

Fix it Felix?

With a need to improve creativity and their record in front of goal, Chelsea will look to Joao Felix as a potential fix for both issues – though four goals and 10 chances created in LaLiga for Atletico this season does not suggest an immediate solution.

The biggest question mark over the deal, though, is where exactly Joao Felix fits into Potter’s starting line-up, as neither he nor Kai Havertz are recognised centre-forwards but would likely have to adopt a false nine role.

At Atletico, Joao Felix has had the biggest impact down the left, with 53.95 per cent of his touches this season down that side, while Havertz has been more influential on either flank than he has through the middle.

Perhaps surprisingly, it is Havertz who shows the better capability of being transformed into a more natural option through the middle. Since he arrived at Stamford Bridge in September 2020, he boasts more goals and a higher shooting accuracy than Joao Felix.

The Portuguese’s conversion rate of 15.82 per cent in that period is slightly better than Havertz’s 14.07 per cent but the Germany international has had 20 more attempts at goal, benefitting from Chelsea’s higher volume attacking approach compared to Atletico’s.

On the face of it, Joao Felix does not stand out as the fix that Chelsea are crying out for this season, though the ability for Potter to chop and change his forward three with either Havertz or his new addition through the middle should yield more effectiveness in the final third.

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SoccerNews

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