How Long Can Chelsea Survive Without a Striker?
Chelsea’s 4-0 win over Malmo in the Champions League was a routine victory. Unfortunately, the match saw both of Chelsea’s strikers, Romelu Lukaku and Timo Werner, exit with injuries.
Chelsea, following their Champions League title victory last season, looked poised to challenge for the Premier League title. The addition of Romelu Lukaku in the summer bolstered their attack and gave the squad the talent and depth to compete for multiple major trophies.
With Chelsea’s attack sputtering in the Premier League, Thomas Tuchel opted to play both of his strikers, Lukaku and Timo Werner, against Malmo in the Champions League. What was supposed to be a match to improve his strikers' confidence turned into an ugly affair that saw Lukau leave with an ankle injury and Werner exit with a hamstring issue.
Chelsea hardly missed a beat over the weekend as they squarely defeated Norwich 7-0, but against stronger competition, they could sorely miss a true centre forward. Tuchel was forced to utilise Kai Havertz as his striker, and the young German could be forced to shoulder a heavy minutes load in the coming weeks.
Chelsea appear to be in a strong position to weather an injury storm. They’re atop the Premier League table, have scored a league-leading 23 goals, and have conceded the fewest goals in the league: only three. In terms of results, Chelsea have been the best club in the Premier League and it’s not really a question.
However, Chelsea are riding an unprecedented wave of good fortune. Through nine games, they have produced 11.9 expected goals and allowed 10.1 expected goals against. Their expected goal differential of +1.8, compared to their actual goal differential of +20 is the largest gap in the league by a sizable margin.
No team can be expected to continue to defy their shot quality to this degree, and especially one without their top choice strikers. The problem that Chelsea faces is dire. The combination of poor shot quality and a lack of experienced strikers could see them drop points to relatively weak opponents.
While their upcoming slate of contests features no serious opponents, it doesn’t change the fact that they haven’t been able to consistently generate high-quality chances with their two best goal scorers on the pitch.
24 October 2021, 03:23 GMT
Lukaku and Werner’s absence means Chelsea will have to wait to figure out how to fix their attack. They may be able to keep pace at the top of the Premier League against weak opponents, but eventually, their lack of attacking output will come back to bite them.
Chelsea has an easy slate of fixtures until November 20th when they kick off a run of games against Leicester City, Juventus, and Manchester United. If Lukaku and Werner are not yet fit, Chelsea might see their excellent start to the season slip. Even if the pair are healthy, if they aren’t firing on all cylinders it may not be enough. Chelsea want to win the Premier League, but they’ll need their strikers back in action not just to bag goals, but to help fix an attack that looks primed to sputter.