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Who Should Chelsea sign at RW? A deep dive statistical review

SanCHO2020? Zaha to secure our top four hopes this season? Ziyech to be the left-footed right-winger we've been missing since Robben...

SanCHO2020? Zaha to secure our top four hopes this season? Ziyech to be the left-footed right-winger we've been missing since Robben left? As usual, our opinions as fans are partially biased, so it's time to dive into the statistics of Chelsea's current wingers in comparison to Chelsea's rumoured RW targets.

Willian's output leaves a lot more to be desired in a system that emphasises creating high-quality chances which requires clinical finishing and creativity, characteristics that Willian does not possess in abundance. Pedro, 32, is no longer good enough to be a top winger at a top club, but his service at Chelsea has been commendable. Pulisic and Hudson-Odoi are not as effective at RW, so naturally, Chelsea needs to splash the cash for a RW to bolster the attack to propel us into title challengers next season.

I will be comparing the 2019/2020 season league statistics of Chelsea's current wingers and each of our respective rumoured targets. There are a few disclaimers: 1) Hudson-Odoi & O. Dembélé have had limited minutes this season after each suffering injuries, thus their numbers are skewed positively and negatively in some areas and should be re-evaluated once they have played more this season & 2) whilst these statistics focus on an individual's talents, they are naturally impacted by a multitude of factors which should be taken with a pinch of salt (quality and style of the league, quality of teammates, the system they play in, their role in the team etc).
Goals per game

Chelsea simply needs more goals at RW, the next RW signing should be a proven goal scorer.
  1. Sancho - 0.6 goals per game
  2. Bailey & Pulisic - 0.4 goals per game
  3. Boga & Ziyech - 0.3 goals per game
  4. Dembélé, Chukwueze & Zaha - 0.2 goals per game
  5. Willian - 0.1 goals per game
  6. Hudson-Odoi - 0 goals per game (albeit because he hasn't scored in the league this season)
xGoals per game

A more useful statistic is expected goals (xG) which measures the quality of a shot based on several variables such as assist type, shot angle and distance from goal, whether it was a headed shot and whether it was defined as a big chance. Adding up a player or team’s expected goals can give an indication of how many goals a player or team should have scored on average, given the shots they have taken. It shows if a player is overperforming (being clinical) or underperforming (not being clinical enough) based on the quality of their chances and is a useful guide to see how a player is performing over time.
  1. Pulisic - 0.53 xG per game (underperforming by 0.13 goals per game)
  2. Sancho - 0.4 xG per game (overperforming by 0.2 goals per game)
  3. Ziyech - 0.38 xG per game (underperforming by 0.08 goals per game)
  4. Bailey - 0.36 xG per game (overperforming by 0.04 goals per game, largely in line with xG)
  5. Dembélé - 0.33 xG per game (underperforming by 0.13 goals per game)
  6. Hudson-Odoi - 0.28 xG per game (underperforming by 0.28 goals per game, shows how 'unlucky' CHO has been)
  7. Chukwueze - 0.25 xG per game (underperforming by 0.05 goals per game)
  8. Boga & Willian - 0.21 xG per game (Boga overperforming by 0.09 goals per game and Willian underperforming by 0.11 goals per game)
  9. Zaha - 0.12 xG per game (overperforming by 0.08 goals per game)
xGoals / shots per game

Whilst having a high xG is a great indication of how good a player is in front of goal, another useful stat is how many shots they take in respect of their xGoals (xGoals per game divided by shots per game) which shows how efficient or how wasteful they are.

  1. Hudson-Odoi - 0.7 xG / shots per game (skewed by his limited game time)
  2. Dembélé - 0.26 xG / shots per game
  3. Sancho - 0.18 xG / shots per game
  4. Pulisic - 0.17 xG / shots per game
  5. Bailey - 0.15 xG / shots per game
  6. Chukwueze - 0.104 xG / shots per game
  7. Boga 0.100 xG / shots per game
  8. Ziyech - 0.0729 xG / shots per game
  9. Willian - 0.0712 xG / shots per game
  10. Zaha 0.0698 xG / shots per game
xAssists per game

Another useful statistic to measure a player's creativity is expected assists (xA) which measures the likelihood that a given pass will become a goal assist. It considers several factors including the type of pass, pass end-point and length of pass. Adding up a player or team's expected assists gives us an indication of how many assists a player or team should have had based on their build-up and attacking play. Similarly to xG / shots taken per, the more passes a player makes, the more likely their xA will be higher, thus xA should be taken with a pinch of salt in respect to how many passes a player makes.
  1. Ziyech - 0.39 xAssists per game
  2. Sancho - 0.37 xAssists per game
  3. Bailey & Hudson-Odoi - 0.36 xAssists per game
  4. Willian - 0.3 xAssists per game
  5. Chukwueze - 0.29 xAssists per game
  6. Pulisic - 0.20 xAssists per game
  7. Boga - 0.15 xAssists per game
  8. Dembélé - 0.11 xAssists per game
  9. Zaha - 0.09 xAssists per game
Key passes per game

A key pass is a final pass of the ball to a player before there is an attempt at goal without scoring. Key passes are a useful statistic to compare wingers' creativity in the final third through a final decisive pass. 
  1. Ziyech - 3.80 key passes per game
  2. Sancho - 2.22 key passes per game
  3. Bailey - 2.16 key passes per game
  4. Willian - 2.05 key passes per game
  5. Dembélé - 2.03 key passes per game
  6. Chukwueze - 1.93 key passes per game
  7. Pulisic - 1.63 key passes per game
  8. Boga - 1.06 key passes per game
  9. Zaha - 1.05 key passes per game
  10. Hudson-Odoi - 1.00 key passes per game
Passes completed per game

In a possession-based system such as Lampard’s that has more emphasis on a direct build-up of play, higher passes completed per game are an important statistic, particularly for wingers, to measure how involved they are in the build-up and transitional play.

  1. Ziyech - 44.2 passes completed per game
  2. Sancho - 43.0 passes completed per game
  3. Dembélé - 36.8 passes completed per game
  4. Willian - 28.4 passes completed per game
  5. Pulisic - 22.8 passes completed per game
  6. Boga & Zaha - 21.9 passes completed per game
  7. Bailey - 16.6 passes completed per game
  8. Chukwueze - 15.1 passes completed per game
  9. Hudson-Odoi - 13.7 passes completed per game
Passing accuracy

Making a pass is great, making an accurate pass is even more important especially for wingers.
  1. Boga & Hudson-Odoi - 86% passing accuracy
  2. Sancho - 84% passing accuracy
  3. Willian - 83% passing accuracy
  4. Pulisic & Zaha - 80% passing accuracy
  5. Dembélé & Ziyech - 78% passing accuracy
  6. Bailey - 75% passing accuracy
  7. Chukwueze - 72% passing accuracy
Dribbles completed per game

Dribbles completed per game are by no means an indication of how good a winger is, however it useful to see how good a winger is at being at a player 1v1 to get a cross in or to have a shot at goal.

  1. Zaha - 4.6 dribbles per game
  2. Boga - 4.2 dribbles per game
  3. Sancho - 2.9 dribbles per game
  4. Dembélé & Ziyech - 2.8 dribbles per game
  5. Pulisic - 2.6 dribbles per game
  6. Bailey & Willian - 2.1 dribbles per game
  7. Chukwueze - 1.8 dribbles per game
  8. Hudson-Odoi - 1.4 dribbles per game
Successful dribbles per game
  1. Willian - 80% successful dribbles per game
  2. Zaha - 68% successful dribbles per game
  3. Boga - 66% successful dribbles per game
  4. Chukwueze & Hudson-Odoi - 64% successful dribbles per game
  5. Bailey - 63% successful dribbles per game
  6. Pulisic - 57% successful dribbles per game
  7. Ziyech - 53% successful dribbles per game
  8. Sancho - 51% successful dribbles per game
  9. Dembélé - 47% successful dribbles per game
Ground duels won per game
Ground duels are essentially a “1v1” on the ground where there is a “50–50 ball”, which means that any of the two players have the same chance to get the ball. It is an important statistics used to judge a winger, particularly in Lampard's system which presses high up the pitch, as it highlights how well they can anticipate winning a duel and their strength / ability to do so. There are two ways to analyse ground duels won, A) the number of ground duels won and B) the success rate of said ground duels. I will be ranking each winger by their % of ground duels won.
  1. Willian - 5.3 ground duels won per game (68% of ground duels won)
  2. Boga - 6.6 ground duels won per game (61.6% of ground duels won)
  3. Chukwueze - 6.1 ground duels won per game (49.5% of ground duels won)
  4. Zaha - 9.4 ground duels won per game (52.3% of ground duels won)
  5. Hudson-Odoi - 2.2 ground duels won per game (51.2% of ground duels won)
  6. Ziyech - 6.1 ground duels won per game (49.5% of ground duels won)
  7. Bailey - 3.8 ground duels won per game (46.9% of ground duels won)
  8. Sancho - 4.2 ground duels won per game (46.5% of ground duels won)
  9. Dembélé - 4.2 ground duels won per game (45.7% of ground duels won)
  10. Pulisic - 4.3 ground duels won per game (42% of ground duels won)
Possession lost per game

How often a winger loses possession is an indication of how wasteful / efficient a player is, as well as how often they attempt to play a risky, but high-rewarding pass.
  1. Hudson-Odoi - possession lost 6.0 times per game
  2. Boga - possession lost 10.1 times per game
  3. Chukwueze - possession lost 10.3 times per game
  4. Willian - possession lost 12.8 times per game
  5. Bailey - possession lost 13.6 times per game
  6. Pulisic - possession lost 13.8 times per game
  7. Sancho & Zaha - possession lost 17.0 times per game
  8. Dembélé - possession lost 20.4 times per game
  9. Ziyech - possession lost 25.6 times per game
Final results

So what does this all mean? Who should Chelsea target? If you give a player 10 points for every category they rank 1st in, 9 points for every category they rank 2nd in, 8 points for every category they rank 3rd etc, you get the following results (see appendix for a summary of ranking and points by category):
  1. Sancho (79 points)
  2. Boga (70 points)
  3. Ziyech (68 points)
  4. Willian (65 points)
  5. Bailey (62 points)
  6. Pulisic (61 points)
  7. Hudson-Odoi (60 points)
  8. Chukwueze & Dembélé (52 points)
  9. Zaha (51 points)
This is certainly by no means a conclusive study, I’ve assumed that each category, that I have ranked each winger by, is equally weighted when it isn’t. For example, xGoals per game are a far more important statistic as a winger than ground duels won per game, however, I have given them the same weighting for the ease of comparison. The eye test is important, however as fans naturally we are biased towards certain players, thus statistics prove to be an unbiased source of information to interpret.

Sancho - if you weren't on the Sancho train before, you should be now. Sancho excels in nearly every category at an elite level - he's worth every penny and undoubtedly should be Chelsea's number one target. Sancho needs to improve his dribbling success and his ground duels won per game, particularly if he was to move to the Premier League where the increased physicality and pace of the league will put him under the test. It's interesting to note that at Dortmund, Sancho has performed statistically better at LW, which is a potential worry as we already have Pulisic and CHO who perform better at LW. Sancho also prefers to occupy space centrally at Dortmund, a luxury he wouldn't be afforded in Lampard's system in the Premier League, and also a luxury he doesn't have on England duty, which may mean Sancho will require a bit of time to adapt his game to a new league. 

Boga - probably the biggest surprise to this list is the fact Boga ranks at 2nd (which shows the limitations of ranking each category equally). Boga excels in similar areas to Willian, high successful dribbling numbers, great defensive work and effective at transitioning the ball efficiently without losing it. Boga notably isn't the creative outlet that Chelsea needs to make our attack more clinical, ranking 8th in expected goals, expected assists and key passes per game, but the fact Chelsea need a Pedro replacement and have a buy-back clause on a young-academy bred winger shows Boga could be an excellent acquisition to have around at Stamford Bridge.

Ziyech - whenever a winger is performing well in the Eredivisie, you should take their numbers with a pinch of salt. But the fact Ziyech is performing well in the Champions League too shows he is a quality talent. Ziyech ranks first in xAssists per game, key passes per game and passes completed per game, showing how crucial he is to Ajax, however, it's also worth noting Ziyech ranks 8th for xGoals / shots per game showing how wasteful he can be despite his respectable goal record. Question marks remain why no top club took a risk on Ziyech last summer with his relatively cheap buy-out clause, perhaps he's too system dependent, or he's too predictable and wouldn't be as effective in the Premier League.

Bailey - a player that has been on Chelsea's radar for quite some time is Leon Bailey. Bailey ranks well in the areas Chelsea need to improve which is scoring and assisting. Not to mention, Bailey is a left-footed RW which adds a different dimension to an attack. Bailey has strong physical attributes which suggests he could adapt to the pace and physicality of the Premier League, but would certainly need to improve his efficiency on the ball by improving his passing accuracy.

Chukwueze - admit it, you miss Chelsea having African players around the club. Drogba, Mikel, Kalou were all fantastic servants to Chelsea and recent links to Chukwueze have excited fans. Chukwueze is by no means the finished article, his raw talent has caught the eye of many fans and it's clear the potential is there despite his statistics currently ranking lower in comparison to the other wingers in this article. In 2-3 seasons, Chukwueze will be a fantastic talent if he can become more clinical in front of goal, especially being a left-footed RW which is a dynamic trait that clubs around the world desire to replicate Robben's trademark cut-in and shoot technique from the right. But, as Chelsea already possess two young wingers in Pulisic and Hudson-Odoi, Chelsea cannot afford to sign another young winger with potential that isn't ready to make an instant impact, so questions remain whether Chukwueze could adapt to the Premier League and improve our attack in the short run and long run.

Dembélé - there is no denying it, Dembélé hasn't had a great spell at Barcelona, and his recent injury record is a massive concern. Whilst he ranks low in this analysis, as mentioned previously, that is down to his limited minutes this season. Similarly to ChukwuezeDembélé's raw talent is scintillating. Dembélé himself doesn't even know which foot is his stronger foot, he is arguably one of the most elite two-footed wingers in history during his short career to date and it would be a massive shame if he doesn't manage to overcome his injuries. There are also concerns over his attitude, which could be down to the pressures of replacing Neymar as the next star of Barcelona, as well as the poor management from Valverde, or just not having the right mentality to succeed at the top. But the fact Barcelona paid €105 million for Dembélé shows how highly they rated him, especially to replace Neymar. Perhaps he needs a new spell somewhere else, but it's a transfer that would be a massive risk to Chelsea, one that they could absolutely regret, or one that could see Dembélé reach the heights that he was expected to reach.

Zaha - perhaps the second biggest shock (for some), Zaha ranks the lowest out of the wingers in this article. Excluding Zaha's dribbles completed per game and dribble success, Zaha ranks low in all other areas. Yes, he has Premier League experience, and he is playing in a very poor team, but questions remain whether Zaha can be the creative talent we need to make our attack more clinical, particularly as Zaha ranks 10th for expected goals per game, expected goals/shots per game and expected assists per game, which again we can partly put down to his poor teammates. For a rumoured £80m transfer fee (which we doubt Marina and Chelsea would pay outright anyway), Zaha's underlying numbers suggest Chelsea should steer very clear of this transfer.


Written by - JMH @ChelseaCentral_
Edit by - Kristen @KristenPulisic

1 comment

  1. Numbers don't lie. Very insightful analysis - Chelsea need to see this!!