Even as Chelsea pushed forward and dominated possession at St James’ Park yesterday evening there was a nagging feeling that the lowering of their guard in search of a winner left them culpable to a sucker punch. We have seen this film before, after all.
Isaac Hayden’s goal, capitalising on Antonio Rudiger’s loss of focus, may have been brutally late but this was the 10th time that Chelsea have conceded from the 75th minute onwards in the Premier League this season and eight of those have come away from home.
No other top-flight side has a worse record and the sample size is now too great to be considered a coincidence.
It is quite damning to think that in a hypothetical world where games only started after an hour Frank Lampard’s team would be 13th in the table. Make that the 75th minute and they would be in 16th place.
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By contrast a league table from just the first hour of games would have Chelsea in third position, still miles behind Liverpool but only six points behind Manchester City in second. Leicester, meanwhile, have mastered the art of late game situations – scoring a dozen and conceding just three times from the 75th minute onwards.
Cynics may point out that such statistics are meaningless. Football matches are 90 minutes long and breaking it down like this is the equivalent of highlighting, to use one example, a calendar year table.
But this feeds into a wider, concerning point about the problem Lampard’s side are continuously facing against teams who defend with a low block.
Some of Chelsea’s late concessions have come in games that were already put to bed – Wolves and Burnley away – but it is worth framing this in the context of how easily teams have figured out an effective way to negate their attacking threat.
It is very rare for a team to not have a single opportunity…