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  • Writer's pictureAmrit

Why Chennaiyin FC struggle to create

Updated: Apr 9, 2018

Reigning ISL champions Chennaiyin FC are not a team that is known for their goal-scoring threat. From open play, they have a conversion rate of 11%. Only ATK, Northeast and Jamshedpur have done worse. In the Round of 16 of the Hero Super Cup, against Aizawl FC, John Gregory’s 4 defensive players registered more xG (Expected Goals) than the front 3. The manager takes credit for being able to score from anywhere, but let’s face it, his team has been lucky to score as many as they did.

A look at the Expected Assist numbers for each of their major creators over the season tells you quite a story.

The Expected Assists for each of Chennaiyin FC' major creators over the season. Rene Mihelic is the only player to do well consistently. The size of the bar indicated Expected Assists in that game, whereas the number on top is the actual assists

It is clear from the above chart the Chennaiyin FC have struggled to create chances. Let’s examine some of the reasons why the winners of the Indian Super League struggle going forward,

Lack of a No. 10

Not having a #10 meant that Jeje, Nelson and Francis were often isolated and were unable to link up with each other. All 3 players would have benefited greatly from having somebody to exchange quick passes with.

Raphael Augusto - Segundo Volante

Raphael Augusto is a wonderful player but he’s a “Segundo Volante”, a deep lying, yet, skillful midfielder that provides the balance for more attacking players to wreak havoc. A Volante will look to stay deep and spread the ball left and right – a role Augusto initially played under Marco Materazzi. The Brazilian does have the skill to be unpredictable, but he lacks the mentality of a final third player.

Jaime Gavilan, the chief playmaker in the game against Aizawl, is very similar. His Spanish upbringing means that he is most comfortable on the ball with the game in front of him. Gavilan is an excellent passer and creates from deep zones but the lack of movement in front of him negates his penetrative passing skills. Jeje and Rafi both prefer to stay central and work as pivots for the team and Gavilan’s lack of mobility makes it difficult to link up with these types of forwards.

Rene Mihelic would seem to be the ideal answer to this scenario. The Slovenian has shown excellent technique and is, according to my data, the best set piece taker in the league. However, either through team selection or injuries or his own form, we haven’t seen Mihelic consistently create chances and be a threat to the opposition.

Focus on Crossing & Set Pieces

Chennaiyin are very good on set pieces. You can find my Indian Super League set piece analysis here.

Chennaiyin put in 270 crosses in the Hero ISL, the third highest in the league. Their conversion rate for chances created from crosses was 22%. To put that into context, (once again!) only ATK, Jameshedpur and Northeast United have done worse from crosses.

Gregory Nelson notched 5 assists in 3 post season games to bring the trophy to Chennai but prior to that, the Dutch Winger had a limited impact. Worse, was Francisco Fernandes who only created goal scoring chances in 2 games. He was a fixture on the right wing for Chennaiyin throughout the season so numbers like that are quite embarrassing – especially since Chennaiyin are league Champions.


Anirudh Thapa – The Indian youngster has shown good passing ability and composure in tight midfield areas. He also scored a crucial away goal in the ISL season 4 semi-final first leg game against FC Goa. Allowing him to play with more freedom and link up with the forwards might make a difference.

The 25 year old winger has fallen out of favor with Pune City boss, Ranko Poppovic

Kean Lewis – Chennaiyin FC need a winger. They will struggle in the AFC Cup without one. More importantly, there are question marks over whether the second string can win games.

Chennaiyin will be looking for someone with experience but who can also be a consistent goal threat. A cut price option might be Kean Lewis at FC Pune City. The winger seems to have fallen out of favor with Ranko Poppovic and might be looking for a move to reinvigorate his career.

Edwin Sydney – The local winger has excellent technique and works well as a peripheral playmaker. For Chennai City, he dovetailed well with chief playmaker, Soosairaj and shouldered a lot of responsibility when the latter was struggling to find answers. Edwin is direct, can dribble and pass and also come inside and help in the midfield battle.

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